We caught up with Sarah, the founder of Little Beau Sheep, to ask her a what inspires and how she started Little Beau Sheep.
How did you start out in this industry?
It all started when I had children. I realised quite quickly after having my first child that the corporate world wasn’t going to work in terms of all the travelling involved and the hours that I’d been working – I worked for a global bank so there was a lot of travel from Yorkshire to London. I had the opportunity to take redundancy at the end of my maternity leave so that’s what I did. Around the same time, we moved house and temporarily lived in a small flat while we did renovations. By that point I had two children and I became reliant on the tumble dryer to get through the mountains of washing! I invested in plastic dryer balls to speed up the process but because they were plastic, they were extremely noisy so I couldn’t dry when it was naptime, or overnight. So, I was searching for a more natural alternative and living in Yorkshire I discovered wool. Down the road there was a shop selling different types of wool in all different colours, so I started making the laundry balls out of the wool to look like the different breeds of sheep that the wool came from. The benefits are great: wool is natural, biodegradable and sustainable but the laundry balls are also virtually silent in the dryer. Plus, you can scent them with essential oils so your washing smells great!
Could you tell me about someone who inspires you in everyday life?
That’s a tricky one, there are so many! I find other female entrepreneurs really inspiriting. For example Jo Malone and Chrissie Rucker who founded The White Company – these women both created beautiful things from the ground up!
In everyday life, my children are the reason why I do this. It is important to me to be there for them, to be at assemblies and not miss out on those little moments of life as they grow up because I was on a train to or from London!
What gets you up in the morning?
My children! Although it is better now that they’re slightly older.
With what I do, there’s always a different challenge – you never finish. Which, bizarrely enough, is a really good motivator. That’s what keeps me interested. There’s always something different. We’ve been on Countryfile, we’ve done collaborations with different shepherds using their wool so we can name the sheep that the product comes from, there’s always something new to learn. It’s so different now compared to when I worked in the corporate world because I’m doing it for myself. When you’re doing something for yourself, if you don’t do it, it’s not going to get done – it’s as simple as that!
What do you love about British Wool?
Definitely the diversity of the different breeds. Physically they all look very different, the wool acts very differently and they all have different characteristics. When you work with it you become a bit of an expert in terms of how it’s going to felt and react differently. We are very lucky to have such great diversity on our doorstep.
Do you have a favourite breed?
I have a soft spot for the Swaledale!
Are there any particular challenges of being a woman in your industry?
The main challenges I face are also linked to being a mother. The family mental load still tends to fall on the female when it comes to raising a family. It is changing, and the pandemic has actually helped in that respect with more people working from home – you see a lot more dads in the playground now than you ever did before! However, it’s still a juggle to time manage it all with the pressure that comes with it on top of a day-job.
If you could give one piece of advice to women starting out in this industry, what would it be?
I think a lot of people always have ideas to start their own business, but they end up talking themselves out of it – it’s a bit of a female thing! So, I would just say do it – but on a small scale where you can test it out. I started out on Etsy because it’s a ready-made platform, so there are very low set up costs. Test, learn and refine your idea. For me, it was working out the different types of sheep, different price points, packages etc. Test and see what works and what doesn’t work. Once you start you will find it gains momentum and you’ll find yourself doing things you would never have thought of when you first started. But if you never start, you’ll never know.
Other than your own, what is your favourite company/small business?
There are lots of amazing small businesses out there to discover and Instagram is a great place to gain inspiration. I am naturally drawn to other businesses that use British wool and anything with an animal theme so here are a couple of my favorites:
Genevieve Sweeney is an award-winning sustainable British independent knitwear company.
Tilda’s Tribe make the most amazing goats-milk soaps from their small herd of goats in Yorkshire.