"Now is a good time to start up a small business. I found an untapped niche and am using my brand to tell a story - to prompt people to think about how children are engaging with the world."
Founder, Elizabeth Caddy
An enterprising young mum who spent her own childhood ‘tearing around hills and playing fields and only going home when hungry’ is on a mission to get children away from their small screens and out into the countryside.
Elizabeth Caddy, from Trelewis, Merthyr, has set up her children’s clothing brand, Pirates and Paperdolls, in a bid to encourage children to embrace an outdoorsy lifestyle because, as she says, ‘mud washes off.’
Elizabeth, aged 33, says: “I was lucky to have a childhood which involved being outdoors a lot. I grew up in the Malvern Hills with a massive playing field near my house, so I would be out all day with my friends, getting muddy and I would only come home when I was hungry. I have two boys of my own now, Alexander, aged 11, and Michael, aged eight, and I know how much time children spend on iPads and iPhones. I admit there were times during the summer holiday when I had to shove my boys outside and said ‘go and play!’ but happily, they are very active anyway.”
Alexander and Michael help to inspire some of the clothing ranges in the Pirates and Paperdolls labels, which Elizabeth then designs and manufactures from her home-based workshop.
“My clothes are gender neutral and are designed with children in mind. For example, my son Michael’s favourite animal is a giraffe and I noticed that children’s clothing with a giraffe on it tends to be designed with girls in mind, so I actually approached one of the major children’s clothing retailers and asked them why that was. Their reply to me was ‘because giraffes have long eyelashes, they are seen as feminine’. I thought that was a bit silly, so with Michael in mind, I will be designing and making something with giraffes on it. Similarly, I am careful with slogans on my clothing, as it has to mean something and it has to have a child’s tone of voice. For instance, one of my logo designs says ‘grown-ups call it getting lost, I call it adventure’. And it is true, when adults take a wrong turn in the car and apologise for getting lost, my sons tell me, ‘we’re not lost, we are just going on an adventure.’”
Elizabeth’s own adventure is in its fledgling months, but she says: “Now is a good time to start up a small business: I know a lot of small businesses that are doing very well. My own business was born out of the fact that I was a fashion design student at the University of South Wales and my first clothing range was part of my final project for uni. I found an untapped niche and am using my brand to tell a story - to prompt people to think about how children are engaging with the world. Another strength of Pirates and Paperdolls is that I design and manufacture myself, and I feel people value that fact that my clothing is made here in Wales.
“There is a lot of support out there for start-ups. For my part, I was helped by Business Wales, who I had contact with while in university, then I maintained contact to prepare me to set up the business. I recently attended the launch of the new Business in Focus start up hub in Merthyr, Crownford House. This will be a great resource for entrepreneurs and I was happy to go along to talk about my business, make some valuable contacts and to scope out new opportunities. We have a supportive network of entrepreneurs and bodies like Business Wales and Business in Focus here in Wales, which I would urge other entrepreneurs to tap into.”
Amanda Keen, Advisor Team Manager from Business in Focus, said: “We are delighted to see Elizabeth’s exciting new business finding its feet. We see day-in, day-out, inspiring people like her creating eye-catching, inventive new brands and working hard to make them flourish. It is noticeable that Elizabeth isn’t just creating a product and marketing that product, she is very much about creating a movement, an ethos and a culture, which is something more and more brands are focusing on - even those who have been on our high streets for generations. Elizabeth is very much part of a fascinating trend.
“She is right to point out that conditions are very favourable for enterprising people like her. For our part, we support hundreds of businesses every year to bring their business idea to fruition and to grow, by providing access to finance, skills training, long-term mentoring and advice, and we have a portfolio of properties across South Wales tailor-made for small business and enterprise. We know from our recent opening of Crownford House that the Merthyr area is teeming with entrepreneurial talent and we hope we can support more start-ups, from the area, realise their ambitions.”