We recently had the pleasure of interviewing Siobhan of Scallywag Kids – a bedroom furniture manufacturer focusing on producing children’s beds which can grow with your child as they do, staying with them from infancy all the way through their teens. We took away some great insights into family run businesses. We also discuss company culture, hiring the right employees and the benefits of sleep. We took away many pieces of great advice and we are sure you will too.
The family business was established in 1956 and Siobhan joined her father and brother in the business in 1987. She has been crucial in growing the business ever since and a fundamental part of the company’s shift into the children’s bed part of the market, so we thought the ideal question to start with would be, “Why did you decide on furniture for children?”
Why did you decide on furniture for children?
“When our own children came along in the 1990s, we realised that there was a gap in the market for children’s beds.”, she started. “There was little choice, and what was available was pretty boring if I’m honest.” Disappointed with the options available to herself and other parents Siobhan decided to do something about it, as she explains, “We decided to create a colourful range that would grow with them from their first bed through to teenage years.” But being a parent has done more than influence the direction of the business, it is also the reason for the Scallywag Kids name – “Scallywag was a term of endearment we used for our children and was therefore the natural choice for the name of our new range.”
What was your mission at the outset?
Clearly Siobhan and her family were out to create a range they knew there was a demand for, but we wanted to know what was the company’s mission at the inception of the idea to go into the children’s bedroom furniture market. The company’s mission is obviously instilled in Siobhan as she articulated it so beautifully, “Our mission has always been to design and manufacture products which are not only aesthetically appealing to children (they may not be picking up the tab, but they are the end consumer after all), but more importantly, safe & functional whilst maintaining the highest quality and providing excellent value.”
How has that mission grown or changed over time?
Having offered the company’s initial mission so effortlessly one would expect that the same mission remains true today for Scallywag Kids – it does. “Our mission has not changed; only expanded.”, Siobhan explained. However, she did elaborate further by going deeper on why staying true to the company’s first mission is important, saying “We pride ourselves on being what is now a rare breed of British manufacturers, and whilst we have had to contend with imported imitations, our continued commitment to safety, quality, and customer service remains unsurpassed.”
How has being a parent influenced your business and its products?
The next question we approached Siobhan with may seem redundant given her reply to our first question but anyone with children in their lives could start to notice gaps in the market when it comes to products for kids. But Siobhan is not just someone with children in her life – she is a mum, which gives her a different perspective (something all parents can testify to) and we wanted to know how that alternative perspective has influenced her business and the products they manufacture.
“Being a parent has had a huge influence.”, she stated. “Having had three ‘Scallywags’ I understand the pressures and demands that parents face, both financially and in terms of wanting to provide an environment in which children are safe, secure and happy.” She continued. “This ethos has remained foremost in our minds, because every child deserves the opportunity to flourish.” This is something we are sure all parents can agree with and this alignment with other parents is likely a large part of the company’s success.
How do you approach creating furniture that both children and their parents will love?
Aligning with parents is great, they are the ones spending the money after all, but we were curious as to how Scallywag Kids approach appealing to the children and parents at the same time. “Initially we developed the range by drawing on our own experiences of being parents in terms of practicality.” Siobhan offered this relatable anecdotal example, saying, “You gain a huge sense of achievement when able to immediately retrieve a matching pair of football socks with kick-off less than half an hour away! Simple things like having designated drawers can make life so much easier.”
Scallywag Kids understand what parents find important, but they also understand what children want too, something Siobhan attributes to listening to the market. This quote from Siobhan encapsulates how Scallywag Kids set about understanding what the customer wants, “We listen to children and consider their own ideas as to what their dream bedroom would be like (although some suggestions have bordered on the ridiculous, they have been entertaining and display some fine imaginative skills!) We continue to listen to our customers; both young and old, and many of our staff who are parents themselves. We pay attention to trends in colours and the ever-changing expectations of what a bedroom needs to provide; from a safe haven for little ones, to a sanctuary for teenagers.”
What do you look for when employing people to ensure they are aligned with your company culture?
After sharing that listening to their staff is a large part of how Scallywag Kids is able to appeal to both parents and children, we had to learn more about the staff that make up this fantastic company. This is what Siobhan had to say about their employees and what they look for when hiring; “The average length of service of our employees is 18 years.” Already you can see that whatever Scallywag Kids are doing is certainly working. The secret sauce, Siobhan says, is that “From the outset, we insist upon the highest attention to detail and conscientiousness. The most important thing is, that every single member of our team takes pride in their work and, in many cases, have enjoyed seeing their own ideas come to fruition.”
Scallywag Kids is a family run business, which family members do you work with?
Family businesses are a unique selection of business which offer completely different dynamics and relationships, so we asked Siobhan about her experience working with family; “Scallywag Kids is a family run business, which family members do you work with?” this is Siobhan’s story of entering the family business; “After my father retired in 1996, my brother Mark and myself continued developing the business. Tragedy struck in 2014 when Mark received a devastating diagnosis which prevented him from ever returning to his role in the company. His legacy of the much loved ‘bendy’ ladder continues as the Scallywag signature. The incredible team here pulled together as always, to breach the gap that Mark left. I still have trouble filling his shoes though, being a mere size 5 against his size 10!”
“What has been the best aspect of working with your family when building Scallywag Kids?”
“For better or worse, we all know that where family is concerned, we don’t pull any punches. If we don’t think something is good, we say so; there is no holding back! The best aspect is that shared sense of achievement and being able to toast the success of a project together. Although not blood related, the family atmosphere remains, with each of the Scallywag team being an honorary member.”
What are your views on the importance of sleep?
When talking to business people one of the most common topics which arises is the importance of sleep, after all it is hard to work effectively and efficiently if you’re not well rested. So, when given the chance to talk to a bed manufacturer, of all people, we could not pass on the opportunity to ask, “What are your views on the importance of sleep?”
Siobhan shared this wonderful story about when her father first arrived in England, “When my father came to England from Ireland in the 50s with only the clothes that he wore, he received a valuable piece of advice: “Make sure that you have a good bed and a decent pair of boots, because if you’re not in one, you’ll be in the other.” Well he didn’t have any aspirations to become a cobbler, but he remained a stickler for a good quality bed.” The value of good sleep had been ingrained in Siobhan’s father’s mind since day one and remains part of Siobhan’s and the company’s ethos today.
Siobhan continued, displaying both her enthusiasm and knowledge of the subject: “The importance of sleep to children is well documented. Getting children to bed early not only allows parents some quiet time, but research has proven time and again that kids who get enough sleep are at a lower risk of obesity as well as fewer learning problems and attention issues. Creating a bedroom which encourages sleep is of vital importance.”
Siobhan also shared her views on the role the bedroom has when it comes to good rest. “Call me old fashioned, but if a child’s bedroom resembles a playground complete with slides etc. it is not conducive to sleep.” As has been the theme with Siobhan, she finished with an anecdote drawing from her own experiences as a parent stating, “When my Scallywags were little, I found that finishing the day off snuggled up reading a bedtime story was a great aid to sleep – I was usually nodding off well before the final page!”
What environmental considerations does Scallywag Kids make and how important is it to you that the company adheres to those considerations?
An increasing number of people are starting to take more care when it comes to the environment and they have come to expect the same of the companies they work with, buy from and associate themselves with. With this in mind we were interested in Scallywags Kids’ stance on taking care of the environment as part of their corporate social responsibility. “The environment is something which is of huge importance to us personally, and is second place only to safety. All our timber is sourced from Northern Scandinavia from reliably managed forests where the mills advocate a policy of biodiversity and regeneration.” Scallywag Kids is obviously a company built on strong beliefs and values from the way they approach employing staff to the hows and whys of creating children’s bedroom furniture so we were unsurprised to see that they also have a strong ethos regarding sustainability and other environmental considerations.
What makes Scallywag Kids unique and separates it from the crowd?
Scallywag Kids has been built on strong principles, personal experiences and sense of community but what has been the result of all those factors? Scallywag Kids is more than just a bedroom furniture manufacturer and supplier and Siobhan’s explanation of what separates Scallywag Kids from the crowd captures this sentiment perfectly.
“Our phrase of ‘inspired by children, designed by parents’ is a very real concept for Scallywag Kids. The range has been tried and tested by our own kids. The flexibility that the Scallywag range provides is unparalleled, providing the opportunity to design bedrooms, bespoke in terms of colour, style and furniture combinations.” This alone captures the company’s sense of family and the way their own parenthood experiences are used to create products which truly fulfil their purpose.
Filled with enthusiasm, Siobhan had more to add, “Our dedication to our customers is paramount. For those too far away to visit our factory showroom, we are never more than a phone call or email away from discussing individual concerns or options. There are not many (if any) manufacturers that can offer our level of personal touch, and no-one knows our products better than we do. We love nothing more than receiving messages from our happy customers, many of which include photographs of a delighted new generation of Scallywags.”
Above all else, Siobhan and Scallywag Kids’ employees are instilled with pride knowing that parents can purchase with confidence from a business that has been established for over 60 years, safe in the knowledge that each item has been made with love in Yorkshire!