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Turning a £5 Sewing Machine into a £250,000 Business

Turning a £5 Sewing Machine into a £250,000 Business

Starting a business takes courage, determination, and hard work. And for Emma Cattell, starting Bobbin and Bumble was no different. Emma's business began with a simple idea that sprung from her experience with a striped cushion cover that came with her child's highchair.

Unimpressed with the design, she decided to create her own cushion cover using a second-hand sewing machine that she purchased for just £5 from a car boot sale.

Today, Bobbin and Bumble is a thriving business that sells high chair cushion covers, amongst other items, that are easy to wipe. This blog post will delve deeper into Emma's journey of turning a £5 sewing machine into a £250,000 business.

How did Emma's business begin?

Emma's story began in March 2016 when she ordered a highchair for her child. She was not satisfied with the striped cushion cover and began searching for other options. When she couldn't find covers that were easy to wipe, she decided to make her own.

With the knowledge of basic sewing skills taught by her mother, Emma created a cover from one metre of oilcloth fabric. Although the pictures she posted online of her daughter did not mention or promote the cushion cover, people still took notice and began asking about it since it was visible in the pictures. After explaining that she made it, people started suggesting that she should sell them.

After some time Emma followed advice and was quickly surprised to see that the cushion covers she listed on Etsy started selling quickly; and eventually, even went global. At first, she felt overwhelmed by the amount of orders she received and she confessed that she lacked proper experience in sewing, as well as not fully understanding the extent of what she was getting into.

She overcame her initial fears and handled the increased workload with determination and consistent effort, often working extra hours during late nights and early mornings to complete her orders. The business initially operated on her dining table using a cardboard box. As it expanded, it began to occupy her dining room and eventually, during the lockdowns, it took up her entire house and two sheds, that were specifically bought for this purpose, in the garden. Finally, she was able to get her first commercial property in 2021, which is over 1700 square feet.

How did the business begin to grow?

Initially, Emma decided not to use the household funds to purchase additional fabrics. Therefore, she took up two part-time jobs to finance her business. She started them both in 2016 and was able to quit them to solely focus on the business by 2018. The mother of two clarified that she did not withdraw any money from the business until 2021, when it had experienced significant growth and had stable profits.

In 2020, Bobbin and Bumble gained a considerable following, and the concept of 'glowing up' highchairs became widespread, as online shopping became more prevalent. The cushion covers were made of high quality oilcloth, and because they are both easy to clean and durable, many parents with young children preferred this option, as opposed to others, filling a gap in the market. The cushion covers started selling all over the world, including Iceland, the USA, Australia, Tel Aviv, France, and Germany.

Emma achieved success through her perseverance and commitment. She had faith in her product and never gave up in her pursuit of success. She also took the time to listen to her customers, which helped her to improve her products. Emma's story shows that starting a business isn't easy, but with determination and consistency, success is possible.

How can small business owners inform customers of their products?

The key to Emma's success was her ability to get the word out about her product. The most effective way for small business owners to inform customers of their products is through social media. Creating a website and/or engaging with customers on online platforms, such as Instagram, Facebook and TikTok, and creating and publishing content are all effective ways to reach potential customers.

Word of mouth is also an important factor in informing consumers about products. Companies should make sure they offer a positive customer experience and encourage customers to share their reviews and opinions on social media. Offering discounts or promotions can also be beneficial in attracting new customers.

Additionally, podcasts and blogs are excellent ways to reach potential customers. When creating content for these mediums, it is important for small business owners to ensure that their content is informative, interesting and engaging.


Emma Cattell's story is one of inspiration. She turned a simple idea into a £250,000 business through sheer hard work, dedication, and consistency. Emma's journey is a testament to the fact that starting a business isn't easy, but with the right mindset, anything is possible.

Her high chair cushion covers met an unfulfilled need in the market, and she listened to her customers to improve her products. Bobbin and Bumble's growth is a result of Emma's unwavering commitment to her business, and her journey is a reminder that if you have an idea and believe in it, with dedication and hard work, you can turn it into a thriving enterprise.

While success isn‌'t always easy to achieve, it is possible through social media promotion, word of mouth advertising, special promotions and interesting content creation. With the right tools and strategies, small business owners can make their dreams a reality.

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Article written by Dylan Moore

Dylan, originaly from Turkey, discovered his passion for programming and podcasting online. Him and his team later founded PodApp, a user-friendly platform designed to make podcasting accessible to everyone. Read more