Rachel Day and Merry Whitaker are friends, mothers and former serving soldiers who are married to military personnel. Their company, LoveKeepCreate (lovekeepcreate.co.uk), began as a kitchen table business and has grown into a successful venture that’s just received investment from Deborah Meaden on TV’s Dragon’s Den. We caught up with Merry to find out more…
LOVEKEEPCREATE, which makes bespoke keepsake items out of baby’s clothes, was born when Rachel’s husband was in Afghanistan and she wanted to send him something to keep his new-born son close. She decided to make his babygrows into a patchwork blanket.
Rachel put a picture on Facebook and all her friends and family loved it. She soon had requests flooding in and demand was still going strong 18 months later, but she was struggling to keep up whilst managing the administration work.
It was in January 2013, over a glass or two of wine in Rachel’s quarter, that the pair brainstormed ideas and Merry bought into the business as a partner.
“With me in Germany and Rachel in Nottingham, we launched,” explained Merry. “We had four children aged three and under between us.
“It was extremely tough trying to manage with deployed fathers, frequent moves and operating a business out of our spare rooms.”
It wasn’t until Merry and Rachel got a workshop in Devon and staff to help out that they applied for Dragon’s Den in October 2015.
They impressed entrepreneur Deborah Meaden enough to secure a £50,000 investment, enabling them to grow their business further now that both their soldiers have left the Army.
Clothes can have such strong emotional connections to both people and places. In Army families, Merry and Rachel have a captive audience and they’ve received fantastic feedback.
“They are so pleased to know that there is a way of using the clothes they can’t bear to part with,” said Merry. “They tell us how much it helps them to feel connected during absences.
“I have a keepsake dragon made from some little shirts my son wore in Cyprus. They were all sun bleached, but every time I look at that dragon it reminds me of that lovely posting.”
LoveKeepCreate also makes keepsakes from adult clothing, such as uniforms, as Merry explained: “People like to have them made for their soldier when they leave the Army as a memento of such a big part of their lives.”
Merry’s advice for any Army spouse or partner starting a company is to be realistic. “Running your own business to fit around family is great, especially if it’s something that you can do wherever you’re based, but it can take a long time for any money to start coming in and it’s extremely hard work,” she advised. “I think it’s like building a house – everything is harder and takes longer than you think!”