Neighbours and business partners

Pip’s Garden was set up by two near neighbours who work together around their children. spoke to one member of the team, Lucy Banks.

Lucy Banks and Pip Raud’s business partnership came about as a result of a mutual neighbour who was keeping them up all night.

They started Pip’s Garden, their website selling personalised ethically sourced gifts, three years ago when Lucy’s eldest son was just four weeks old. Pip’s two children are slightly older at nearly five and two.

“It was a mutual thing,” says Lucy [pictured left]. “I was on maternity leave from my job as a secondary school teacher. We were thinking along exactly the same lines about starting a business. We were both really frustrated going into shops and seeing diggers for boys and princesses for girls. We wanted to start a business which sold a different range of gifts which was more personal.”

Pip was working with her parents who are embroiderers. She and Lucy came up with the idea of selling personalised bedding and started selling it to friends. “That helped boost our confidence,” says Lucy, “and kept us motivated.”

They have since expanded into other areas such as clothes for children. Pip’s parents make a lot of the clothes themselves, but Lucy and Pip buy the duvets and other items, checking for quality, and Pip’s parents embroider them.

“People think it’s just a case of scanning an image, but you have to digitise it and it can all be quite time-consuming,” says Lucy.

Teething problems
The business has survived a few teething problems, for instance, Lucy’s husband nearly lost his job and the family had to move to Dorset which meant daily phone calls instead of face to face meetings at each other’s homes. Lucy also had to drive regularly to Exeter, a three-hour round trip.

Her family lived in Dorest for two years and have only recently moved back to Exeter, although to a different part of the town. “We managed while we were apart, but it took us a bit longer to develop the business,” says Lucy.

Pip has also faced a few health problems over the last three years and both women have had to work around their children. Lucy’s eldest son is in nursery two days a week, but her youngest is with her full time. “It is a question of juggling,” says Lucy, “but Pip and I have it in our minds always that we want to have the best of both worlds.”

Because they are a partnership if one of them is sick the other can step in and they can look after each other’s children if there is an urgent phone call to take.

Lucy says teaching has given her important transferable skills such as people management and she used to work in marketing before being a teacher so she has got her old company to help out with that side of the business.

“We have given out flyers and used social media as well as asking our mum friends to spread the word,” says Lucy.

Her house is used as the business’ office. “Pip comes over here and we jump in and out of work and looking after the kids,” says Lucy. “We might do a bit of work then take the kids out to play.”

A lot of their administrative work is done in the evenings after the kids are in bed. One evening a week Lucy goes to the office where the embroidery is done to dispatch orders.

She says she and Pip have lots of ideas for the future. Their story bedding is very popular and they want to add more stories. Their hand print bedding is also selling well. “We want to expand into different types of bedding,” she says.

The plan is that the business will grow and develop in tandem with the children. Lucy says she loved teaching. “My dream job, however, was to set up my own company and work in the way I want to,” she says.

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