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Teesside Mum’s new shop to help families of premature babies

08 September 2021

A Teesside mum-of-six whose children were all born early has set up a shop to help families of premature babies.

Louise Marshall’s youngest child is miracle baby Roman who survived against the odds after being born at 24 weeks.  He weighed just one pound four ounces and spent the first six months of his life in hospital. 

Her oldest son Kyle was born at 36 weeks. He is now 20 and, despite a serious visual impairment, is about to start the second year of a Law degree at York St John University.

Roman celebrated his 12th birthday a few days after his mum and her partner Dan Keenan opened Simply Babywear.  The shop – in Middlesbrough town centre’s Dundas Indoor Market – sells ranges of clothing and accessories for tiny three-pound premature babies to three-year-old toddlers.

Louise, who up until now has been fully occupied with being a mum and carer, said she hopes the shop will be life-changing: “I was looking after my disabled son and my youngest has got quite a few challenging learning difficulties, so when he was at primary school it wasn’t feasible for me to get a job – especially when my oldest was still needing quite a lot of support.

“Now he’s at uni and my youngest is at secondary school I thought now is the time that I need to start making things better for me and my kids’ futures.”

To keep them occupied during the first lockdown Louise and Dan started selling babywear, ornaments and sweets online. Babywear proved the most popular and gave them the idea of opening their shop.

They have benefitted from Dundas Indoor Market’s enterprise scheme which offers new traders savings on their rent as well as flexible leases. 

“That’s really helpful,” said Dan.  “Because we’re just coming out of lockdown and it’s the summer holidays we knew it might be quiet to start with.  Once September comes and then the run up to Christmas we’re really confident the shop’s going to do well.” 

Dan can personalise bibs, vests and sleepsuits and the couple have already created a highly responsive and reliable chain of suppliers who deliver to the shop within 24 hours.

That has proved particularly important for parents wanting clothes for premature babies.  “I struggled to get clothes to fit my children because they were all so tiny,” said Louise. “And that seems to be an even bigger problem now with the closure of so many of the big shops. Our range for premature babies has sold really well and I am so pleased that we can help families who might be going through a really difficult time.”

Market manager David Harris said: “We’re delighted to be able to welcome independent traders, like Simply Babywear, who provide much-needed support for parents.

“One of the many benefits of opening a shop here is that new businesses can test the water without over-committing themselves.”

He added: “We’re always on the lookout for new local traders.  It might be – like Louise and Dan – that they’re starting out in retail, perhaps they might be looking to re-locate, or they think they’ll do well because they complement the type of businesses already based here. We would especially welcome interest from a baker, florist, barber or greengrocer.”