Tel: 01226 379777
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Our Story

This is me and my family. When our marketing experts said (in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 – twice, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 – 107 times) that you really need to tell your story, I said ... no way, never, ever! What would people think! No. Sorry, but no!

I love Spotty Otter. I’m proud of Spotty Otter. I want the best for Spotty Otter. They won. So here it is (for now ...)

How Did It All Happen?

Well it’s taken a while but we’ve finally persuaded our Director to spill the beans and tell the Spotty Otter story. Something special really can be born from humble beginnings when you have passion and a determination for it to succeed. It’s a long story, but if you have the time ...

  • Can’t Knit for Toffee!

    I suppose the seeds of the Spotty Otter story were planted way back in 1973 - the year my Nana taught me to sew aged 3 years old. I couldn't, apparently, "knit for toffee", but sewing I could do. It came in handy over the years.

  • Nifty Little Numbers!

    I lived in the remnant rooms of fabric shops as a young teenager so that I could make my own clothes. Here I am in a nifty little number I ran up at the age of 13 (well, it was the ‘80’s!).

  • Door-to-Door Days!

    I made stuff. I sold stuff. I started earning my own money aged 12 selling fruit and vegetables on the market, and then later brushes, mops and cleaning products door-to-door ...

  • Getting crafty!

    ... and, most importantly, by selling my sewing creations in a little craft shop in Bolton. I made my first little toddler shirt in that shop in 1986 – I remember because it was the same day that Sarah Ferguson married Prince Andrew and everyone was watching the royal wedding.

  • Bedpans, Bumps & Babies!

    But, having accumulated only £120 to my name, I thought that I’d better get a ‘proper job’. So I left home aged 18 to become a nurse in Manchester and then later a midwife in Bradford and finally Sheffield.

  • A New Millennium!

    I loved being a midwife and I thought that's all I would ever do until I retired. But with the dawning of a new millennium everything was about to change. Thoughts of the impossibilities of juggling midwifery shifts and childcare led to considerations of the alternative - to put my teenage entrepreneurial hat back on.

  • Rockies, Babies and Business Plans!

    So I started sewing again .... Well, actually, we had one last trip around the Canadian Rockies in a tiny 2 man tent, baby number 1 on the way, and then .... I started sewing again.

  • Crazy Ideas!

    Polartec performance fleece baby gear - I sold them to friends, family and at local fairs. And I carried on delivering babies too. We had a new mortgage (on a wreck of a house), a new baby, no savings and 2 student loans to pay off. What a crazy idea to start a business.

  • The Computer Says “NO”!

    The bank thought so too and, despite a good business plan, they said no to giving us any money (not our current bank, btw. They like us!). Okay, plan B then. The long route. The slow and steady we'll get there in the end journey.

  • Plan B Then …!

    So first we became a multi-brand ecommerce retailer. A specialist in anything we could get our hands on for children by the available outdoor brands at the time. I met them in our front room and convinced them we meant business, despite it being a time when people were still a little skeptical about the web and few brands traded on-line. So the very nice man from Regatta pretended not to notice the faint whiff of nappies, and the fact that I was also about to rush off for a shift on the labour ward to deliver babies later that day.

  • Giving up the Day Job!

    But it worked! Another year later I had given up my day job (a very tough decision), and I had a shop and modest warehouse premises for the mail order operation. Another couple of years and we had moved to bigger premises and Matthew (Director number 2 and now husband after a Gretna Green flit - another story!) could finally give up his day job to help out.

  • It’s Working, but ….!

    It soon became apparent that there was something missing. If we could buy a high spec, lightweight, warm down jacket that looked great for us, why couldn't we get hold of one for our little customers. I was told customers didn't want it - they wanted cheap gear and there's no point producing high specification performance gear for children.

  • Parents, Tell Us What You Want, What You Really, Really Want …!

    I disagreed. What parents told us they wanted was good value gear. Gear that can be worn, and worn, and worn and still handed down to the next sibling looking good. Gear that performed, reliably keeping children warm, dry and happy. In other words, gear that meant children could keep playing outside no matter what. Simple.

  • And the Rest is History!

    So after a couple more years of research, design, development and sourcing the best factories available, Spotty Otter finally launched as a brand in 2007. Within 20 minutes of launching we sold our first garment, and it hasn't stopped since. Mums and dads are the best customers ever - if you make them happy, they tell other mums and dads. And the word spread at the school gates, in the parks, on the hills and in people's back gardens. We are truly grateful for this, and for the wonderful feedback we receive every day.

  • So what's it been like for us?

    We always use local outdoor and active kids for our photoshoots (including our own), and they scrub up pretty well don't they?

    But, truth be known, most days are filled with chaos, make-do, hurry-ups, mud, rain, mess and poo ....

  • 14 Years Later...

    14 years after beginning our journey, and it's been an exhilarating trip. We've juggled and child-swapped our way through workdays, meetings, trade shows and exhibitions. It's taken long working weeks, practically non-existent maternity leave, and never knowing when we were going on holiday until the day we packed the tent or hitched up the caravan. But we’ve also had laughs along the way and it’s never boring!

  • Busy, busy, busy ...

    We're all so busy these days. The days we spend away from work, away from school, away from housework, away from anything other than just enjoying being with our children, are special and where the memories are made. I still feel good when I see kids out and about with their family in their Spotty Otter gear. It’s the same sort of feeling as delivering a baby into the world: you know there's nothing that would have stopped it from happening anyway, even without you there. But you just hope you've made it that much nicer an experience for them all the same .....!

  • All Illustrations by Artist Valerie Mainwaring

    I’d like to give a little shout out to Valerie Mainwaring who kindly produced all our illustrations for this ‘About Us’ section. Way back in 1990 she started her nurse training with me at Manchester Royal Infirmary. I’m sure she has her own tale to tell, because now she is an artist based in Cornwall. I know lots of our customers go on holiday to Cornwall, so you might want to check out some of her Cornwall inspired art on www.valeriemainwaring.co.uk

    Her paintings consist mainly of ‘little people’ having a good time – right up our and your street we think!

  • Family
  • Can’t Knit for Toffee!
  • Nifty Little Numbers!
  • Door-to-Door Days!
  • Getting crafty!
  • Bedpans, Bumps & Babies!
  • A New Millennium!
  • Rockies, Babies and Business Plans!
  • Crazy Ideas!
  • The Computer Says “NO”!
  • Plan B Then …!
  • Giving up the Day Job!
  • It’s Working, but ….!
  • Parents, Tell Us What You Want, What You Really, Really Want …!
  • And the Rest is History!
  • So what's it been like for us?
  • 14 Years Later...
  • Busy, busy, busy ...
  • Artist Valerie Mainwaring

Contact Us

Tel: 01226 379777
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Spotty Otter Ltd

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