A gap in the market
Amanda Peffer was looking at her baby daughter crawling around on the floor while she was on maternity and all she could see was the gusset of her tights. She started looking for some more quirky leggings for her, but couldn't find anything that was of good quality in her local area.
So she decided to do some research online. She found a supplier who was doing the kind of thing she was looking for and they sent her some samples. The quality was good. Her daughter wore the samples to her baby group and the feedback was instantaneous.
At the same time, Amanda, who also has a son aged five, had been thinking about setting up her own business. She was on maternity leave from her job in sales at Red Bull where she covered a large area from Aberdeen to Nottingham.
"I could not have left my job unless I had something set up. I was full time after I had my son and travelling a lot. He's now at school and I feel it all went so quickly. I wanted to do something which could work around the children," she says.
"My husband works away a lot as well and we don't have any parents nearby. There were many times when I was on a train to London or up in Scotland and I would think what if something happened to one of the children," she adds.
Amanda, who lives in Kendall, went back to work after nine months, but started building her company Blade & Rose alongside.
The company specialises in funky fun leggings for babies and toddlers. The colourful designs include cupcakes, purple stars and dinosaurs.
"I had to go back to work to pay for the first order," she says. She set up a website, which has since been redesigned by a local web designer, and started marketing her leggings to shops which might sell them. "My sales background helped me to sell them," she says, "but it was the easiest sell I have ever done. I only had to get them out and people would say 'oh they're gorgeous'."
Amanda admits she has no background in fashion, but she knew what she wanted and got someone to draw up her designs which she then emailed to her supplier in China. She says she keeps an eye out for trends and tries to offer a good selection of leggings. There was a minimum order on stock so she had to take quite a gamble with her first order of three designs, but she used flash sales sites to offload stock and get an idea of what was popular.
So far Amanda has not taken any wage because she is ploughing all her earnings back into stock, but she is saving money on childcare.
She says she was spending £1,300 a month for childcare for her daughter who is now three.
She is branching out this year into crocheted hats and has four new designs for leggings coming out. She has got support from her local Business Link which runs seminars on starting your own business and she has written a five-year plan.
She is currently working from her front room, but has a unit at an old farmhouse where she keeps stock.
Her designs have got a lot of publicity already and have been featured in everything from Vogue to Harpers Bazaar. That is even though she says she didn't go for a big London launch, but built the business by touring independent baby and gift shops in Leeds, Manchester and Edinburgh and through the website notonthehighstreet.com. In her second year her leggings are already sold in 106 shops. She also sells her leggings in Europe and is going to a trade show in Amsterdam in January. She plans to set up a European site soon. She also plans to expand into clothes for older children.
Amanda is now at the stage where she knows she will need a bit of help soon. She does her own accounts and finds having time to do everything hard. When she went on holiday this summer she took a printer and some leggings with her so she could send out orders if they came in. Luckily, the family only went to Northumberland.
She thinks the secret of her success is the bright fun designs, but also getting the price right. At £10 for the leggings they are affordable for many parents.
The price for Amanda of all the hard work setting up her business has been worth it, she says. She gets to see more of her children - her daughter is in childcare two full days a week, but otherwise only until 12 - and has the kind of work life balance she couldn't get with her previous job.