The sky’s the limit for two Ayrshire mums as they launch outdoor play business with support from Business Gateway

Kathryn McNally and Katie Walker (Undersky)

TWO Ayrshire mums have launched a new business encouraging young families to appreciate the great outdoors, after the pair accessed expert guidance from Business Gateway, Scotland’s national business advisory service.  

UnderSky, the brainchild of Katie Walker and Kathryn McNally from Ayr, designs and produces story-led family friendly activity kits full of engaging nature-inspired activities for outdoor play. The business also runs outdoor events and parties, which include energetic games and nature exploration, that are all based on the UK’s wildlife and ecology.  

With a focus on sustainability, the business encourages children and their families to enjoy local green spaces and wildlife, using products that are environmentally and ethically produced.  

After both being made redundant during the pandemic, and with a mutual love of playing in the outdoors with their children, friends Katie and Kathryn came up with the idea to launch themed play kits, full of games and props, to encourage learning through play.  

Katie, a former countryside ranger for the National Trust for Scotland, and Kathryn, a former textile and graphic designer, approached Business Gateway with the concept, in search of the practical knowledge needed to start up a business.  

The duo benefitted from a suite of Business Gateway’s start-up services, including one-to-one support from a dedicated business adviser, as well as advice on their business plan and marketing. They also used Business Gateway’s Planning To Start tool to test if their business idea had legs.  

Thanks to signposting from Business Gateway, Katie and Kathryn received a £1,000 start-up Ambition Grant from South Ayrshire Council’s Business Development Team, which helped towards the purchase of professionally manufactured contents of their play tins, bulk orders of props and trademarking their name.  

They also accessed specialist digital support from Business Gateway, which helped with product development and the setting up of a new e-commerce website. Katie and Kathryn have also attended webinars, focused on producing engaging online content and how to encourage online sales, to lay the groundwork for their website and social channels.  

UnderSky has also received IP support from Scottish Enterprise to help develop its commercial awareness, and trademark and protect its design ideas.  

Katie Walker, co-founder, UnderSky, said: “We love to spend time playing outdoors with our kids and wanted to encourage other families in Scotland to do the same. There is such a huge health and wellbeing benefit, and we have so many great spaces on our doorstep in South Ayrshire. Business Gateway has played a big part in helping us to take the concept for UnderSky from an idea into a reality, and the team has continued to support us over the last year as we continue to get our message out there. We can’t thank them enough for the ongoing support.” 

Lorna Stevenson, Business Gateway adviser, said: “We were able to support Katie and Kathryn through a range of Business Gateway’s start-up services. It’s been fantastic to watch their business grow over the last year, and I’m sure their success will continue as we approach the warmer months.” 

UnderSky has enjoyed a steady stream of success since launching, receiving requests for bespoke designs and activities from Balbeg Estate and Whiteleys Retreat amongst other similar venues. The business was also recognised in Scotland’s Start-Up Awards as finalists in the Green Start-up category. UnderSky now has plans to work with local schools and is currently in the process of developing a curriculum linked programme.  

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