Our “The Spotlight” series features founders and brands that inspire us. Whether it’s empowering kids, inspiring parents, or making sustainable solutions part of everyday life, we’ve spoken to people who embody the values at the heart of GRASP. Our hope is that these founder’s stories, the products they’re making, and their ambitions to make a difference in the world also inspire you.
What first inspired you to start blankei? What was the first thing you did when the idea for the business hit you?
It was always a big dream to create my own business for as long as I can remember. My background is senior roles across branding, marketing, PR and partnerships and so I’ve been lucky enough to work with and drive growth for over 300 notable brands, both agency and in-house. Although I loved it, it got to a point where I felt a little frustrated that I put so much energy and passion in to building others dreams and so in 2019 I decided to take the plunge.
I was actually on holiday in Greece when the idea of blankei was born. I think new surroundings and some downtime often results in better creativity and the initial concept clicked there. I knew I wanted to curate a shareable brand and an eco-friendly ‘essential’ textile for birth and beyond that complements your every day – not just in terms of practicality but style too, from interiors to your outfits just as well as stylish bubbas.
It’s taken a long time to get our blankeis right. You’d think, “oh a blanket - it’s easy to manufacture, surely” – but it could not be any further than the truth! It is hugely complex, and we use specialist one-of-a-kind techniques to perfect the weave, colours and finishing touches. A lot of research, a lot of patience and a can-do approach but I’m proud of what we offer and very excited about blankei’s future; it’s so nice to hear when others are too. Launching as a small independent is not simple, you need ‘multiple hats’ on and MOQ’s from product to packaging are a killer and so you have to really believe in your offering to take the big risks needed.
How hard is it to create a brand for babies when it's such a crowded space? What have you tried to focus on that will make sure Blankei is unique?
I think sometimes it’s easy to complicate your product offering. I was hugely attached to my baby blanket for many years growing up, and it was called ‘blankei’.
I felt there was an opportunity to reinvent gorgeous quality cellular baby blankets using modern materials with a heap of baby-friendly benefits. Our dribble-worthy hues feel powdery, muted and with an edge. No more cliché baby colours and abrasive throwaway ‘fast-fashion’ fabrics that shrink after one wash. Sounds ironic, I know, as blankei is a children’s brand, but I’ve never wanted it to feel solely that; for me it’s a lifestyle brand and way more than a just a baby blanket. From first newborn moments to a soothing companion during early hour feeds and a comforting side kick from cot to car and sleepovers – it genuinely will become a ‘must-have’ and your little one’s new bestie.
In terms of unique - I think just focus on your own product, what you believe in and block out the noise. Yes, it’s a tick in the box to be mindful of any competition but brands surpass just a physical ‘product’ comparison nowadays. Think about how your brand makes purchasers feel, and how it will serve a purpose – emotionally and practically, and for a good while. When it comes to blankei, your bubba won’t want to let go and neither you! It’s been really special to have my niece and best friend’s babies feature in our photography to bring it to life, too. I am so lucky to have such amazing support.
You are proudly making Blankei in the UK. What made you want to do that? What's been the hardest thing about getting your products made here?
My Dad, a big inspiration to me, had a family-run business which he set up 30 years’ ago and so I suppose I’ve always been surrounded by manufacturing in the UK. This, coupled with the likes of finally finding a supplier that produced the quality I was after, being able to support family-run and the beauty of British craftsmanship, ensuring sustainability and a little more ease to be fully involved in the full process – it made it a natural decision. You also have to go with who you feel you can trust and can work with; there’s so much to juggle as a start-up (especially around a full-time job too!) and so it also comes down to how supported you feel.
The hardest part? Pretty much everything if I’m honest! It’s not been easy and so much has already changed within the supply chain since I launched in September 2021 as a result of COVID, leaving the EU. I have no doubt we’ll continue to feel the impacts for some time. I was actually mid-way through manufacture in early 2020 when COVID hit and my production was paused until mid-2021. My supplier said to me, “Hannah, you do realise you are launching at one of the hardest times we’ve ever experienced in over 50 years in the industry”. The best thing you can do is embrace the challenge, take big action and never give up!
What do you think most mums and dads are concerned about when shopping for their little ones?
I think there’s been a real shift in needs and desires as parents and what parents worry about compared to a few years ago. They’re much more mindful of the type of products their children are consuming, but also how they are made, how this might impact the environment and thus their little one’s future.
Our British-born cellular blankeis are 100% GOTS certified organic cotton, and so kind on babies’ skin and with an eco-edge. They’re also breathable making them a safer option, and temperature regulating – so bubba will keep cool in summer and warm in winter. This, along with our high quality, also helps with less waste, as parents are able to use a blankei all year round, and it will last for years to come; as a keepsake or handed down. You can also wash our blankei on 30 degrees in the washing machine, which is kinder on the planet. We’re passionate about producing non-seasonal designs that become special, lasting essentials.
What's your dream for Blankei? What would you love for the brand to become in the years ahead?
A go-to for soft and snuggly cellular baby blankets, and more! I am so grateful for every customer so far, and so many share such lovely feedback including the sentimental value and memories blankei already holds for them. It honestly makes everything so worth it and is a big driver for me. I’ve had parents who have had very premature babies and their only and first skin-to-skin contact with their newborn was a blankei whilst in an incubator in ICU for weeks. That is just so special. SO special.
For me, I’d like to see blankei grow its offering of up-to-date essentials, but also its inclusive community. To feel approachable as a brand, collaborative, conversational, inspiring and continue to push to create a supportive space for all parents, as well as those aspiring to be or anyone that simply appreciates good design. I’d also love to set up an interior design side that complements blankei and focuses on little one’s spaces (currently a holding page on our site so that it becomes a reality one day!).
Lots to think about, and still lots to tick off but also lots to embrace right now! I feel like we’re only just getting started…
We were speaking to Hannah Waugh, the Founder of Blankei (www.blankei.com) as part of our The Spotlight series for GRASP. Blankei is making soft and snuggly, 100% organic cotton, cellular blankets here in the UK. They come in dribble-worthy, incredibly stylish hues for bubbas, from birth and beyond. Shop here, and follow them on Instagram here