After graduating in 2004, Alex worked as an architectural model maker for 8 years, before moving back to Bournemouth and inventing Boot Bananas alongside her partner Phil in 2012.
The idea came about after the couple moved into their first flat together, and found the smell of Phil’s climbing shoes to be a problem he could no longer hide.
Alex tells us: “I now run the business full time from home in Bournemouth, business has been steadily growing with around 100 retailers stocking our product in the UK and Europe. After graduating, I worked for an architect – but I wanted to work with softer materials. I started sewing things at home, like lavender eye pillows, and selling them on Etsy.
My partner is a climber, and wanted something to deodorise his rock boots, so I began experimenting with materials. I got to work designing a shoe-friendly shape and with the lavender and some yellow fabric , I had my light bulb moment and Boot Bananas were born.
A lot of the design skills I learnt on BA (Hons) Modelmaking came into play – template making, logo design, manufacturing processes etc. It was also important for us to use natural materials and things that can be reused.
In the first year I was hand sewing, filling and packaging around 50 pairs of bananas a day, You would funnel in the mixture, shake it down and use a screwdriver to compact it. We had big barrels of lavender and sodium bicarbonate stacked all around our flat! We learnt a great deal in the early days about materials and the issues you get when you start to scale up manufacturing, on one occasion, we ordered a 100kg of bamboo charcoal from overseas to find it was the wrong grade, so we ended up washing it in the bath and drying it out in the oven tray by tray over 2 weeks to get the higher grade that we needed!
We then found a company in Yorkshire who would make and distribute them. That was a great day when we packed all our barrels and materials up in a big luton van and drove all the way up the length of the country to teach a team of people how to make our bananas.
Now we are aiming to get as many people as possible aware of our product. The climbing community have been great for word of mouth and supporting us and our customer base is now starting to spread to all types of sports. We found that running a business is a great extension of your own education as there isn’t a day gone by where we haven’t learnt something new.”