How two best friends from Peterborough used their time in lockdown to start their own make your own Oat Milk business

Best friends Lianne Harvey and Lucy Pratt have used their time in lockdown productively to combine their skill sets and start their own sustainable business.

Saturday, 23rd January 2021, 2:00 pm
Updated Sunday, 24th January 2021, 10:09 am
Left to right: Lucy (28) and Lianne (29)

The two first met in the playground at Weston Hills Primary School, aged 6, in Spalding, bonded over a mutual love of the band Hear’Say, and have been best friends ever since.

Their career paths may have differed, Lianne went on to become an actress and Lucy now works as a product designer and an engineer but the two remain just as close and share a passion for sustainability and being green.

Towards the end of 2019, the pair discussed starting a business around their shared values but the real push came when the pandemic hit in March.

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Kitelys Oat Milk making kit

Lianne was performing a play on stage in London right at the moment Boris Johnson announced that the country would be going into lockdown, which saw the production cancelled overnight and her future work plans thrown into complete uncertainty

With Lucy also being furloughed from the job, the extra time both had on their hands meant that the idea of starting a business was revisited and thus Kitleys was born. Together Lianne and Lucy designed and built an all-in-one kit that allows people to make their own Oat Milk.

Oat Milk has become extremely popular due to its creamy texture and oatmeal-like flavour. It is derived from blending oat grains and water and is vegan aswell as dairy and gluten-free.

The kit includes a classic glass milk bottle, organic cotton muslin cloth, coconut fibre, a rubberwood bottle brush, an organic cotton drawstring bag, a stainless steel reusable straw and a recipe book with tips, facts and flavour ideas. The packaging is also 100 percent recyclable.

The Kitleys website also includes homemade recipes for other oat based products aswell as a blog to help people with a range of topical issues, including recycling and starting your own business.

Lianne said: “We launched in October and the first lot of stock sold really quickly and we are now looking at upscaling as much as we can.

“Starting a business had crossed our minds before but this really gave us the push. We both like Oat Milk, had time on our hands, both care about our environment and we already made our own Oat Milk anyway.

We were searching online to get started and noticed that there wasn’t one place where we could get all the tools and knowledge. We noticed a niche in the market and decided to create the product.”

The whole process has been complicated by the fact that travelling restrictions have meant that the entire process of starting and running the business has had to be done via Zoom, given that Lianne is in London and Lucy now lives in Nottingham.

Lianne added: “It’s been really difficult not seeing each other and I wish we could be together but the power of modern technology has helped to make this possible.

“We’re quite different people, I’m very people-orientated and Lucy is brilliant with all the admin and the behind the scenes work. I would draw these big designs and she would make them into reality. The whole process has only brought us closer together.”

After finding success selling the kits on their own website and through Etsy, Kitleys are now hoping to partner with Not On The High Street, the leading website to find brands that are not sold in high street stores.

With the business set to continue to grow in 2021, Lianne is also hoping she will be able to get back to performing to top off the year. Having studied Performing Arts at Peterborough Regional College, she went onto earn a scholarship at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), the leading drama school in the country.

She has gone on to perform in many stage productions, undertaken world tours and even landed a leading role in Polish drama Bikini Blue (2017), set in Post War Britain.

Viewers will be able to see her onscreen in an upcoming episode of Holby City (January 26), where the unique situation caused by the pandemic means Lianne has to shoot scenes both at a patient and the doctor performing the surgery on herself.

She said: ““It’s a really difficult time for the industry for the moment and I hope it can recover soon. This was certainly not what I expected to happen, being left without any work for the foreseeable future in March but the business has been going really well and the reaction has been amazing.”

More information about Kitleys can be found on their website at kitleys.co.uk or on Instagram at instagram.com/wearekitleys/.