It was while on holiday with family that Becks Donnelly hit on the idea for a new business.
The former Asda buyer had bought an expensive wicker basket to take away with her and when her sister-in-law said she could make it herself she decided to give it ago.
“The bag had cost me more than £200 and when my sister-in-law had said I could make it it really got me thinking, I spent the rest of the holiday researching basket suppliers and getting together a business plan.”
The mum-of-three had been looking for something to get her teeth in ever since her youngest daughter Livvy started school.
“I had always been a really career-driven woman,” explains Becks from Ripon.
“I was a buyer for Asda and then went to work for Coca-Cola and when I got pregnant with my first daughter Millie I thought I will go straight back to my career once I’d had her. But the reality was very different.”
“When Simon launched his logistics business he called it Hatmill after our first two daughters. But then Liv came along and she has always had a thing about the fact her name was never included and so I promised her that when I did something I would name it after her.”
And so when she came up with the idea for her bespoke monogrammed basket business she named it Liv&Beck.
“I had been a stay-at-home mum for 13 years with three girls so we had done a lot of arts and crafts and sticking and gluing but I had never really been serious into crafting although I would have loved to have done textiles at GCSE but my father wanted me to do more academic subjects,” explains Becks.
“So I ordered about 100 baskets and went on a spray painting course to learn how to customise the baskets. I hadn’t ever really thought about setting up a business, doing it it was more of a hobby.”
But when she took one of her baskets to a lunch of the charity Candleighters, of which she is a committee member, everyone wanted to know where she had got her basket from.
“I came clean and told them that I had made it and ended up coming home with about 20 orders.”
They converted a barn into a workshop where Becks, helped by Millie and Hattie, started developing her range of baskets.
But it was when her baskets were chosen to appear on ITV’s This Morning that the business really took off, although it nearly didn't happen.
“My email had gone down and it took a bit of time for me to sort it out and when I did I saw that I had received an email from someone from ITV saying she had seen my bags online and really wanted to feature them on the Lisa Snowdon slot on This Morning.
“I thought at first it was a scam but my husband did some research and it turned out to be real.
“Obviously I had missed her but I decided to get making some baskets anyway and worked through the night. I was just about to courier them off when I got another email saying as they hadn’t heard from me they had filled the slot.
“I was devastated and put a post on Instagram saying what had happened and tagging Lisa Snowdon. Within minutes she had followed me and messaged me saying she loved my baskets and still wanted to feature them.
“She only had time to feature one of my baskets which is rattan but covered in canvas which makes it harder wearing. Even before she started talking about it orders started to come in. It was crazy.”
By the end of the week she had received 700 orders and although that demand has slightly tailed off the baskets are still selling well.
“It made me think that I really did want to make a go of this. There is obviously a need.
“I now have a number of different basket suppliers including one from Vietnam where my brother lives. I have a deep-rooted belief in fair-trade, so strive to produce products at a price that is fair to both the manufacturer and to our customers. All baskets are made with natural, sustainable materials and we also strive to ensure our packaging is as environmentally-friendly as possible.”
And it is still very much a family affair. Most of the range is named after Becks’s children and there are baskets for children as well as adults.
“They make great presents as they come in their own box with the children’s name or initials and I add some sweets in to make it extra special.”
Social media has also been key to Liv&Beck’s success as well as through their website.
“Due to Covid we haven’t been able to get out and show people our baskets and that is where social media and Instagram in particular has been crucial, although I have to get Millie to help me with that,” says Becks.
She is now looking at extending her range and creating a basket suitable for the winter.
“My baskets are a lot cheaper than the more expensive brands and I think that’s where my work is Asda comes in – it is about making things more affordable.
“Livvy loves the fact that the business is named after her; in fact her sisters would quite like to jump camps from logitics to fashion.”
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