With a lifelong love of making and creating – mainly with her mum – it was maybe inevitable that former insurance broker Laura Sweet would start her own business. She took the plunge in 2016 and set up kids’ outdoor clothing company, Amamaya, in Taunton. The business is influenced by her love of travelling and her family still plays an important part.
Laura: “I started Amamaya in April 2016 shortly after I had given birth to our first daughter, Maya, in the January. I had always travelled a lot for work and had an hours commute each way and I just couldn’t get my head around returning to that work life and being the mum I wanted to be. Once Maya was born we couldn’t find any suitable outdoor clothing that was within our price range. As my husband and I have spent a lifetime together enjoying the great outdoors, we wanted to share the same with our daughter but we also wanted her to have the same protection that we did, especially as she was still being carried everywhere.”
Amamaya is a real family business – Laura’s hat designs were inspired by one of her mother’s many knitting projects, and her husband, Simon, and daughter contribute on a day-to-day basis.
Laura: “I run the company, with input from my husband. Maya comes with me on all my business meetings and is my little business partner – she always tells me when the meeting is over and it’s time to go home! We are based in Taunton, which is where we both grew up, and, apart from a five-year stint in Bristol, is where we have both always lived. It was really important to me when I started the company to try and support British manufacturing and British businesses wherever possible, and all our knitted merino products currently on sale have been manufactured in Leicester.
The company name is inspired by a trip the couple took to Everest Base Camp in Nepal. The country has had a huge impact on Laura and Simon’s lives and it is ingrained into their brand. The Amamaya logo is a rough outline of Nepalese mountain Ama Dablam, and loosely incorporates the Nepalese flag.
Laura: “We named our daughter Maya Ama – Maya is Nepalese for The Unconditional Love, and there is a mountain in Nepal named Ama Dablam. Ama Dablam translates as mother’s necklace so the Ama part is mother, which we took to mean Mother Earth. We spent a month in Nepal trekking in 2013 and it’s such a special place. We cannot wait to take Maya back with us when she is big enough.”
Despite a love of crafting and making which stemmed from childhood, Laura ended up with a career as an insurance broker. She admits that with no formal design training, she was unsure about taking the leap into self-employment. It was becoming a mother that changed her perspective and she hasn’t looked back.
Laura: “I didn’t have the confidence to step out of the money trap of a good career to take a risk on something I wasn’t formally trained in. Once I took maternity leave this just fell into place, and I wanted to be a good role model for Maya. Most of my designs start out with a bit of day dreaming. I pop them down on paper and they evolve over time. The final design then depends on the constraints of the manufacturers as to what they can and can’t do!”
In Amamaya, Laura has created a range of kit for children aged from one to 12-years-old, which currently includes Gokyo hats, Lukla baselayers, and Ama Dablam t-shirts. And she says that her main inspiration and motivation for her collection, and business, is her daughter.
Laura: “I create clothing I would want her to wear that not only looks great but that performs, and will keep her comfortable while we are out and about seeing the world through her eyes all over again. Most of the main design features of our current range are really kid specific and have been added to solve a problem. For example, our base layers are longer in the body than usual as kids clothing often stops at the hip and won’t stay tucked in! This is useless when you are trying to keep kids warm while out hiking in the UK at any time of the year. The merino yarn we chose is super important and has long been the yarn of choice for outdoor clothing – it’s both warm and cool, wicking, soft, and retains its warmth even when wet. We have added thumb holes to ensure comfort and to keep kids tucked in and cosy, there are side ventilation holes to help regulate temperature, and a built in snood which can be used to tuck a scarf into when its really cold.”
Laura has big ideas for the future and is excited about her new Somerset range of alpaca clothing which is due to be launched shortly.
Laura: “We have teamed up with Exmoor-based British Alpaca Fashion to produce our new line of clothing, including some new natural alpaca hats, alpaca silk snoods, and a range of mid-layer hoodies. The most exiting thing for me about this project is that our new line will have been designed and manufactured in its entirety in Somerset – this includes the raising of the alpaca herd that the wool is coming from. You don’t get a product much more locally made than that, particularly when it comes to kids clothing.”
So why Somerset for Laura and her family?
Laura: “Somerset holds a million memories. It’s where I grew up, got drunk on cider, met my husband, bought our first house, and gave birth to our daughter. It’s also incredibly beautiful, quirky, wild, funny, and quaint. And [it’s] home.”
All forest-based photos are courtesy of Antonina Mamzenko Photography.