Baby wraps and slings business, Rowan Bay, may be in its infancy, but its founder Larissa Cooper, from Kenninghall in Norfolk, has been awarded the £10,000 Business Boost grant from small business insurance provider Simply Business, to help her business recover from Covid-19 beating 15,000 other applicants.
Rowan Bay was hit hard from Covid-19 and Larissa was forced to temporarily pause her business, after struggling to source the yarn needed to create her products.
Larissa uses sustainable yarn to produce baby wraps, slings, scarves and shawls. Beyond Rowan Bay, she’s aiming to help reform the British textile industry to be more sustainable. She also works with other farmers to investigate how the industry can increase the value of British wool, with some farmers even burning their stock this year due to a huge dip in prices. In 2020 she took over Naked Wool – a business focussed on Shetland sheep fleece, and selling yarn, fibre and knitting kits, and sourced from local flocks. Larissa also runs a ‘Women With Wool’ Facebook group where fellow female sheep farmers are collaborating and brainstorming to try and find a long-lasting solution.
The Business Boost grant has come as a lifeline after the UK was plunged into a second nationwide lockdown. Figures from Simply Business reveal that the first lockdown cost SMEs £11,779 each in lost revenue on average, while almost one in five (17%) worry they won’t survive the latest national lockdown.
Simply Business appointed an expert panel of judges to decide on the winner of the Business Boost grant, including:
• Piers Linney, British businessman, investor and former star of TV’s Dragon’s Den
• Tony Robinson OBE, business speaker, author and micro-enterprise campaigner
• Lee Wilcox, CEO of Electric House
• Anneka Hicks, Founder of ExcludedUK, a support group campaigning for the 3 million people excluded from the UK government’s coronavirus support schemes
• Alan Thomas, UK CEO of Simply Business
Larissa Cooper, Owner and Creative Director of Rowan Bay commented: “The pandemic has really impacted Rowan Bay. I was in the process of releasing a new pre-order, but there was a lot of uncertainty in the supply chain – so Rowan Bay had to go on pause. Then I heard about the Business Boost competition through an email from Simply Business, and I remember thinking ‘why not give it a go?’ – and here we are!
“The first thing I’m going to do with the money is continue with the line I originally had planned before Covid hit. The rest of the money will be saved until spring when the lambs and sheep are being shorn, and I’ll be in the position to support smaller farmers – who at the moment don’t get a lot of value from their wool – before turning their wool into baby wraps.
“I think Simply Business running the Business Boost is a fantastic way to support small businesses. Our country needs small businesses, so anything that can be done to keep them going is valuable. For anyone considering applying for Simply Business’s Business Boost next year, I’d say ‘go for it’. You’ve got to follow your dreams, and the worst thing that can happen is you might not win. But you never know, you might get a ‘yes’!”
Alan Thomas, UK CEO at Simply Business, commented: “It’s never been more important to support small businesses, and we’re delighted to have found such a worthy recipient of our £10,000 cash grant. “With almost 15,000 entries, we were both moved and inspired by the stories we received from all across Britain – stories that show resilience, innovation, and a pioneering spirit run throughout the UK’s self-employed community.
“Small businesses are crucial to the UK economy, and to the livelihoods of so many up and down the country with 48 per cent of all employment coming from small and micro businesses.”
“And we know that behind each of these small businesses lies an entrepreneur with a big dream. We’re proud to be able to support Larissa’s dream of making Rowan Bay – an ethical business with sustainability at its core – a continued success.”
Piers Linney, British businessman, investor and former star of TV’s Dragons’ Den, commented: “Larissa’s got a product that’s beautifully made, from a fibre that’s hypoallergenic and extremely versatile. And with wool being an incredibly environmentally friendly product, we were impressed with the values behind Rowan Bay as a business. Equally, with the craft market growing rapidly, we believe there’s real potential for growth for Rowan Bay, and the opportunity to make a positive impact in this space.”
Anneka Hicks, Founder of ExcludedUK said: “I loved the product and I loved the whole concept and ethics behind it. There’s an opportunity here for regional people to get involved with their farming community and go full-circle. We saw a raw entrepreneurial spirit in Larissa and can’t wait to see Rowan Bay go from strength to strength.”
For Tony Robinson, OBE: “Rowan Bay really ticked all of the boxes – and we were convinced that Larissa could really put the £10,000 to good use to help her grow her business. It’s great for Britain that we have a business like Rowan Bay who are in the British wool trade, and will continue to support this important industry. I just loved the design and quality of her wraps and it is no surprise that she already has ambassadors in many countries championing them. The return on investment on the £10,000 prize could be spectacular. This is the kind of ‘British micro-business goes global’ good news story that will inspire us all”.
You can watch Larissa’s reaction to discovering she’d been awarded the prize money by clicking on this link