Into the Spotlight, sponsored by Huddersfield-based Scriba PR, is a weekly business feature which highlights lesser-known businesses that generally go under the radar. Here we highlight Huddersfield-based online gift company Porky Penguin.

A little kindness goes a long way and an online greetings card and gifts business that boomed during lockdown is sharing the happiness with its staff.

Rebecca Kellett, 35, of Milnsbridge, set up Porky Penguin as a hobby in 2012 before quitting her job in sales and launching into the venture full time four years later.

Porky Penguin launched the Pocket Hug card for Mothers’ Day in March 2020 just as the Covid-19 pandemic was starting to take hold.

The Pocket Hug, a cherry wood token inscribed with a personal message, did well for Mothers’ Day but then sales exploded during lockdown as families and friends forced to stay apart looked for little gifts to keep them connected.

The business, which now employs five staff, grew last year and turnover topped £1.3 million leaving managing director Rebecca a little shocked at the success.

“It was never meant to be a big business,” said Rebecca. “Before the pandemic we were going along nicely and I was happy with that.

“Before lockdown we were turning over £250,000 with three of us and I thought that was really good!”

Last year’s growth meant Rebecca could hire two new employees in June and she has also just bought the former Warren House pub in Manchester Road, Milnsbridge.

The building is currently undergoing a refurbishment and Porky Penguin hopes to move there in September from rented premises at Park Valley Mills in Lockwood.

For Rebecca business isn’t all about pounds, pence and profit. Her employees are friends and she wants to make Porky Penguin a place where people love to work.

In June Freya Gledhill, 26, and Laura Lynch, 31, joined Rebecca and her other staff members Sam Martin, 31, the office manager; Max Beaumont, 31, and Jodie Robshaw, also 31.

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“When we advertised for staff we had 160 applicants,” said Rebecca. “That’s probably because we said we didn’t want to be a place where anyone gets Sunday night dread. We want our staff to go to bed on Sunday night excited to be going to work on Monday morning.”

Porky Penguin has a big following on Instagram and Rebecca added: “Everyone can see that we work hard and play hard. In May we took everyone for an overnight stay at a spa when lockdown restrictions were eased.

“I want Porky Penguin to be a fun place to work where we are focused on staff wellbeing. You don’t live to work, you work to live.”

Rebecca puts her trust in her staff, most of whom have young children. She’s happy to work around family life and doesn’t get hung up if someone is 25 minutes late for work or wants to nip off early to go to school sports day.

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“We have a banking system where even if a staff member doesn’t have enough holidays left they can borrow the time off and pay it back later. We put tokens in a jar.

“Ours is a seasonal business and we are quieter in the summer so we can be flexible and work around family life. I trust my staff and know that in the busy times when we need them they will step up and be there.”

Rebecca Kellett outside her new premises in Milnsbridge

Rebecca, a former student at Newsome High School in Huddersfield, has learned a great deal from the pandemic and has a huge database of new customers who she keeps in touch with through personalised monthly newsletters.

“We’ve learned a lot of lessons, particularly about customer psychology and we are really tapping into what makes people buy,” she said.

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A Twitter conversation with Dragons’ Den star Deborah Meaden also elicited a valuable nugget of advice. Simply adding the word ‘original’ to the description of the hug gave it improved brand identity and a boost on internet searches.

Rebecca is now ensuring all her staff are fully trained so that she’ll be able to work on new product ideas and promote and market her business still further.

“It’s an exciting time,” she added. “What we’ve achieved so far, we’ve all achieved it together, that’s what’s really great about it.”

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