Kangaroo is 28 years old tomorrow!
I started the business when I was 23, with my friend Karen in a tiny shop in Upper North Road, Brighton. We were originally selling knitwear for children, my hand and machine knitted designs, with Karen making matching pinafores and dungarees. 52a North Road was previously a tattooist parlour, so for the first few months we had some interesting customers! We soon outgrew the tiny shop and moved down to the North Laines area of Brighton and had two great years there in blissful chaos, but Karen by this time had two small children and decided to move on to other things. We sold the lease on the shop and I continued the business from home as a mail order company, at the same time following my passion for sailing and running the catering at Brighton Marina yacht club, where I later met my husband Culli an architect and acquired two wonderful step-children. In 1989 the opportunity for a retail outlet came up in Lewes, so Kangaroo was once again on the move and back to being a shop. It was time to diversify, I had always loved yarn shops (and spent a huge amount of money in them), so decided to start stocking a few small ranges of yarn, which I of course could use! The yarn side proved to be popular, I was still living in Brighton with Culli and driving to Lewes every day, but we managed to find a fabulous 400 year old shop on the high street in Lewes, with a flat above complete with higgledy piggledy stairs and sloping floors, so we moved in with my ageing dog Bertie and two even more ancient cats. Then the internet came along and the original Kangaroo website was created. Life was great, the shop was doing well and the website going from strength to strength, we loved our rickety old flat and Lewes life. But then a few sad events changed our lives quite dramatically. Culli’s father died on his 90th birthday, my wonderful mother died unexpectedly the following year and I was diagnosed with possible ovarian cancer. I was rushed into hospital and had everything that could be, removed, I was lucky the biopsy proved to be benign. It was a bit of a shake up though, especially for Culli who being 10 years older than me seemed to think I was immortal. We were both working long hours six or seven days a week and decided that something had to change which was when we decided to move to France. This required a fair amount of planning as we had a shop lease to sell, a house to sell, a house to buy and somewhere to re-locate Kangaroo as a mail order company again. Frances, one of my customers offered to work for me from her premises, handling the post and packing, while I did everything else from the computer in France. We had a few teething problems in the first couple of years and quickly needed more space but finally relocated to the unit in South Chailey where we are now. I have two wonderful staff, Harriet (who originally started working for me ten years ago in Lewes and came back after a break) and Amanda who has been with us for nearly a year and is an inspiration in her energy and enthusiasm. Life in France is great – I had another health scare three years ago when I was diagnosed with early stages of breast cancer, after two lumpectomy’s and six weeks of radiotherapy I am doing fine and now just go for regular check-ups. Our French neighbours are wonderful and very long-suffering of my dreadful abuse of their language (which in spite of being here for five years and a lot of effort on my part doesn’t seem to be getting much better, I blame it on my mum who spoke fluent French and did most of my school homework for me…) Running Kangaroo from France is not always easy and sometimes I wish I was there more. I miss the workshops, and would love to be there for our Thursday knitting group, but try and get back as often as possible. The last six months have been tough as Culli has had no work at all, however he went to survey his first job since November last week, so hopefully things will pick up for him. I think the recession has if anything increased the knitting frenzy, we are selling a lot more patterns, a sign perhaps of everyone using some of their stash mountains? Kangaroo will I hope continue hopping along for some time to come, perhaps not another 28 years, but who knows!
The name Kangaroo (woolly jumpers) by the way, was originally thought of as an appealing logo for kids (we had a giant Kangaroo A-board outside the shop and adopted one at London Zoo), I am not Australian, but my great-grandfather was!
To celebrate the Kangaroo’s birthday we are offering 18% discount on everything at www.kangaroo.uk.com (except workshop bookings in Sussex and France) until midnight on Monday 18th May 2009.