• Sun. Jul 21st, 2024

Maternity clothing company Pretty Mama set for growth after moving to new base

North East sisters who starred on Dragons’ Den with their fashion firm for breastfeeding mothers are set for growth after expanding into a new base.

Sisters Jenny and Alex McFadden established Pretty Mama in 2018 after spotting a gap in the market for high quality, feminine and comfortable maternity clothing. Alex was pregnant with her first child and was struggling to find clothing she liked, so she joined forces with her sister, who was was in her final year at Northumbria University at the time, to set the company in motion.

The pair juggled full-time jobs with the business initially, but were determined to grow the business, so sought investment from the TV Dragons by braving the den. Viewers watched the pair cut a four-way deal with four of the millionaire entrepreneurs – Sara Davies, Steven Bartlett, Peter Jones and Touker Souleyman – giving 33% for a £30,000 investment. The deal failed to make it over the line, but the siblings say they’ve successfully grown the business without the Dragons’ help.

Until now, all of the company’s stock, which is manufactured and imported from overseas, has been stored in their homes, but demand for the clothing left them desperate for extra space. Now Alex, who works part time for the civil service in Newcastle, and Jenny, who works within Northumbria University’s marketing department, have got the keys to their first base at a Hebburn industrial estate, giving Pretty Mama ample room for growth.

They are currently fitting out the space ready to become their permanent base, complete with a picking and packing area and office. The company has remained a two-person team since its formation, but following a very busy Christmas period and the expansion into their first unit, extra staff will be needed to cope with growing demand.

Alex said: “Getting the unit is really exciting. It’s close to where we both live. As soon as it became available I had a viewing and loved it. For the way that the business is growing it was very much needed this year. We have been drastically running out of space.”

Jenny said: “It was a well overdue move for us – we needed a unit towards the end of last year but I’m glad we held off. We’ve made the transition and it’s been really fun.”

Alex said: “After going on Dragons’ Den the deal didn’t go through, but to be honest we’ve hit all our targets – all of our predicted turnover goals that we set out to reach – which is amazing because we didn’t get the investment. The due diligence took months but before we went in the Den we were aware of the fact that around 50% of businesses who are made an offer don’t actually get it in the end. But to be honest it’s worked out great for us.”

Jenny said : “We’re really proud – we’ve reached all of our goals on our own and we’ve still got full control op the business. When I look back now, a third of the business is a lot to give away so we’re glad the way it turned out.”

The company is doubling sales year-on-year, putting it on track to hit £500,000 in turnover this year, aided by the pair raising the brand’s profile through a series of award wins and events, including the John Lewis All Things Baby Event and through its partnership with Mama Social, a company which organises events for mums. Last year Pretty Mama won the retailer of the year trophy at the Enterprise Vision Awards, and it also featured at number 75 in the Top 100 Businesses list compiled by Startups.co.uk, as well as in the list of the Top 10 female entrepreneurs by Natwest and The Telegraph.

While the sisters are happy to keep the company as a purely e-commerce business for now, pop-up events have boosted sales after giving customers the chance to feel, touch and try the clothing before they buy, prompting discussions with retailers.

Jenny said: “We have talked about opening our own store in the past but we haven’t set any goals to open one this year or next year – but we are considering going into retailers to see if we could be stocked in the likes of Fenwick and John Lewis, or on Next online.”

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