The bumpy journey to Niamhs Neverland
Katy Holden, the owner of Niamhs Neverland, juggled parenthood and the growing business while studying her degree in education studies at the University of Wolverhampton.
To help grow the handmade baby accessories business, Katy signed up to the University’s business support programme SPEED, which arranged training with a business advisor, helped gain advertisement in Tatler magazine, and provided grant funding that enabled her to exhibit at trade shows.
Katy said: “SPEED has helped me immensely. It arranged some training and helped me to get Niamhs Neverland advertised in Tatler magazine, but best of all was the grant funding that enabled me to have three exhibition stands; one at the Baby and Toddler Show in Manchester, and twice at The Baby Show in Birmingham.
“These were brilliant opportunities as I made four times as much as it cost me to get the stand. It helped to catapult my business in front of parents and baby businesses.”
But it’s not all been plain sailing for Katy; in fact her whole journey has been full of bumps along the road, including getting into University in the first place.
She said: “I’ll always be grateful to the University for giving me a chance. I had to interview for my place on the education studies course because I’d left school at 17 and didn’t have any A-levels.
“I’d been working in the NHS since I’d left school in 2010 but I wanted to do something different.”
Following the interview, which she’d requested following an initial decline, she was accepted onto the course. Katy said: “I was ecstatic and knew I had to work hard to show they were right to take a chance.”
She started University while her daughter Niamh was only six months old, and still achieved two 90 per cent grades in her first year, which gave her a boost in confidence.
Unfortunately, in 2017, Katy had a miscarriage five days before starting the first semester of her second year.
She said: “It was really hard, even more so that life had to resume as normal, with Niamh to look after and my degree studies.
“The idea for Niamhs Neverland, my business that creates handmade accessories for babies and toddlers, came about halfway through my second year of studying.
“I wanted to fill the gap left by my miscarriage; I’m not sure why, but suddenly Niamh and University weren’t enough to fill the time.
“I has started making things when Niamh was born and I really enjoyed it.
“An opportunity came up to list my products with a company and then I moved to Etsy and things snowballed from there.”
By third year, she was taking 50 to 100 orders a month, exhibiting nationally, along with completing university assignments and dissertation and aiming for a first class degree.
“Luckily, my mum also helps to make the accessories, which has been a huge help,” she added.
In January 2019, her story was featured in the bestselling book ‘Mumpreneur on Fire 4’. One of her lecturers heard about it and asked to speak to her.
The lecturer introduced Katy to the SPEED business support project for students and graduates of the University and explained how it could offer support packages, match-funded grants and business consultancy for newly launched companies, which Katy has since taken advantage of.
Katy said: “Niamhs Neverland is still young, but growing and I’m grateful for everything the University has offered me, both in academic and business support.
“I’ve learnt how to juggle a million things; I’m the designer, maker, seller, social media manager, packer, emailer and accountant.
“I’m two years in and it’s doing well, but I’m not yet at the stage where I can outsource the making of the accessories, so it’s all in-house.
“Every day I learn something new, and the skills I learnt at University opened up my mind to new possibilities and ways of doing things.”
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