When Natalie Duvall’s children asked for Christmas decorations that looked like themselves in 2018, unbelievably, Duvall could only find such decorations in the USA.
This was impractical given the cost of postage and time required to ship the items to the UK.
It was this lack of diversity in this area of the Christmas market that gave Duvall along with co-owner and family friend Alison Burton the idea to start a gift company featuring Black-themed characters.
Both women are extremely busy juggling motherhood with full time jobs and running March Muses.
Duvall is a mum of two girls who works full time in Marketing, and Burton is a mum of one daughter who works full time in pharmaceutical recruitment.
They work on March Muses from home and have set the business up themselves using savings without any investors.
Like most new ventures, Duvall and Burton have learned a lot through trial and error.
They initially started by using their own designs and contacted a Chinese manufacturer to make prototypes.
There was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing until they got the designs, texture and skin tone of their products just right.
Their beautiful, ornate tree decorations featuring Black angels, Santa Clauses and celebrities were ready to share with the world.
During the first year, they sold a total of 1800 individual decorations to family and friends to test the water and see if they’d got their designs and concept right.
All items sold out within 10 days.
With that success grew confidence.
They realised there was indeed a market for their product and they could make a worthwhile business that made a difference to their customers.
Scary as it was, they moved on to take their first commercial venture.
They launched on Instagram and slowly word got out that this business really did mean business.
They had pop up shops around London for short bursts of time.
Orders continued to flow in.
However, it’s not all been plain sailing.
Starting a business for March Muses has been a steep learning curve.
Initially they were working from their kitchen tables, which after doing a full day’s work at their day jobs, coming home, getting dinner ready and the kids to bed is frankly exhausting for anyone.
To then process orders, package them up ready to dash to the post office the next day after dropping the kids at school and going to work proved a turning point for the pair.
In Duvall’s words: “Working from home was organised chaos.”
It also meant that the boxes of items were taking over Duvall and Burton’s living rooms.
They realised then that they’d have to work in a smarter way.
They now employ a distributor which means they can focus on designs, marketing and growing the business.
Business was going along nicely.
However the murder of George Floyd brought Black-owned businesses sharply to the fore.
No longer were Black businesses a tick box or a seemly nod to diversity, they became a valid member of the commercial club that can often exclude Black trade.
Black businesses had earned their seat at the proverbial table.
Since Floyd’s murder, global commercial initiatives have included Black Pound Day amongst other social media campaigns.
Burton says: “BLM made a difference, small steps though.
“There has to be more than a Black square on Instagram.
“We need to get Black people into boardrooms and be the decision makers and not just seen as the ‘ethnics’.
“Black people need to be engrained and part of your eco-system.”
When the pandemic hit, the company was able to continue trading which although a struggle, Duvall and Burton were determined to make business work.
So far March Muses has featured on ITV news, Channel 5 news, in the Metro, and on the BBC.
However, it was a 40 second clip on the ITV morning show ‘Lorraine’ that brought March Muses into the mainstream.
Burton says: “That 40 second clip brought us £10,000 worth of business.”
They are working with designer Candice Stewart and have plans to diversify by adding Valentine’s, Mothers Day, Fathers Day and others top secret concepts.
March Muses are so much more than a couple of mums working and running a business on the side.
These women are determined and ready to take March Muses global.