Entrepreneurial sisters put their fashion business to the ultimate test

A start-up business co-founded by a Northumbria University graduate is set to appear on the BBC’s Dragon’s Den on Thursday March 31.

Pretty Mama was formed in 2018 by Jenny McFadden, who was in her final year of a Business and Law degree at Northumbria at the time, and her sister Alex. The sisters wanted to design and produce a collection of maternity clothes, especially for breastfeeding mothers, after Alex had struggled to find feminine and comfortable clothing when she was pregnant with her daughter. With a fashion degree from the University of Sunderland, Alex was able to combine her design skills with Jenny’s business and legal knowledge to launch Pretty Mama. The aim, in their own words, was to: “empower mothers on their nursing journey by feeling beautiful, confident and comfortable”. 

Pretty Mama also received business support and advice from Northumbria’s Student and Graduate Enterprise team. Jenny believes this, coupled with the University’s clear focus on entrepreneurial teaching, were key factors in Pretty Mama’s early success and in its continuing growth. She said: “Starting any new business can be a scary process but we knew we had hit on a great idea and that there was a ready market out there for our products. Having the backing, support and knowledge of the business enterprise team at Northumbria was incredibly useful and gave us the confidence to put our entrepreneurship to the test.

“Now to be selected to be appear on Dragon’s Den is an equally daunting prospect. We will be nervous because it is such as high-profile programme with some of the UK’s most successful businessmen and women, but it is also really exciting to be on such a well-known and popular show.”

Pre Dragons' Den 1

Graham Baty, Head of Student & Graduate Enterprise at Northumbria, added: “We are justifiably proud of our student and graduate entrepreneurs, and the significant contribution they are making to the economy, social prosperity and jobs. Jenny and Alex have shown real entrepreneurial flair by identifying and solving a problem for new mums, and their drive, determination and innovation are delivering real success.”

Northumbria’s Student & Graduate Enterprise (SGE) team specialise in helping students and graduates start their own business or work freelance, up to five years post-graduation, by providing mentoring support, workshops and co-working space at a start-up incubator hub based at the University’s Newcastle campus. 

SGE work at Northumbria is currently funded by the European Regional Development Fund.