This week for my Parents in Business series I am delighted to feature Rachel and Kirsty who created AMWRAP selling Gifts for Athletes. Both Kirsty and Rachel bring together their different skills to help make AMWRAP the success that it is today. The business was set up after realising that most gym themed merchandise is stereotypically male. You only need to have a look at AMWRAP cards and gifts to see that is now the opposite.
Both Kirsty and Rachel sound like superheroes to me, not only are they running AMWRAP, but this is their side hustle to their other jobs and businesses. They have managed to achieve this by using the extended clubs after school for their children, I know just how vital these can be for working parents, and being able to work one day together every week. Their biggest tip for success is to set boundaries. So read on to find out more about AMWRAP….
Tell me a little bit about you, your background, and your business?
We’re Rachel and Kirsty. We each have two primary school aged children, and we live near each other in Chorlton, South Manchester. In July 2018 we established our business, AMWRAP: Gifts for Athletes. We became friends around three years ago through going to the same CrossFit gym; living in the same area we also discovered we had some mutual friends, and our kids go to the same school. From there a friendship and business partnership has flourished!
Prior to having children we both worked in the arts, with jobs in museums and galleries – Kirsty on the curatorial side and me in PR and marketing. After having children, we both pursued other passions as a way of working more flexibly around family life. Kirsty started Double Thumbs Up – she designs and makes beautiful illustrated gifts, cards and paper goods (you can find her store on Not On The High Street and Etsy). I moved away from the arts and became a CrossFit coach, specializing in training pregnant and postnatal women. We continue to run our other businesses with AMWRAP as our ‘side-hustle’ – it combines Kirsty’s artistic talents with my passion for fitness.
What were your motivations for setting up your business?
The idea for AMWRAP first came about almost two years ago. Kirsty and I went out for a Christmas lunch with our pals from CrossFit and Kirsty made us all the most fantastic gym themed Christmas cards, crackers and mini mirrors. Emboldened by a few cocktails we wondered whether there might be a wider market for these gifts. The majority of CrossFit or gym themed merchandise has very stereotypically masculine stylings – dark colours, skulls, heavy barbells that kind of thing. There’s a ‘go hard or go home’ mentality and a lot of really bad design. The more we discussed it (mostly in our car share to and from the 6.30am gym class) we felt there was a gap in the market for a gym themed gift brand that was inclusive, colourful, funny, clever and well designed – just about the sheer joy of exercise for all.
Neither of us excel in the gym – we got into it because we enjoy it. CrossFit itself is actually very inclusive: it can be scaled for all ages and abilities and it’s really varied and fun. We get to weightlift, swim, climb ropes, do handstands (I know this is making us sound super-sporty when actually we just go and mess around). There’s a great sense of camaraderie in CrossFit and you get to know the people you train with really well, which is also where the idea of greetings cards and gifts fitted perfectly. The name AMWRAP is a play on the CrossFit term AMRAP (‘as many reps as possible’) – but we added the W to make it AMWRAP – as in gift wrap. For us personally, working on our own separate projects, it was appealing to work with a friend – it can get quite lonely working alone so I think this was also a big driver in us coming together to create AMWRAP.
How do you balance the business around your family and childcare?
We are both essentially running two businesses during school hours, with a couple of slightly extended days thanks to after school clubs. This poses quite a lot of challenges (so much to do, so little time), but we are also really lucky that we get to do the school run and spend weekends and school holidays with our kids. Kirsty’s husband works overseas a lot and my husband has unpredictable hours so it is vital that we are both able to be flexible. We always spend one day a week working together in Kirsty’s Studio and usually meet during the week at the gym or at home – sometimes to film or shoot content for our social media or website, or to have a brainstorm. And we do a lot of What’s App-ing each other! Kirsty’s children are 9 and 7 and mine are 6 and 4 so we’re out of the chaos of the pre-school years which helps.
Since setting up your business what’s been your biggest success to date?
Since setting up our business we’ve had lots of milestones and small successes. We launched the brand with a stall at a CrossFit competition and selling our first few items was such a buzz. We work better when we have a deadline and managed to set up our own website and online store from scratch in around a fortnight in the lead up to Black Friday last year – previously we had only been trading on Etsy. We collaborated with lululemon – a worldwide luxury yoga and gym brand – designing some bespoke cards for their Manchester store where we now sell a selection of greetings cards. We love working with wholesale customers and have a number of gyms and fitness retailers across the UK that stock our products. This summer we launched a clothing range and the photo shoot for that was so much fun – we styled it all ourselves in terms of locations and props.
What are your top tip for anyone who is thinking about setting up their own business?
Our top tip for anyone setting up their own business is – set boundaries. It can become all-consuming, and if you’re setting up a business to fit around your family life, this can defeat the object. As we each have another business we run alongside AMWRAP, we are both committed to carving out time for AMWRAP and not letting our other commitments creep in and vice-versa. Sometimes I want to send Kirsty a message about something business related but I refrain as I know it’s a day she’s working on Double Thumbs Up, or it’s her day off. We’re only really getting into the swing now of planning ahead and being more disciplined in the way we work – it’s hard not to be distracted by wanting to design new products all the time. Our enthusiasm led the way and that was no bad thing at the start – but now in order to grow the business and preserve our work/life balance, we are finding we need to work a bit smarter.