Two mums taking on the world of garment decoration one slogan T shirt at a time – that’s Nipa Threads. P&P editor Melanie Attlesey speaks with Nina Georgiou and Paula Skeggs to find out more about their fledgling business and why they enjoy it so much.
As any young mum will tell you it can be hard to find time to talk to anyone other than your children, so when mums Nina and Paula met at their local children’s centre they soon became firm friends. Thanks in part to their shared sarcastic sense of humour and their desire not to talk about their babies at every given opportunity.
It took several years of friendship before the pair talked about opening their own business together and according to Paula it only ever felt like a pipedream.
She adds: “When you have babies there are not many opportunities to earn decent money or even find a flexible job that still means you can be around for the school run, sports day or the nativity play. The idea of flexible working in this country seems to be on the same par as unicorns and pots of gold at the end of rainbows! Why should we have to sell our souls to some corporation that couldn’t give a damn about us just because we wanted to earn some extra cash.
“After lots of good old fashioned rants about the world of business we thought why the hell don’t we just start our own? And the rest as they say is history.”
Nipa Threads officially came into being in June 2019 as a slogan clothing company. Catchy slogans such as ‘peace taker’, ‘mother funkster’ and ‘we all need good tribes’ adorn their clothing. “We have lots of fun coming up with slogans to decorate our range of T shirts, sweatshirts, tote bags and make up and accessory bags, even if it does always seem to happen just as we are falling asleep! We now always sleep with pen and paper next to the bed!” explains Nina. “We often use our love of old school music to help inspire us and we also like to have a rather tongue in cheek approach to our slogans. Paula can sometimes get a little too cheeky, whereas I try to be the voice of reason! Whether or not French Connection did it first it’s probably not best to blatantly put swear words on clothing, especially now our kids can read! However, we think that people would understand where we are going with the slogan ‘peace taker’!”
All of Nipa Threads’ products can be fully customised by customers to make an item truly unique to them. Firstly, customers can choose their favourite slogan, then their chosen colour and then finally their favourite ink colour. Nipa Threads is a unisex brand so the slogans are divided by kids and adults online. Currently Nipa Threads has two different T shirt styles in the adult section – a classic T and a rolled cuff muscle T. All items are printed to order, which means no waste. “We wanted to be as mindful as we could about the environment and the impact our business could have on it. By printing to order we are not left with excess stock that hasn’t sold which is a waste of product,” explains Nina.
With this is mind, Bella Canvas is the supplier of choice for Nipa Threads and this decision was made after a visit to Printwear & Promotion LIVE! earlier in the year. “We discovered the brand at the exhibition and we are so thrilled that we did”, says Nina.
“They are an eco-friendly brand and that is something that is really important to us,” continues Paula. “Not only did we love the feel of their fabrics but when we looked more into the company we were delighted to see that they are very conscious about the environment and how their business impacts it. The same can be said for our other supplier, Just Hoods by AWDis where we source our sweatshirts. They only use WRAP certified factories.
“We try to be as environmentally conscious as possible. We do not use any plastic in our packaging; in fact we use recyclable brown paper as well as recyclable brown tape to wrap our parcels.”
All items are screen printed and this ethical approach to business is continued here as only Permaset inks are used. “We have to coat our screens in emulsion and then expose our slogans on to the screens using a strong light source. We learnt the ropes by ourselves but luckily Nina was already familiar with the process so was able to teach me and together we have mastered the art – well we like to think so! We did buy a screen printing press to help,” says Paula.
The vinyl world
Eventually the pair would like to branch out into the vinyl world. “No, not records,” laughs Paula. “Even though they are making a comeback.” Of course they mean vinyl printing. The pair have recently secured a number of contracts with local businesses and using vinyl for these jobs would be beneficial. “However, we do love screen printing and the end results that it produces so we will be continuing to use this process for our own clothing range,” says Nina.
Nipa Threads really is a family-orientated affair. Nina and Paula both work full time in the business, but when orders come rushing in their other halves offer a helping hand. And when it comes to modelling the designs, the pair’s boys like to get in on the action. “They are certainly divas in the making and we can imagine them charging us for their time soon,” Paula jokes.
But although it is nice to involve the wider family, what the pair enjoy most about Nipa Threads is the fact that they are doing something for themselves. “This is our new baby and we are really proud of ourselves for making the decision to go for it and taking that first, very scary leap to making it happen. It gives us some more independence and we are showing our boys that their mummies are bad ass,” exclaims Paula.
“We feel incredibly grateful to be working together, there is nothing quite like working with your friend. There is a lot of laughter at Nipa Threads headquarters, and it never really feels like work, which is a blessing,” adds Nina.
Sound business advice
Beyond all of the fun that’s enjoyed, the pair do have sound business heads. “We realise that it is a process of growth. We are not going to make a million pounds in our first month, however lovely that would be! It is a journey and so far we are really enjoying the ride. It gets us out of the house and away from the sofa, it keeps us and our minds active and it brings a huge sense of achievement when our phone pings with an order,” says Nina.
“In five years’ time, we would like to still be going, still enjoying the process and making a living. At the moment we use Nina’s spare bedroom, so we would like to have our own premises where we have multiple printing stations and maybe even a few people working for us – who I am sure will be mums. We know how hard it is to achieve flexible working so it would be a privilege to be able to offer that to anyone who works for us – mums or not,” adds Paula.
And do the pair have any advice for others looking to get started in garment decoration?
“Yes! Take a leap of faith and go for what you want. Do not listen to doubters as you never know whether they are giving you honest advice or are just slightly jealous! It takes guts to start your own business but that feeling we got when our website went live was incredible. Then getting our first order, well that was like no other feeling! Pride, excitement, joy and a sense of achievement all rolled into one,” says Paula.
Nina adds: “Research is really important. We came across an advert for Printwear & Promotion LIVE! purely by accident and we truly believe it was something that was meant to happen, we were meant to go there. Thank goodness we did because even though we had done research everything changed when we actually got to touch all these new garments and speak to others in the industry.
“Do not rush either. Take your time and enjoy the process. It is not all fun and games all the time. Don’t get us wrong but as cliché as it sounds the hard times really do make you appreciate and strive for the good times.”