Today, a baby shop opens its doors in the Hegyvidék Shopping Center, which is unprecedented in Hungary, and will serve as a community space where parents can help and support each other. We asked the owner and creator of the shop, best described as a “concept store,” Ráhel Orbán. Interview.
Organic, decorative, unique. If you read the initials, you get the name of the shop: ODU Store, which in itself creates a real cozy atmosphere. What exactly is the mission of this store? Where did you get the idea, and what inspired you during the creation process?
About six and a half years ago, I had the idea that I would like to open a baby shop. I was pregnant with my first child, Alice. At the age of twenty-seven, I think I was a fairly conscious mother, the average woman of my age. My generation is perhaps a little more typical, thanks to digitalization, of Googling everything on the Internet before making a decision. When the first child was born, the questions about which stroller or which baby furniture to buy seemed huge. There is a lot of pressure to make the best possible decision, as you have to start from scratch to prepare for the arrival of a new baby, which involves a lot of initial expenditure. I also started looking, but I found that it takes a lot of research to find the best product. I’m aware that moms don’t really get much help at this stage, as they didn’t need a car seat before, for example, and our parents didn’t have such a wide specter of choices.
That’s when we found a stroller that folds up so it can easily fit anywhere, making life easier for parents on a trip or a journey.
My list of these necessary and practical items grew and grew, turning into a kind of baby-smart list that went from friend to friend and kept growing. And so, with the birth of my second and third children, I had fewer and fewer things to buy. Of course, this meant that my poor son Berci sometimes wore pink trainers (laughs). At the same time, I was proud that up to three or four children wore the same clothes.
This attitude shows that you find sustainability and eco-consciousness important, as we can read on your webpage. How does this look in practice, and why do you think it’s important to keep this in mind in case of a baby shop?
Sustainability is an aspect that we can’t ignore today. We need to protect the environment, as this is the only planet we have, and our children will inherit it. At the same time, I don’t want to be a hypocrite. Not all our products are made of 100% sustainable material. We try to emphasize sustainability by offering durable products that may be worn or used by multiple children or that can be fit in a family home and aren’t seen as rubbish but as a complementing element to the harmony of the home.
I’ve always known I wanted more children. I come from a big family myself. We used to wear each other’s clothes, play with each other’s toys, slept in the same cradle. These items represent value. Not only regarding sustainability, but I found it emotionally crucial to put each of my children to sleep in the same crib and not have to get rid of a piece of clothing after washing it three times, as we have memories of these items. I didn’t want to buy useless stuff and I don’t like “fast fashion,” either. It’s interesting, opening a store and encouraging people not to buy so many things. A strange paradox, but that’s what it is. Less is enough if it’s good.
How would you describe the toys you offer? What kind of products can we find in the ODU Store?
First, I’d like to highlight that the offer on our website and in our store isn’t overlapping. In our store, customers can find a much wider range of products, because, for us, it is not only about sales. We want to create a community space, for which it is important to meet and connect with people.
We also put a lot of emphasis on developmental tools in the selection of products, for example, you can buy toys and books based on the Montessori method.
Products include baby furniture, strollers and other transport equipment, as well as children’s clothes, storybooks, toys, skill-building equipment, and children’s bicycles, to name a few. At the same time, special attention is also paid to mothers in the ODU world, so there are products specifically for them, such as skincare oils, relaxing bubble baths and tea.
Do you have a personal favorite toy in your store?
It’d be hard to pick one, as I personally selected all of them, and many are precious to me. There’s a special cosmetic product line that produces an all-natural and sustainable marker, which is water-based, so the little ones are free to doodle and draw on their hands. We don’t need to worry about magic markers in the wrong hands. Then there’s the harmony bell, which has been worn by moms for a long time, but we’ve come across a reimagined, more stylish version. The idea is that the soft sound of the bell soothes the fetus, and the baby will recognize this sound even after birth. The raincoat, which allows the baby to go out in the fresh air when it’s raining, is also very useful. We have tried to find products that are fun but also decorative and skill-building.
As a mother of three, you’ve probably experienced how difficult it can be to balance running a household, raising children and even a job. Lack of time, new and unfamiliar life situations, and confusion are all complicating factors. How can the ODU Store help young parents?
It was challenging to set up the shop from Spain, but it was now possible thanks to the online world. In BDPST Koncept, we work on creating a narrative, concept and brand strategy for hotels and restaurants. ODU is a bit of a meeting of my two activities, as I combine my experience in motherhood and economics with hospitality.
As its name suggests, the ODU also aims to be a refuge. I see that everyone pigeonholes mothers—working mothers, stay-at-home mothers—I, however, don’t like these labels. They are more like full-time moms and do everything but sit at home. So, it’s a huge pressure and we wanted to create a place where you don’t have to worry about that. We want to welcome everyone here without prejudice and build a community where they can give each other advice and help each other through this wonderful but challenging time. And the need to do so has been highlighted even more by the Covid. I have seen many moms who were left alone with their questions during the pandemic period, as there was no place to meet others who were in the same situation.
What I mentioned earlier is also relevant here: we want to help parents better integrate their children into their world. So many times, I’ve seen dads trying to cram a heavy stroller into the boot at 30 degrees Celsius and it just won’t fit. Or the toys left lying around, stepped on at every moment, and they just don’t fit in. I want the ODU to be a place that helps you experience the joy of having a child and less of the difficulties.
There’s also an interactive play corner, a breastfeeding corner and a café. This really makes it a “concept store,” as it’s much more than just a shop. To what extent do you think this approach will be a novelty for Hungarian shoppers, how receptive do you think they will be to the idea that shopping for baby toys is no longer just a shopping trip, but an afternoon to meet parents in the area and relax a bit?
I think they will absolutely be receptive to that. I would like to see people coming to the ODU not just to shop. You can come in even if you like to look at baby stuff, for example. I used to love looking at the windows of baby shops when I was a new mommy, it was a relaxing experience for me. You’re welcome to come in even if you just want to have a nice coffee and stop for a moment.
Who do you think is the main target audience of the ODU Store?
As I said, this shop is really for everyone. I wanted to appeal to all moms and dads, because there are so many different kinds of families. We have taken diversity into account when developing the strategy. The choice of location is mainly due to the fact that I grew up in the 12th district, I spent my childhood here, but it’s also where I live now. My children will go to school and kindergarten here from September. We did our research, looked at a lot of exhibitions, talked to a lot of suppliers, looked at a lot of aspects when we were designing the shop, and the main thing was to cater for diversity. We welcome moms, dads, grandparents, parents-to-be, gift shoppers. I’ll be happy for everyone! We don’t have a specific target audience, I welcome everyone, from the countryside, from Buda, from Pest, full-time moms, working mums, I will be equally happy for everyone.
What’s next? You launched your web shop in February, which will be followed by the store in May. What are your plans for the future?
As part of the community space, we would like to organize thematic events in the future, and we’ve already talked to several artists about planned reading events, but we have many more ideas. In the long term, we would like to create our own brand and we are working with BDPST Koncept on a strategy for a BOTANIQ brand sports club, which will include an ODU Kids Club. However, our main goal for the future will remain to help and support parents to make the first time of having a child even more beautiful.