Heading to the beach was never so easy, or so stylish! Mama Qucha (pronounced Mama Kohcha) is a new nappy bag / beach bag company started by Francisca Joyce and her husband, based in Sydney, Australia. The name Mama Qucha was influenced by their Latin heritage – Francisca’s background is Chilean and her husband’s is Irish / Peruvian. We spoke to Francisca to learn more about how they got started.
The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?
We came up with the idea for Mama Qucha at the end of 2017, as summer approached and we couldn’t find a beach bag big enough or organised enough to carry all the beach essentials for a small visit to the beach with our one-and-a-half-year-old son. A simple visit to the beach could quickly turn stressful, carrying so many bags, toys, and shoes, all while running after our son, or having to carry him plus all the beach stuff.
On my quest to find a bag to fit all my beach gear, I came across numerous blogs, chats and websites with mums facing this same issue. I wasn’t happy with any of the options available at the time. They were either not big enough, not organised enough, not environmentally friendly, not a style that suits chasing a toddler (not a backpack – most were totes), not fashionable, not “beachy”, not having insulated compartments for drinks or food, not light enough. Having an environmental and sustainability background, I was not happy purchasing a bag made of plastic or synthetic materials, and although I had been aware of the problem of plastics in the ocean for years, I hadn’t realised the extent of the problem and the contribution microplastics from synthetic fibres made to this pollution until recently. It just didn’t feel right to buy a new beach bag made of synthetics to carry to the beach.
We then decided to design our perfect beach bag and nappy bag, and felt this should also be available to other parents like us.
The Launch: How did you start out in the beginning?
We initially planned to launch by early-mid November 2018, around the same time our second baby was due. We soon realized this might not have been the best planned date, so pushed back the launch until late November/December 2018, pending the arrival of the clutch from Peru. We received the clutches made by artisans in Peru late December, and so launched our website with only one product. The whole range has just arrived in Sydney this week, and we are sorting out release from customs, etc, before we officially launch the website.
The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?
The biggest breakthrough was finding manufacturers who could work with us to deliver our vision.
Initially I wanted the beach bag to be all handmade in the heart of the Quechan community in Peru, to keep in line with the business name. We soon realised that the communities who could create our bags were limited in their access to bag hardware (such as zips, buckles, etc). As I wanted the backpack to be functional and meet my vision, and also to be authentic to the business name, I designed a small clutch which could be handmade in the Andean highlands of Peru by indigenous artisans using ancient Incan weaving techniques, and which contained minimal hardware. The Peruvian communities make the bag from scratch from start to finish – from harvesting the wool, hand dying the wool, to weaving the material, to having the clutch stitched up by a husband and wife team.
We chose China to deliver the beach backpack, as they have access to all the bag hardware. A big breakthrough was finding the right manufacturer in China who could make our nappy / beach backpack. We made sure we found a manufacturer who is specialized in cotton canvas bags using eco-dyes, and are ISO certified. The manufacturer we chose is a small family-based business who agreed to work with us to deliver our vision in a small batch initially.