In 2009 when wool prices were at their lowest for years Roger Payne and his wife Lesley, like many small farmers, needed to diversify... but into what?
On a 10 minute drive to visit a friend one night Lesley asked if he had any ideas.
Roger thought for a moment and said, “Lets reinvent the blanket”
“Like how?” replied Lesley
“Oh I don’t know ....let’s stuff wool in a duvet!”
Lesley said “You will never sell a wool duvet because woollen duvets sound heavy, itchy, smelly and old fashioned we will have to call it something else”
Then Lesley had her eureka moment “Let’s call it a Baa...vet!”
They arrived at their friend’s house and everyone there thought it was a great idea and so and so the Baavet was born
That turned out to be the easy part. They then set out to out find if it was actually possible to make a wool duvet. Following further research they discovered that Roger’s original idea was already being made in some parts of the world one of which was New Zealand. So all they had to do was find someone to make the wool duvets in this country.... and that’s when things started to get hard. Eventually after weeks of visiting factory after factory it became obvious that there was no one that either makes a wool duvet professionally nor was there the expertise in the once great woollen industry of Yorkshire that could make a wool duvet.
They then started out on a five year journey into the world of manufacturing which resulted in a complete transformation for them from farmers to manufacturers. A journey littered with pitfalls and problems trying to find people with different skills and expertise and bring them together; and this had to be done without any financial help from banks who all refused to support the project.
Eventually with the help of David Edge and his son, also called David, and their wool carding mill plus their engineering skills together with inputs from quilting companies and through 18 months of trials and tribulations, which almost bankrupted them, they have built a woollen duvet production line in Huddersfield. They also have rented a small industrial unit in Snowdonia where the rolls of quilt are finally processed into individual duvets and then despatched by courier around the country.
The family company claims to be one of only a handful of companies producing temperature regulating wool duvets in the world. To get their product into the market place they relied heavily in the yearly years on the expertise of Roger’s son, Christian, a social media expert who lectures all over the world. He was able to help the company get established on the internet which was, and still is, the major source of sales.
Five years later, Roger and Lesley’s “inspirational moment” is turning over £500K and employing 4 full time and 6 part time staff.
However this is an inspirational story with many twists and turns but the company is continuing to develop its product range which also includes pillows, baby products and pet bedding, and they are currently developing a pure wool mattress.
Recently Roger and Lesley appeared on Dragons Den and were able to turn down two Dragon’s Den entrepreneurs who wanted to invest but wanted 50% per cent of their business.
And Roger is a believer. He practices what he preaches. Indeed, he carries his wool duvet with him when he travels. Basically, he can’t sleep under a polyester, feather or down duvet.
Their manufacturing process doesn’t use chemicals on the pure wool; nor do they bleach the wool nor do they bond the wool to polymers; they don’t use a polypropylene inter liner and his British wool comes directly from farmers he knows so ...
It’s very much from Ewe to You.
And the secret to their success, well hard work obviously, not giving up when the going gets tough but more important producing a very high quality world class British product using British wool which is far superior to polyester, silk feather or down duvets, for as Roger says ‘wool is the only fibre on the planet that we should sleep under as it regulates our temperature just as it does the sheep and allows us the most peaceful deep sleep you can imagine and its during deep sleep that the body it regenerates its self and fights illness unlike the other bedding materials which only make us hot in bed and lead to disturbed sleep.’
Wool is also excellent for asthma, eczema suffers and for any one with overheating problems in bed.