Mum’s mission is all sewn up: What it's like to run a business to make parenting prettier

Armed with her trusty sewing machine and creative flair, Katy Holden is on a mission to make parenting prettier and more organised.

She runs a business designing, making and selling handmade baby and toddler accessories all aimed at making parents’ lives a little easier.

Her days consist of taking orders, cutting fabric, sewing, packing, admin duties, along with looking after her two young daughters, three-year-old Niamh and seven-month-old Aubrey.

“Balancing life as a mum and working at home is hard. Everybody thinks working at home is easy and my friends say I’m lucky because I’m at home with the kids all day, which I am, but I also have to work while finding time to play with them. I work every evening. It’s hard but I do enjoy it,” said Katy, who lives in Walsall. The 29-year-old, who is married to husband Martin, turned to sewing to help aid her grief after they suffered a miscarriage in 2017, and started making items that would help keep Niamh’s changing bag organised.

University of Wolverhampton graduate Katy, who lives in Walsall, shared photographs of the finished items on social media where they soon started attracting attention.

She decided to start her business – Niamhs Neverland – in January 2018, and since then it’s gone from strength to strength.

And it’s very much a family affair as all of the items sold in the online shop are handmade by Katy and her mum Karen.

Their wide collection includes nappy wallets, muslins, pouches, bags, changing mats, bibs and hats as well as reusable breast pads and facial pads.

Katy at work on her sewing machine

“The idea is that everything is useful and helpful but it’s also beautiful too. They are also eco-friendly because they are reusable. I didn’t set out to go down the eco-friendly route, but it’s worked out that way and it’s popular,” said Katy, who has a first class honours degree in education studies.

Between the two of them they make between 200 and 300 products every month, and in 2019 alone they sent out more than 1,000 orders to customers across the UK and further afield including Australia and Canada.

Every item is made from a range of bold and colourful fabrics aimed to appeal to both adults and children.

“I used to go for child friendly designs but I found that while parents like to have accessories for their kids many like them to look a bit more grown up.

“Animals are always popular. I always look at the latest trends, and hedgehogs and bees are very popular this year. I like everything to be pretty and practical,” said Katy.

Katy says social media, especially Facebook, has been an incredibly helpful tool for growing the business.

“A lot of it has been word of mouth and I use my Facebook page to show the different products, but it’s not just about me selling, it’s about me and my kids and what it’s like to be a work at home mum. I have chats with customers and we can share parenting advice. It’s not just a shop, it’s a nice community. I can’t go to networking events because they aren’t very child-friendly, so I do my networking on Facebook,” she explained.

Katy has featured in Tatler

Katy also includes her customers in the process when designing and creating new products so she can ensure she is making items that will be useful.

“The products are inspired by parents and are made for parents. The wet bags, which are waterproof lined, started off for dirty clothes but parents use them for so many different things like snacks and wellies. I have one customer who bought the same bag in 10 different designs because she liked the fabrics so much,” she told Weekend.

Last year Niamhs Neverland won an award for the Best Handmade Baby Product in the West Midlands, and she’s also been shortlisted in the Best Changing Accessory category at the MadeForMums 2020 Awards. Katy has also exhibited at the Baby to Toddler show in Birmingham and Manchester, and been featured in the iconic Tatler Magazine, and the last ever Thomas Cook in-flight magazine. She enjoys the shows as it gives her the chance to meet customers face-to-face.

“Because I’m working at home and the shop is online I don’t get to meet anyone, so I like doing the events because I get to meet different people,” added Katy.

The business has proven so successful that Katy believes she will need to expand in the future to help meet demand. “We are probably at the point where we do need more man power but we can’t afford more man power, so we are very busy, but it’s good and hopefully it will continue to be more successful,” she said.

But receiving positive feedback from customers is what makes all of the hard work worthwhile for Katy.

Katy picks pretty and practical fabrics

“I enjoy designing and picking the fabrics and making things that are pretty but are going to make parenting easier. It’s nice to have all of the feedback from the customers. The reviews are what sells the items, and also that they are very well-made, because I’m a perfectionist.

“One mum bought a bag for an inhaler and said it helps her child to take her inhaler because it’s in a pretty case. It’s really nice hearing people saying they like the products and that they are really useful. I wouldn’t do if I didn’t get that positive feedback.

“What started as a hobby has become a very busy business,” says Katy.

See www.niamhsneverland.com

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