There is always place in the UK market for another good sling maker or manufacturer. Slings are ever increasing in popularity and there are still designs out there which are new and innovative.
The Good – Making slings can be immensely satisfying, knowing that something you created is nourishing and cherishing a much loved baby is a fantastic contribution to make. The sling community is welcoming and always excited to see new ideas.
The Scary – With the good comes the enormous responsibility which making carriers automatically brings with it. To make a carrier which works you will inevitably make mistakes along the way and it is important that no one gets hurt by those mistakes, both physically and financially.
The Hard – Setting up a sling making business is hard work. There is a lot of preparation to be done before you even get close to a sewing machine and that is when the journey is just about to start. For some makers it can take over a year to get from sitting down at the sewing machine to selling their first carrier and by no means all makers are successful with many closing down in the first 3 years of business.
The Challenging – When you develop your own design, you will need to consider many thing;What is your carrier’s USP (unique selling point)? What makes it stand out from the crowd? How can you design it so that it is safe? Have you thought about where the stress points are in your carrier and how to reinforce them? If you are making wrap conversions, have you taken into account the fact that wrap fabric has different properties to most other fabrics?
The Fabulous – Doing what you love, how you love it and knowing that you are great at what you do!
There are two lists here which you may want to consider when starting up as a carrier maker in the UK
You NEED to meet these requirements when selling carriers in the UK.
- Registering as a business – anyone operating as a business in the UK needs to register with HMRC. When you start taking money or goods for something you make, you are a business and you will need to register within 3 months.
- Accounts – as a business you will need to keep track of your incomings and outgoings. You will need to file a tax return and you may want to consider whether you need to hire an accountant or whether you can keep track yourself.
- Safety – it is your responsibility to ensure that the products you sell are of a sufficient quality. There is no current legal requirement set for the type of testing you need to do. You may want to explore the different testing options currently available. Eg. to BS EN 13209 – 2:2005
- Laws – as someone selling goods you will need to explore which laws apply to you. For example the distance selling regulations or consumer protection laws.
- Design – you cannot make copies of an existing design or use a business name someone else is already using. Do your research before committing to a name.
These are requirements which established carrier makers have indicated as important. Although not currently legal requirements I would strongly advise that you take them into real consideration.
- Insurance – although not a legal requirement it is possible to obtain insurance and something a lot of customers take for granted.
- Training/Experience – do you need to train as a consultant or peer supporter to increase your knowledge of slings? Do you have enough experience using the carriers you are making?
- Design – do you have your own design which has been tested and reviewed by a cross section of your target audience and by experienced makers? A design is often a work of many different drafts and you may want to consider how you want to approach the design testing stage.
- Instructions – not everyone buying a sling already knows how to use one. Including instructions with every carrier purchased is good practice and a must for the voluntary BSE regulations.
- VAT registration – You need to register for VAT once you reach a turnover of £77k, before that it is possible to register on a voluntary basis.
- Fabric sourcing and toxic dye testing – This is something that is important for the voluntary BS EN testing and something that will be important to your customers.
Before you start making carriers it is important to do your groundwork and make sure that you meet the legal requirements and have at least considered the optional ones. For some background reading you may want to check out the BCIA website and read about the changes which have been happening in the US over the recent years. In years past the sling industry in the US was unregulated much like it is in the UK at the moment. Things changed after a couple of recalls of slings deemed unsafe and the sling industry worked hard to get a workable set of regulations. The standard set is ultimately a great example of what an industry can achieve when it works together.
This article is written specifically for those wanting to make carriers. Many of the points also apply to those who want to make carrying accessories although it is worth noting that items classed as toys come with their own set of legal requirements.
The sling industry in the UK is on the whole a friendly and welcoming community and if you do take the jump come and say hello in the Watercooler, a dedicated subforum of the Business Room for work at home mama’s
A huge thank you goes out to the following current and former carrier makers in the UK who have given their time and input towards this article: