We recently spoke to Amanda from Squelch Wellies, about her success in our Gift of the Year awards, the inspiration behind the business and her next steps in the giftware world.
Can you tell me a bit more about Squelch Wellies, the inspiration and the reason for setting up this fantastic business?
Moving from a place where I didn’t need wellies to a place where I was constantly buying them, I soon realised that they are essential and kids tastes and trends change very quickly! I was always buying differently designed wellies, and hand me downs didn’t always work as when you have a girly girl, they definitely don’t want to wear Thomas the Tank engine wellies! From there I had the idea of a completely see-through welly with changeable socks, meaning that kids could have as many combinations as they wanted.
What were the first steps after your eureka moment to getting the wellies produced?
I had a look at UK producers, as I wanted to support products made in the UK but they worked out just too expensive unfortunately, so I did a bit of research and found some Chinese and Indian suppliers, who were able to produce exactly what I wanted. The next stage was testing a few different designs; some worked and some didn’t. We then needed to look at order quantities – all of this was new to me. I worked closely with a designer and after sketching designs down, they were able to create them. I also needed to have a connection with the suppliers on a personal level as I believe business is done between people.
Fantastic, so you are now up and running with a great product, what was your next step?
Wow, it can sometimes take people years to build up the courage to exhibit at a trade show, so as a new business what was your experience like and what did you learn?
It was great, we booked very late, and got a great spot next to Slip Free, who produce children’s footwear too. They were so helpful! We also met some very friendly buyers who explained all of the terms which we didn’t quite know yet. We walked away with multiple orders and really enjoyed the experience, so much so that we booked onto a few other shows that we thought our wellies would be great at such as Glee. It gave us the belief that our product would work in a commercial environment and comments from buyers ensured that we kept on going.
Amazing, Trade Shows can be quite daunting, so glad you had a positive experience. You also do a bit of charity work connected with Squelch too, can you tell me about your work and what you do?
We pretty much took our inspiration from ‘Toms Shoes’, if you’re not aware, Toms Shoes, give back a pair of shoes to someone in need in South America for every shoe sold in the UK. We also wanted to help charities as much as we could. We originally had the idea of working with water charities with the welly connection, but we did some research locally and decided to support the food bank crisis that the UK is facing. We connected with the Trussell Trust who campaign to end food banks in the UK. 10% of all online sales go to the Trussell Trust. After handing our first cheque over we discussed whether throwing money at the issue is a big enough help. We then decided on a different approach by working with local farmers to give eggs each month to the food bank, which really supplements the food packages, as there is so much you can do with eggs, and the food parcels are generally quite dry.
That’s a fantastic cause, and great that a small business is giving so much, whereas some companies don’t have charity initiatives. It sounds like you work closely with the local community too.
Yes, we love supporting our local community, as we are so much more than a children’s welly brand. We were recently looking for office space in our town, and through my local community connections I was put in touch with someone who owned a gallery. They mentioned that they were looking for someone to open up their gallery space in the morning in exchange for office space, which is great as it means I’ve been even more involved with the community than ever. It’s a perfect base for Squelch wellies. In terms of helping the community we also work with local designers and family to help out with the brand.
How did you hear about Gift of the Year, and how do you feel about the win?
The Giftware Association contacted me after seeing my products at Glee, and being a young company, we were unsure what to do with our marketing budget - we didn’t really have a budget or know where was best to spend it. After some time speaking with the GA team they recommended that spreading our entries across categories would not harm our chances, they were helpful and very encouraging. And look where we are now! We were winners in two categories and then took home the judges choice award too…it’s amazing! It was such a blur on the night, and I’m so glad my kids got to see me win the awards and see what I do properly, though now they think I’m famous! The GA has such a rich history and to have been supported by them on the competition process along with their VIP day. We had a lot of people coming to over the stand afterwards just to congratulate us.
So, what’s next for Squelch Wellies after your success. You have the stand at Autumn Fair, are you excited about this?
Yes, very excited, we had initially said that after Spring Fair and Pure, we wouldn’t be doing any more shows for a while, to concentrate our energy on something else, but winning the awards and being gifted the stand is great and really boosted our energy. It will be another great opportunity to share Squelch wellies with the world! We are also targeting a few boutique festivals that I think our wellies will be popular at; we are targeting the Chris Evans car festival and Camp Bestival.
And what other exciting things do you have planned for 2020, I have seen you have just been featured in a Vogue article?
Yes, we were mega excited about that as it really gets our name out there. We also plan to bring out three new designs each quarter and fingers crossed if all goes well, we have been speaking to Joules about featuring in their children’s wellies ranges, not as Joules branded but as Squelch wellies. We are super excited about this and hope to be in there for August – it’s a brand that links well with our ethos. We also have adult wellies on the horizon which I’m really excited for as we have so many enquiries for this!