Granny Gets a Grip

We think the world might be divided into those who made brilliant use of all that extra free time during lockdown and those that, well, didn’t (or didn’t have much free time, to be fair).  Sophie Dowling and Miranda Thomas made use of the extra time on their hands by launching a new business.  Whilst caring for their mothers, they struggled to find the practical things that they needed and so recognised a need for a one-stop market place, where those of any age who need a level of physical support in and around the house, could find well-designed products that work and look good.  Hence, Granny Gets a Grip was launched in spring of this year. They’ve selected a range of products from those already out there plus they’ve started to design and manufacture their own where they saw a gap in the market.  We talked to Sophie and Miranda about what it was like setting up a business during the pandemic, their inspiration and favourite products on the site.

How did you get the idea for Granny Gets a Grip and why did you decide to do it together?

Our mothers were close friends and we each spent time caring for them over the years – they died a while ago.  They were both design conscious and house proud and we struggled to find versions of the practical things they needed during their illnesses that they would allow in their houses. We are now getting older ourselves and we felt we could put that experience to good use.  Granny Gets a Grip is the result.

What were you doing before?

Miranda was a physics teacher and still is a magistrate.  Sophie has her own web design business (Halfwildwebdesign).

What’s the story behind the name?

The name is a nod to Granny Takes a Trip – a fantastically groovy shop in the King’s Road in the 60s and 70s – back when Chelsea was fashionable.  Those who were teenagers then, are now in their 60s and we wanted to reference the wit and warmth of that era and emphasise that products for helping ease the inevitable issues of ageing need not look like something out of the back of a Sunday supplement – they should be stylish as well as practical.  Plus, helpfully the term Granny Gets a Grip does what it says on the tin!

How was it setting up a business in lockdown?  What were the upsides and downsides?

Being busy during lockdown was a God send, and we could dedicate all our time to setting up the business with none of the usual distractions. The downside was as Sophie lives in London and Miranda in Wiltshire we didn’t have enough face to face contact and zoom just isn’t the same.  Also, all the stock is warehoused in Wiltshire which meant that Sophie couldn’t get the feel of products we were trialling until a rare visit.

We love the design of the website – what were your ideas behind it?

The design really comes from the name – we wanted it to reflect the new generation of the over 65s.  This meant creating a 60s/70s flavour.  As Sophie is a website designer, Miranda allowed her to play around with colours, popular at that time – colours that naturally most people avoid like dark brown and orange!  The font is purposefully reminiscent of 60s teen magazines – Honey, Rave, Jackie and iconic album covers of the era – Jimmi Hendrix, Cream, The Kinks, Pink Floyd.

What are your hopes for the brand?  More of your own products? Will you do collaborations? Would you ever open an actual shop?

We are still at the very early stages of the brand and it will be interesting to see which direction we will eventually take.  We certainly intend to design and manufacture more of our own products where there are gaps in the market, or where nothing currently available is appealing enough.  We would never say no to a shop and will be open to collaborations in the future.

Which are your favourite products on the site?

The swivel, the zip pulls, the oak grab rails, the hip kit, the floor lamp, the electric heat pad…we could go on!

Which other brands/sites do you recommend for older people?
Persephone Books – a great list of lesser known authors of the 20th Century (below their shop in Bath)
Merchant and Mills – ‘clothes not fashion’

The Grange – excellent english-grown sparkling wine

Which 3 accounts on Instagram do you love to follow?
@MenageModernVintage – sells vintage clothing
@JudithBoyd (the style crone)  – ageing with style

@Tisthefuture – A community-led, zero-plastic, electric mobile refill shop based in Wiltshire

What are you most looking forward to doing from 21st June onwards (full lockdown release permitting!)?

Being with friends in the sun by the sea.  Cornwall is fine but we’d prefer Greece.

What were the tv programmes/books/podcasts/hobbies that kept you going during the past lockdowns?

Probably no different to anyone else…Succession, Line of Duty, Spiral, Queen’s Gambit, Dragon’s Den for obvious reasons.  Sophie is a compulsive tapestry stitcher – I think I completed 7 or 8 cushions over lockdown (see below).  Luckily I can’t remember anything I’ve read so was able to re-read all of Molly Keane, Olivia Manning and JG Farrell as if for the first time.  Miranda is a huge walker (and impossible to keep up with) and an avid podcast aficionado – Guardian Today in Focus, History of Ideas and Radio Lab are her favourite.

Granny Gets a Grip
— Francesca
9th June 2021

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