We were overwhelmed with entries in every category for this year’s MOO Awards, and reading through them all, we realized there was one more category forming right before our eyes; businesses built around a brilliant, original idea that needed just another year or so to become a business powerhouse.
So without further ado, meet the MOO Award ‘One to Watch’ winner… Becky Westaway with Milly & Bear, whose reaction to winning was endearingly honest and heartwarming at the same time.
“There were moments when the tiredness of being a new mum, the loneliness of setting up a company and the frustration in trying to get the product right caused me to seriously consider giving up.” Becky revealed, before adding, “Now to be here, where we are, and to receive this recognition from a brand as awesome as MOO feels very special and more than worth the pain!”
Like so many of the uplifting customer business stories in our Inspiration Gallery, Becky’s business idea bloomed when two things happened – she became weary of her job after seven years in PR, and she spotted a gap in the market at her new job of being a mum.
“Like most mums, I’m completely neurotic about cot death.” Becky says. “I was told by a friend to use cellular blankets because they’re great at helping to regulate a baby’s temperature and can reduce the risk of suffocation. However when I was looking for some nice ones, I couldn’t find any.”
Tragically, in the few months Becky spent getting to grips with motherhood and ruminating on her idea, a friend lost her baby to cot death. A terrible eureka moment, but a eureka moment nonetheless, it set Becky firmly on the path to transforming her brilliant idea into a business. “I became determined to do something, no matter how small, to try and help minimise the risks of cot death and so, Milly & Bear was born.”
“I wanted to develop a range of 100% organic cellular blankets in a range of fun and vibrant colours and get mums excited about using them again. In addition I want to apply their properties to baby sleeping bags and I’m currently developing a range that will be the very first on the market.”
Rather poignantly Milly & Bear is still in its infancy, and, just like a bouncing baby, is not without its hiccups. Manufacturing is often the first hurdle, especially if, like Becky, your standards are on the higher end of the spectrum.
“The cellular blanket weave is one of the hardest to do so finding a factory that can do it is difficult let alone to the standard I’m looking for.” Becky explained.
“To date we’ve been through around ten manufacturers before finally finding the right partner.” But it isn’t just about finding the highest level of quality; Becky’s also passionate about keeping her brand Made in the UK. So even though she’s since outsourced to India, she’s done so with a partner who’s agreed to relocate to their Leicester factory when orders are high enough. And throughout the often-heartbreaking process, she’s managed to keep her head up with one simple trick: “Each time something goes wrong, I allowed myself an hour to feel frustrated and upset before just pushing on.”
We love Becky’s whole approach; spotting the gap in the market, researching the product thoroughly and putting her heart and soul into creating her business to look and feel exactly as she wants it. But that’s not the only reason we picked her – she’s looking to the future too. “Currently nobody does what we do, but if it’s successful, they will, “ says Becky, with a healthy dose of business realism. “So we’re keeping our brand fresh by working with young designers to come up with new and exciting patterns for us to market.”
“We intend to cultivate our relationships with our customers by being very open with them. We want to hear their feedback!” Becky, for what it’s worth, our feedback is this – you’re definitely ‘One to Watch’!
In Becky’s own words, the plan for 2014 includes “having Milly & Bear stocked by a major retailer, and to walk down the street and see mums using our products!”.
And we can’t think of any reason why not, as her plan also includes launching an online shop and attending trade shows for extensive customer research. We’ll be checking in over the next year to see how you’re doing, and suspect we’ll be hearing about you long before that.
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