Junior Design Awards 2020: Inspiring Stories from a Year that Challenged us ALL

A collection of 20 inspiring stories from our 2020 Junior Design Award winning children's brands on how they coped with the pressures of the Covid-19 global pandemic and created something positive against all odds

resized meri

The Junior Design Awards 2020: so much more than just awards!

We asked our shortlisted Junior Design entrants to tell us how Covid-19 affected their businesses and what they did to find something positive amidst all of the sadness and chaos 2020 brought us all. Some brands didn’t fill out this section  – it was an extra ask and frankly we couldn’t cope with anything extra during lockdown – but, some brands surprised us with their incredibly moving stories of ingenuity, compassion and a determination to not only help those suffering at the hands of the pandemic but to brighten the days of families stuck at home.

Advertisement

There were also brand founders who told us in their own words, about their personal charity work that they felt was separate to the pandemic but which we are certain was all the more important and made all the more difficult in a period of isolation and hardship.

Here we are delighted to share 20 inspiring stories (in no particular order) , out of so many, that really touched the team at Junior. What a fantastic bunch you really all are.

(Image Above: Meri Meri)

JDA20 WINNERS: 20 Inspiring Stories From a Year that Challenged us All

1. Acorn & Pip

Everyone has a story and this pandemic has certainly given us all a few to tell. I had my third baby at home the week after lockdown began! We continued to work relentlessly throughout, as our business has grown 160% from last year. Due to this business growth we have been able to choose 2 charities, which are close to our heart (our local community children’s centre and Young Women’s Trust) this list will grow with time. >> Read more about their Junior Design Award here

2. Bear & Beau

The symbol of the rainbow has meant so much to so many through the recent months due to the pandemic – just taking walks once a day in our local communities and spotting children’s drawings in windows. To show our support for the NHS, I knew it was right to donate a percentage of the profits of the Rainbow art print and Cushions to NHS charities, which we will continue to do for the foreseeable future. We have also signed up to Design Havens for Heroes which is such a wonderful initiative. Launched by interior designer Francesca Rowan-Plowden to bring together an inspiring community of talents from the interior design world. Its aim is to create ‘Havens’ by offering room makeovers for accredited NHS key workers who have been working on the front line during the Covid-19 crisis. We can’t wait to get the call that they want to use our collections for NHS Hero’s child room! >> Read more about their Junior Design Award here

3. Monkey McCoy 

We acted very quickly in sourcing new and exciting products that would be useful / essential during lockdown for kids / families. We invested in more books, games, toys, educational items to inspire children’s imaginations and creativity. We have also moved into sourcing more eco-products, which have been received extremely well. We also adapted quickly to post more engaging features on social media, not just promoting our products, but interesting creative fun ideas for home schooling, art and educational purposes for families struggling for ideas to do while in lockdown.

We are lucky to have many loyal customers who continued to shop with us, if not more during the pandemic. It was essential to show our gratitude and appreciation for every single order, big or small on a regular basis. We continued to ship worldwide from day 1 of lockdown, via DHL express who had no restrictions on countries worldwide, we did this at no extra cost to our customers. Even though we were charged a surcharge. We also offered our local customers free delivery by hand – socially distanced on the doorstep. Was a lovely way to meet our customers with a smile and say ‘Hi’ during such difficult times. We felt it imperative to make extra effort to support other small businesses, by liking and sharing their post/feeds and recommending products. >> Read more about their Junior Design Award here

renn

4. Renn Designs

I’m not really entering this award as my support of the community has not been directly linked to my business, but, just for a bit of background, I run my business alongside a part-time job for a charity, supporting people affected by substance misuse and those who are in recovery. I am a volunteer coordinator and and have been doing my best to use my creativity to involve volunteers remotely to provide much needed connection, as well as helping existing volunteers to feel supported and engaged in unusual circumstances – we are creating guided meditation videos this week! >> Read more about their Junior Design Award here

pea

5. FROM PEA

The Adventure Club is an integral part of our brand community. It started during the school holidays last summer as a free club for children where grown-ups can find activities to get creative and help keep kids entertained. During lockdown we launched an initiative offering free pea seeds for children to sow and grow at home whether that was in gardens, on balconies or inside in pots. We believe nature shouldn’t be a luxury. We wanted children to have the chance to watch something grow. To inspire mini gardeners and to connect them to nature, even if simply by bringing the outdoors in.

We were blown away by the uptake. In the first 24 hours of launching the campaign, over 4,000 joined our Adventure Club and claimed their free seeds. So much so that as seed demand soared we had to temporarily pause membership until we had caught up. In total we sent out almost 6,000 packs of pea seeds to children across the UK for free. It’s been amazing to see the progress of everyone’s home grown peas from the first sprout, to peas that are ready to pick. And we’re continuing to develop this with family friendly recipes kindly shared with us by people like Joe Wicks, Melissa Hemsley and James Martin. Like everything we do, The Adventure Club is about making life easy for parents and inspiring for children. >> Read more about their Junior Design Award here

6. Family Rule

It’s been an incredibly worrying time for both businesses and our loved ones. I have been looking for a charity partner for my little business and am now proudly supporting the charity FareShare who work to both fight hunger and tackle the huge problem of food waste. With more people than ever turning to food banks for support and the hospitality industry creating more surplus due to Covid-19 closures. The work they have continued to do to redistribute this to those people and organisations in need is something I wholeheartedly support and now give a minimum of 10% of my monthly profits towards. I also have plans to hold auctions for bespoke height charts with all proceeds also going towards supporting FareShare. >> Read more about both of their Junior Design Award here 

7. Shnuggle

Recognising that the company had spare research and development capacity, Shnuggle set about contacting a number of companies to ask for their help in producing free equipment for the National Health Service in Northern Ireland in this time of COVID-19 crisis. A number of companies that specialise in the precision engineering sector agreed to manufacture vital medical equipment in the fight against the COVID-19 virus and together this group of companies – known as Hero Shields – are working hard to design, test and produce emergency two-piece face shields. Since conception, Shnuggle and Hero Shields achieved their target of sending out over 100,000 visors to individuals including Surgeons, Nurses and Care-workers who were in desperate need of PPE.

Hero Shields then set about contacting the NHS and received an order for over half a million visors for the NHS within a couple of weeks. The Heroshield Charity now receives a 5% royalty for every shield being produced. The legacy now is to use that ongoing royalty to donate PPE to charities, hospices and community groups who cannot afford to buy PPE for as long as it might be needed. In summary, Shnuggle have been able to provide face visors for over 600,000 workers on the front line and used their design, project management skills and the good will of the local businesses and volunteers to make the project happen. >> Read more about both their Junior Design Award wins here AND here

8. Gus & Beau

I have worked in e-commerce retail for over 10 years, working for incredible companies such as Liberty, L’Oréal, notonthehighstreet.com and Anya Hindmarch. In 2016, I very sadly had a stillbirth when I was 38 weeks pregnant. My first son Beau is my main inspiration and motivation for starting gus + beau. After the birth of my second son, Gus, in 2017, I found myself looking for ways to create safe playing areas for him in our living spaces at home. I struggled to find beautiful playmats which would blend in with our interiors. I spotted a gap in the market; a premium playmat that was not only functional and safe, but complemented our home’s style and aesthetic. So, while on maternity leave, I decided to design and manufacture my own.

After working in retail (and spending a lot of time on Instagram) I could see that parents wanted simple designs in muted tones and clean patterns when it came to playtime for their babies. Just after launching in March 2019, I became pregnant with my third son, Jerry! So 2019 was a bit of a crazy time, working full time at Anya Hindmarch, pregnant and running my new business! Whilst on maternity leave with Jerry this time round, I have been able to really grow the business – as well as looking after my two boys! Lockdown was unbelievably busy for us and we had our most successful months so far in March, April and May. My greatest inspirations are my sons Beau, Gus and Jerry. This is for Gus and Jerry, our rainbow babies, and Beau who is forever in our hearts. >> Read more about their Junior Design Award here

toastie-2

9. Töastie

Getting kids excited, involved and engaged with nature is at the very heart of what we hope to achieve as a brand. We are on the cusp of launching a new campaign called ‘Tiny Corners’, the thinking behind this is that anyone can nurture a Tiny Corner of nature in their own home. The pandemic further unveiled the importance of nature in the lives of children and we want to demonstrate that no big garden is necessary to have a connection to nature. We included a seed bearing lollipop with each order from AW20 onwards and gave customers the option to purchase a second lollipop to donate to children in under-privileged areas, working with schools to get whole classes planting ‘Tiny Corners’ in their homes. The stick of the lollipop is filled with seeds and can be planted flat in a little soil to grow into a lovely plant! (eg. the Strawberry and Basil lollipop will have basil seeds in the biodegradable stick).

TÖASTIE are now members of 1% for the Planet, committing 1% of turnover annually to environmental, non-profit organisations and are also working with Positive Luxury to achieve the Butterfly Mark, a 3rd party accreditation mark that will identity TÖASTIE as reaching the highest standards of innovation, environmental and social standards. >> Read more about their Junior Design Award here

10. Blade and Rose

We are extremely proud to announce that we and all our customers that have purchased from our WWF collection, have raised £16,740 for WWF UK (a charity registered in England and Wales) since announcing its collaboration with the charity in 2019. The WWF Collection consists of five unique designs, featuring animals from across the globe which are at risk of extinction, including the tiger, rhino, panda, sea turtle and elephant. Made from 100% organic cotton, the collection is designed to be fun, practical and super comfy for little ones, as well as being sustainable, soft and kind to children’s skin.

Each pair of leggings costs £12, with 10% going to WWF UK, helping to make a difference to animals all over the world by improving animal populations and habitats. According to an approved WWF Shopping List, the money raised by Blade & Rose for WWF UK in the last year could be used towards the following:

  • To fit satellite collars to 44,000 African Elephants to monitor movements and help reduce human-wildlife conflict and protect against poaching.
  • For 1,100 community based anti-poaching patrol members to spend one day in the field protecting Panda habitats.
  • To pay for 11 sets of night vision equipment to help rangers on their anti-poaching patrols for African Rhinos.
  • To pay for approximately 3,500 community based anti-poaching patrols (of three people) in the field for one day protecting Tigers and Rhinos on the outskirts of Bardia National Park, Nepal.
  • To pay for flipper tags for 5,500 turtles so that they can be uniquely identified by the turtle conservation groups. >> Read more about both their winning Junior Design Award here AND here

coc-au-lait-international

11. Coco Au Lait

These past few months have been madness. At the beginning of the pandemic I was so stressed out solving Coco au Laits’ issues. Literally, saving the company. Peru was closing boarders (and couldn’t receive SS20 production until 3-mths later than it was expected), many orders were cancelled, no income, many expenses, everything that could go wrong went wrong. Additionaly, in Mexico we were having so many deaths due to delinquency and starvation due to Covid-19. People were killing for a loaf of bread! In Coco au Last we took action alongside a non-profit foundation in which we actively contribute. We developed a food program in which we handed out 4,200 food pantries in 6 weeks. I was working harder than ever. It all felt like a matter of life and death but, somehow I was managing.

Then, my little brother (he’s 22) was diagnosed with Cancer. That surely gives you a perspective on the things that matter. Here I was, with my business requiring the most of me; to be sharp, efficient, fast-acting, yet I was broken in all senses. I had to choose either to support my family or my business. Emotionally, I wasn’t able to take both. There wasn’t mush though to give, I chose family. For the past couple of months life has been pretty amazing, I learned to et go, I’m actually enjoying my work and my family a lot more, I don’t think I work less but I care less, like I said I learnt to let go. My brother is doing amazing and I’m grateful for that.

I don’t know how inspiring this story is. It’s just a recap of my life in the past months. I definitely don’t know the ending but I know I’m walking towards a different direction, a new story. >> Read more about Coco Au Lait’s Junior Design Awards here AND here

12. Tilbea

Tilbea London has been very much in mummy mode during the Lockdown. With 4 kids under 4 – we’ve had our hands full! We moved in together during lockdown and spent the entire time as one big team, which helped us to continue running the business. Although there were 4 screaming hyper active kids running round our feet as we dealt with customer emails, our new collection and creating our UP-CYCLED Tilbea London Face Masks.

We were overwhelmed by people’s kindness toward each other, and their willingness to help each other in a time of such uncertainty. We felt, as a small, family business, we needed to find ways to help others too. Women during pregnancy were considered high risk and, knowing that most of our customers were in this category, we focused on how we could offer them some form of protection. We decided to create our rainbow leopard face masks, using up-cycled fabric, to help mum’s stay stylish and safe, but also to help support a charity we really felt needed our help during lockdown. We decided to donate £2 of every mask sold to Refuge, a charity that saw an unprecedented increase in calls to its helpline during the lockdown period. As women with children we couldn’t even begin to imagine how terrifying it must be to be trapped in a house where you and your children are not safe. >> Read more about their Junior Design Award here

13. BOBUX

Little ones all over the world have taken to their front windows, doors and driveways placing handmade rainbows for other families to ‘collect’ while social distancing, which has built a sense of community, hope and cheer to families everywhere. With the Spring Rainbow being a favourite in the range, we thought we’d bring the #rainbowhunt and our Day Dreamers Collection together to offer some support to the local community and NHS heroes during this time.

Bobux therefore, decided to donate £3 to NHS Charities Together for every pair of Bobux x Bonniemob Day Dreamer’s collection Soft Soles, sold from May 1st to June 30th 2020. After a storm comes a rainbow, and we will make it there soon. >> Read more about their hat-trick of  Junior Design Award here, here AND here

vannchi
14. VANCHI

Throughout the pandemic our focus has been on sustainability of our brand and keeping our staff employed and supported. Whilst continuing to strive to continue to design and launch new products, we have also had an internal emphasis on supporting our local communities by supporting organisations such as One Tree Planted (initiated during the bushfire crises at the beginning of the year, donating a tree to be planted in Australia for every bag sold via our website). We have also supported local Melbourne based Charity St. Kilda Mums to enable them to continue supporting vulnerable families and their children.

During May 2020 in the peak of the first wave in Australia we chose to add a little something extra to our Mother’s Day sale event by supporting Food Bank by promoting their cause and donating 25 meals to those in need for every bag sold allowing our customers to also support others during such a difficult time. Our Mother’s Day event ran for over a month and resulted in thousands of meals. >> Read more about their Junior Design Award here

15. Scrubbingtons

A group of community nurses got in touch with us asking if we could donate them some of our handwash. We wanted to do more than that so we ran a Buy One Give One Campaign – with every handwash sold through our site we donated one to an NHS worker – it was a massive success! We also ran a competition for kids to design their own Hand Wash label as a fun activity during lockdown – we printed the winning labels and sent them out to the winners, they loved it and one mum told us it was the only activity her son actually wanted to do during lockdown!

We continue to run our Kids Hero of the Month celebrating the amazing achievements of Real Kids. The lockdown stories of kids fundraising, looking after grandparents, working hard through home schooling, helping around the house and doing amazing challenges brought a tear to our eyes – was so hard to choose a winner. >> Read more about their Junior Design Award here

16. Captain Fantastic

Since Covid-19 hit the UK, we went from being close to shutting the business down due to party and event cancellations, to pivoting our business with the launch of our Live Sessions, Online Interactive Parties and a whole host of exciting initiatives. We were the first company to launch free Live Toddler sessions. Streamed via Facebook and Instagram, our Live Toddler Group combines a fun mix of puppets, magic, nursery rhymes, music and dancing for 2-4 year olds. The first ever session which took place early in March, was attended by over 10,000 people from across the globe.

Families from as far afield as Thailand were able to enjoy the session from the comfort and safety of their own home. One viewer commented “Guys this was fantastic. Day one of being home bound and it’s already been a lonnnngggg morning! This was exactly what needed to break up the day. Thank you thank you thank you.” Other comments included: “You have bought so much joy to our isolation thank you”, “My little boy is mesmerised, he’s forgotten he’s ill!” and “We are in isolation and this has saved our day!”

Our online following has grown from 5k to over 70k in a matter of days, with our online events now reaching over 3 million people worldwide. Following the success of our Live Sessions, we went on to launch Online Parties and our interactive YouTube channel and sketch show. During the pandemic we have been proud to work closely with several charities, helping to raise money for Comic Relief, Children in Need and Paradise Wildlife Park.

We are also working closely with the Play Team at St Mary’s Hospital in London, providing regular free Live Sessions to children during their hospital stays. We continue to run free Live Sessions to help families with children at home, and during August 2020 we ran a Virtual Summer Camp and Online Film School. Our success has led to us being featured in the Mail Online, Daily Mirror, Evening Standard, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, BBC News Online, Sky News and Magic Radi0. >> Read more about their Junior Design Award here

17. MINI A TURE 

MINI A TURE has spent the lock down period shaping and perfecting our new strategy where we focus on our core competencies. We have also taken the final leap to become a fully sustainable company. We have not laid off any employees and have managed fully without governmental aid. Time has been spent reaching out to suppliers and customers with compassion and understanding. During Covid-19 everybody has been in the same situation and only together the pandemic can be fought.

The customers that have needed to cancel their orders have been met with open arms. Special help and donations have been given to the Indian orphanage in the village of Bodh Gaya which we have been supporting on a regular basis for several years. Unfortunately, Covid started spreading in the village on March 22nd and the children and staff of the orphanage needed special aid to be protected against the disease. People in poor area of the world have less resources to fight back and we believe helping everybody one can, should be a necessity for all. >> Read more about their Junior Design Award here

18. tonies

Tonies has been incredibly busy engaging and inspiring families during lockdown. Aiming to keep children entertained and connected at this difficult time, the company raised £60,438 for NHS Charities Together through its Record & Share campaign, where household celebrities including Rupert Everett, Cressida Bonas and Suki Waterhouse read their favourite story or poem to their followers on Instagram.

Tonies also partnered with renowned children’s author Giles Paley-Phillips to create a free downloadable audiobook, which helped parents explain the Coronavirus to kids in an informative, reassuring way. Entitled ‘In This Together’, the story is written in rhyme and tells the tale of Rosie, a seven-year-old who initially believes her school is being closed for an extended holiday, whereupon her parents have to explain the nature of the pandemic. The story, available at tonies.com, sensitively deals with topics including social distancing, isolation, handwashing and the virus itself. Lastly, tonies donated 50 Tonieboxes to pre-schools and nurseries that were kept open during lockdown, as a show of gratitude to teachers who looked after the children of key workers whilst schools were closed. >> Read more about their Junior Design Award here

19. Stuffel

The biggest change for us personally has been trying to juggle Stuffel with home-schooling the many kids – laughter has been consistent, but actual learning varied considerably depending on how much coffee the teacher had necked. The kids missed their real teachers, their classrooms, their camaraderie. And it made us appreciate our schools more than ever.

So whilst our schools were closed we donated a percentage of Stuffel sales to StreetChild – a wonderful charity who help children in the worlds’ most troubled places access an education.
It is a genuine motivation for us with Stuffel to be able to pay forward to those more in need, and we see this as a real legacy of these difficult times. >> Read more about their Junior Design Award here

Advertisement

20. Lil & Izzy

Luckily for us we are online and we have been very successful throughout the pandemic, to the extent of selling out of our collection! Our factory was closed for 3 months so we couldn’t get more stock to fulfil the demand, however our customers have been very loyal joining our wait list for new lines and our pre-orders on repeat products are filling up fast! We were heart broken to hear of our friends daughter that was diagnosed with cancer before her first birthday. Georgia was to undergo life saving surgery in the USA when all flights were suspended due to Covid-19. We understand that we are extremely fortunate right now and wanted to give something back. We have teamed up with The Gavin Glynn Foundation, who support families with children battling childhood Cancer and we are launching an exclusive print in our best selling zip baby grow where all profits will go to the foundation. >> Read more about their Junior Design Award here