Mandy has always been about putting good in the world and creating kindness and she is an amazing photographer she’s an artist and she’s a change maker – and as the creator of the freedom cup she is on a mission to make sure that everyone can enjoy a cuppa with dignity, no matter what their circumstances are.


You’ve been doing business for a long time, do you want to take us back to the beginning and let us know how you got from where you were then, to where you are now?

I’ve been a photographer since the 22nd of June 2007 which is obviously a really long time and I know it is now because my youngest was three then and she’s 19 now which is scary! I got to the pandemic and I lost literally lost everything overnight because social photography in a pandemic is not a good mix – and I spent 12 weeks teaching photography to children every day online which was amazing and gave me my purpose back, but it wasn’t long term, it wasn’t going to be enough to sustain me and there’s only so much you can teach to kids who are like seven to eleven year olds and to be fair they were better than me by about week five – like they just blew me away with talent – and then it sort of evolved and then it was about bees and gardening and all kinds of things but somewhere during that I thought okay, you know what? I might just I might start a gift boutique and then I got some money from the government – the bounce back loan – and I could have spent it on photography, but there was no chance – I mean it’s taken about three years to start to recover and I don’t think it’s ever going to be the same, so I started Philomena’s Boutique.

It went really well because there was an e-commerce boom during the pandemic because people couldn’t leave the house so what did they do? They spent money instead and then it got to mid 2021 after all the lockdowns and then it got really really difficult and then I had two businesses which were essentially not functioning and I knew it wasn’t possible to go and seek alternative employment because of my disabilities and then I don’t know I just sort of struggled for a bit. Then I started doing TikToks and I really grew on that platform – and then I I had to go into hospital this February to have some tumours removed from my parathyroid.

I was given a really dodgy sippy cup and I just thought there’s got to be a better way than this – so I found some sippy spouted cups that I could print myself. I printed the first one which was for a mum who had dementia. It was going to be for Mother’s Day I was halfway through packing that order and I thought “this is really niche, but you know what I’m going to tell this story tonight on my Facebook page” and it just got so much love – and then on the Sunday after that I posted about it on my Facebook page which is now a professional profile instead of a personal thing and all of the planets must have aligned because it went viral! Within a week it had reached half a million people and it’s been shared over 2000 times just from that – but then it doesn’t count shares of shares and shares in groups and we had 180 orders in one week.

That meant that we had a scale up really quickly and that’s always a bit of an issue if you’re building a brand with no money because what do you do? So I already had another member of staff, Robyn who’s my support human – and she was working on Mondays for a couple of hours. Now she works on Mondays and Fridays and then she does all of my customer service remotely as well.

We call it the Freedom Cup because that’s what it does! It gives your dignity back. The beautiful designs – I should have had one but I don’t have one on my desk right now.

You can describe it, it’s a podcast so that’s okay!

I have one! So this is a Freedom Cup. It’s a spouted Cup for disabled adults, or children who have extra needs – and it’s got a spout and then it’s got a silicone piece underneath which you can adjust to the individual suck flow, it comes with an alternative travel top and a straw and it’s between this or those awful plastic sippy cups. People who’ve lived magnificent lives and then maybe get Dementia or have a brain injury or a stroke and then they give them a baby sippy cup… it’s just not good and you know, it can be beautiful or stylish and so it’s my mission to make sure that everyone has a cuppa with dignity no matter what the circumstances are. Since then, as of this morning at the beginning of March we’ve sold 485 cups. We’ve collaborated with a charity, the Angelman charity, I have been featured on the BBC, I’ve done radio – all things completely out in my comfort zone – I have some possible collaborations coming up that I’m quite excited about and we’ve got an NHS trust putting in a charity bid to get some to test them for their clients.

I’ve just heard from a college this morning that bought one but in their like therapeutic department and their and their feedback is wonderful it’s it’s actually changed people’s lives and so that’s what I get to do now. So that’s why I’ve added change maker to my bio now because we literally get to change people’s lives – a little boy who would have never been able to hold his own cup or walk and hold his cup there is so many circumstances – on the listing there’s loads of reviews of actual people. There was one lady who said she would get severely dehydrated and she got a cup and within a couple of days a nurse noticed that she wasn’t dehydrated anymore because finally she had remembered to use it.

Yes it’s a brightly coloured so she didn’t forget. I read that post!

Yes, so people with dementia there are two things – this is vascular dementia – they can’t see a cup, they get to a stage where they can’t make out what a cup looks like but because these are bright colours they can see the cup and also as dementia progresses they forget to drink and so they really need to – and those two things together help them, so we try and do bright ones and we try and put names on them if they’re in care homes.

I thought it was a very Niche product but what I found out is there is so many people and so many circumstances where people use them but things like having Dementia, Parkinson’s, there’s a thing called Angelman syndrome where people don’t have a suck reflex and that’s not a life limiting thing but it’s a genetic disorder it’s quite rare, people with Autism, there are literally so many circumstances where these cups are being used by anyone really from a toddler right up to a hundred there was one, there was a lady who got hers and she’s 94 and she said that it was so posh that she felt like a lady drinking out of it.

Oh that’s lovely, I love that!

There are so many days when I’ve cried because we’ve got lovely emails from people and today we’ve started a thing where you can donate a cup. So you pass it forward. I’m working towards becoming a social enterprise so you can go and donate a cup in someone’s memory. So at the moment if a cup doesn’t make it in time – we do have a priority service but because of what we’re doing there have been about four circumstances where the cup hasn’t made it – so in those ones we pass it forward, but in someone’s name so that that person knew and that is in their memory and – oh I’m getting emotional about it now.

You are, but it’s it’s all worth it.

So that’s what we’re doing now and we also donate all of our seconds they go straight to a charity, we donateds 17 cups to Silverline Memories, the dementia charity so literally it’s like no other business I’ve ever run and I’ve run a few

You have, yeah.

I get up and I’ve got a chance to change the world, and that is so good for me as a disabled human to be able to give back to my community. It’s wonderful free mental health, it’s a wholly brilliant thing. I’m still doing photography, still doing everything else, but this thing has just become much bigger than me

I think this is wonderful because I’ve known you for quite a while now and you’ve always been one of the most determined people I’ve ever known and so kind. I remember when when we ran the network you had a big thing about kindness particularly, you wanted to be kind and help other people and make a difference and follow your dreams and these are “Mandy phrases” aren’t they? You’ve always been someone who really wants to make everything better for other people and I think you have absolutely epitomised bravery through all the things that you’ve been through, which we haven’t covered loads of things in this podcast – there has just not been time – but you’ve been through so many things that have got you to where you are now and where you’ve had to keep stepping up and change and step out of your comfort zone, like you said earlier about going on the BBC and doing things like this and that’s just amazing and you just keep pushing and pushing and pushing and then something like this happens and I can feel through your posts how much it means to you it’s not just like “oh I’m gonna make some money off some cups” it’s really helping people, changing lives and it’s just so wonderful to watch from the sidelines and see that you’re doing this thing that it’s just it’s so you.

We’re applying to be a social Enterprise. There’s a few steps and that will be to done, you have to return 50% of the profits to the business so that’s something to work towards and when I ran a networking thing we became a social enterprise and it gave me the ability to donate money to people who needed it and this is where I’m going with this. Maybe not donating, although there will be – we donate money to Charities, but donating the cups to the people who need it because even though our cups are £20, for some people that’s too much but they would really benefit from them. So if we can give as many back as we sell then I’ll be a happy person. You’re still allowed to have a wage and things with a social enterprise so it’s a bit of a workaround at the moment getting that in place but also then I’ll have funding for Robyn as well because she’s going to be my support worker which she already is anyway. This means – because if you’ve got people listening to this podcast and they have any kind of disability or neurodiversity – there is money out there with the Access to Work scheme it’s not publicised half as much as it can be. There are agencies who specialise in applying for people to access it because there’s money there to pay for support workers, to pay for pieces of equipment – and at the moment it’s not being accessed because the government aren’t telling people about it. You could qualify for about 25 hours of support work and you can use those how you want – so for me I’ll use them for Robyn and another VA who’ll do research on the things that I lack in my brain with Autism and ADHD.

It’s great that people can access that. I’m a support worker so I know a little bit about Access to Work but yeah it’s an absolutely fantastic thing that people can go and access so I’m really glad that you can do that as well because that means you can do more and help even more people to access that to help more people who need it.

if you’re a support worker you can also have a support worker, if you are sick or have any kind of health things so that will help me grow because I won’t have to worry about about finding money to pay Robyn because it’ll be paid and so that’ll give her a job here as well, so it’s a wonderful scheme. I think someone told me it’s 14 weeks to apply that’s the only thing – it’s quite a long time but then it kicks in. Anyone listening who might need that I would advise them to. There’s an agency called the This Is Me Agency which is a good place to start for that.

Definitely you can also look on the government website, but if you can go through the agency it’s much easier isn’t it?

Much easier. I do have someone to help me out as well who will look at the funding for things.

So Mandy you have had such a amazing journey through your photography, through to Philomena’s Boutique and this amazing Freedom Cup and all these things that have happened in between – we didn’t talk about your Boxes of Joy which I also felt were a very Mandy thing because I feel like you’re always wanting to spread joy and I think that was wonderful and the Gin garnishes and all these other amazing products that you also sell at Philomena’s Boutique that people can have personalised – we haven’t really got time, and how amazing you’ve been on TikTok you’ve touched on that – go and follow Mandy on TikTok because you’re a TikTok Superstar – I was hoping you could share some tips with us about how to have such an amazing business or how to spread kindness…

First of all I think authenticity is absolutely the key. Tell authentic stories, be who you are, don’t listen to anyone who says “oh you’re a business you can’t say that” because I frequently do tell the truth, don’t say everything’s going amazingly if it isn’t going amazingly because that’s when we have a crash and burn quickly – and get people around you who you love and who love your business as much as you do – you can do anything as long as you do it on your own terms.

Oh that’s something you’ve been saying for years – yes you can! I love that, brilliant, so I’m gonna pop links in the show notes too for Philomena’s Boutique and anywhere else you want me to put links to is that the best place for people to find out more about you and the Freedom Cup?

Yeah probably the Philomena’s Boutique page and my Facebook profile they can follow me now on Facebook and also @MandyYourTikTokMum which is just a side thing. I do make enough commission from there to pay my rent now which is amazing – they send me stuff, I talk about the stuff, I get paid. It’s great. That’s another important thing – have multiple internet streams if you’re an entrepreneur.

Yes I agree, I think that helps so much – well that’s been absolutely brilliant thank you so much I I really enjoyed this conversation

You’re welcome

Find Mandy. Visit Philomena’s Boutique, check her out on TikTok or follow the Facebook page.

Direct link to the Freedom Cup.

Not forgetting that Mandy is also a portrait and wedding photographer. Book her here.

Amy Purdie, The Brand Explorer takes you on an Adventure to discover what your brand is all about, helping you with your brand strategy, brand visuals and content ideas. You can join Amy’s Brand Success Club or join her in your very own Private Brand Adventure.

Amy has been enjoying designing logos, brand identities, illustration, print work and websites – since 2007 fuelled mainly by tea and chocolate.

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