A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Alice – businesswoman and entrepreneur extraordinaire. A mum to two pre-school children, Max and Loki, Alice works from her home in Hayling Island, Hampshire, designing and handcrafting bespoke baby play mats. And business is booming.
After her eldest son was born, Alice, who was more used to making burlesque corsets and costumes for daring divas, found herself behind her sewing machine, making play mats because there was just nothing on the market that she could buy. Not only could she not find the finished play mats, but she struggled to find a UK manufacturer for the fabric she uses.
After making several other play mats for friends and family, Alice decided to turn her part time passion into a full time business, with Coconut and Chocolate being created in 2012, not long after her second baby was born.
Using gorgeous fabrics and her own pattern designs, Alice creates the most delightful play mats for baby to grow up on. Each customer gets to choose a theme and pick out exactly which fabric they like, and then Alice will customize and personalise the play mats accordingly.
I am sure that Alice won’t mind me sharing the fact that she struggles with dyslexia and found school tough, so she was super delighted to be the runner-up in The News’ recent business awards and has been nominated in this year’s Mumpreneur Awards. Not only is Alice determined to continue building her business, she is also very passionate about keeping sewing and vocational skills alive and is hoping to take on an apprentice very soon. Here is an excerpt from the speech she gave to Havant Borough Council,
“I struggled to find a UK manufacturer [of play mats], and was disappointed to have seen so much of our beautiful products now being manufactured aboard. I am very passionate about keeping skills and jobs within the UK and am so proud, that I will soon be able to offer apprenticeships, giving real job opportunities for the next generation”.
Alice doesn’t hold any stock at the moment as each play mat is unique and made to order, therefore I didn’t have any completed play mats to photograph, but I did manage to grab some shots of her at work behind the sewing machine – complete with son Loki all snuggled up in his sling, some of her ‘work in progress’ items, a pile of colourful fabrics, threads, bespoke labels and tools of the trade. Oh yes, not forgetting the family chickens ….
Love & blue skies
Words: Louise Bowditch
Photography: BlueCloud Photography