In the second of a new series honing in on new companies and fresh talent in the toy space, ToyNews chats to Anika Roberts, founder of Mummy Made This – a company supplying fun-yet-practical homeware – about her start-up journey, and how the need for five minutes of ‘me time’ led her to invent hero product the PlayTableCloth.
You used to work in the City. It’s quite a jump to making things for kids – can you tell us how Mummy Made This evolved?
As my family grew, I was spending more and more time juggling my work with being a mum – and I was finding I needed more and better ways to entertain my kids so I could get things done. I didn’t always want to resort to screens, so during lockdown I came up with the PlayTableCloth. And this is the product that really kick-started my journey to making things for children and inspiring creative play.
Tell us all about the tablecloth, and the ways it keeps kids entertained! Have you patented this?
Our PlayTableCloth turns your table into an instant den – with a shop, thatched cottage, postbox and ticket office for little imaginations to run wild. Plus, the table top is filled with board games, a race track and a table tennis court. It’s designed so it can be set up and cleared away really quickly and it takes up minimal space. It’s made from a durable, machine-washable fabric, so it can be washed easily.
We are currently offering the PlayTableCloth in six sizes but if your table is not one of the standard sizes, we can easily make it to measure. Children can customise the street names, ticket boards and more with washable pens and the sides are attached with Velcro strips, so that they can be easily removed when needed.
This has been my ‘go-to’ way to allow my children to play near me while I get to do some work, some chores or just have five minutes’ peace! And yes, the PlayTableCloth has a patent pending and designs registered.
What’s the ethos behind your brand? Is sustainability a big part of what you do?
Yes, absolutely. I believe strongly that as parents (but as people, too, of course) we have a responsibility now more than ever before to look after our planet, and to pass on to our children the core value of caring for the environment. As such, I am currently working with different providers to see whether we can start making the PlayTableCloths and also our Bedrolls from recycled cotton and/or organic cotton.
How do you fund the business (always tricky for small startups)? Are you noticing price increases?
At the moment, I fund things privately, but as we grow I am looking into securing funding with the various start-up schemes that are available. As for costs – the biggest thing I have noticed is how transport costs have increased due to the rising oil prices. That and the fact that not being part of the EU any more makes certain things harder to source, and trading across borders generally more cumbersome.
How do you sell your products at the moment? Live markets, social media, other channels?
I do a combination. I sell via my website www.mummymadethis.co.uk, via social media through my own channels (on Facebook and Instagram, you can find me as mummymadethis) but also through working with influencers. I do a number of local fairs and markets in the southeast, too. And I am working with a couple of online retail channels in the background, so that the PlayTableCloth (and other products) will be available to buy there too in the future.
What about marketing – how do you spread the word?
I write a weekly blog that is based around our weekly Monday Night conversations. My mission is to help make parents’ lives a little bit easier by sharing with them the things that do (and don’t) work in my family, keeping things real and building a supportive community of likeminded parents (you can join our newly created private Facebook group here.)
Both the blog and the Monday Night conversations (www.mummymadethis.co.uk/mondaynight) are all about giving parents a boost, a giggle or a virtual hug – and sharing something that they might find interesting or useful for their upcoming week with their family. I recognise that every family situation is different – and some topics might resonate more than others – so we have a huge range of things we talk about, from activities to do with the kids to solving bedtime battles, to understanding your children better.
Where do you want the brand to go? What’s the long-term plan?
Long term, I’d love to see the PlayTableCloth as well as our other products such as the DoodleCloth (this is brand new and still under development) and the Bedroll in most households. I’d love to ignite in parents around the world the beauty of connecting with their children day to day, inspiring creative play in simple ways that don’t cost the earth or take lots of time. To help us all move away from screens as the be-all and end-all solution to find some peace as a parent, and help the next generation of little people thrive and grow into strong, kind, independent young adults.