The Entrepreneur Ship 2023 : as our Atlantic rower Sam Glover crosses the finish line, he and Boromi’s founder, Evie Keough, talk teamwork

Nicola Curtis

External Affairs Lead

30th January 2024



Sam Glover has been rowing the Atlantic for The Entrepreneur Ship 2023, to raise money for the Growth Impact Fund’s Technical Assistance Fund. Evie Keough is the founder of Boromi, a multi-award-winning network of non-profit Play Libraries, and a recipient of that fund.

As Sam completes his epic 3,000 mile solo row in first position in his class, he contemplates the many people who’ve kept him going along the way.

As a social entrepreneur, Evie has also had to navigate plenty of challenges and knows just how crucial her support network is.

One early, albeit very welcome, curveball - the premature arrival of her first baby - prompted a speedy pivot to keep the show on the road. Evie had to work out a way to keep going even when faced with such an unexpected and unpredictable situation, pulling in as many favours as she could to keep her fledgling business on track.

Close family stepped in to do a lot of the physical work like packing up the Boromi bags, alongside scouting out new premises – critical, as the old office would shortly become new baby Olive’s bedroom. This hard work paid off when they managed to secure a former changing room in a local business centre which, as Evie says, felt absolutely huge at the time.

Amazingly, just over a year later and with more schools signed up, Boromi exchanged that little changing room for the unit opposite, an old swimming pool - which really was an enormous space.

As the company grew, the smooth transport of Boromi boxes and bags, to and from schools, became a key part of the business. But as a former teacher, transport logistics did not feature in Evie’s skillset.

“I remember sending out an email to a large number of courier companies describing what I was trying to do and explaining that I needed to be able to efficiently send cartons to a large number of schools and for them to easily be able to return them again on a termly basis.”

Only one company responded. However, their staff exceeded all expectations and Evie still uses the company today.

“They didn’t just get back to me, they actually came to my house to explain everything because they knew that I had a premature baby to look after. It was just so helpful to have a company that gave that level of personal service.”

Fast forward to the arrival of Covid in March 2020 and once again the importance of family, friends and valued colleagues came to the fore.

“As an organisation that is literally built on sharing and borrowing resources, you couldn’t have dreamt up a worse situation. However, I was fortunate to have the support of a lot of people so that I felt like I was going through it all with my nearest and dearest.”

Evie’s clearest memory is from right at the beginning of the pandemic, just before the country locked down. She recalls sitting in her living room with her parents and siblings for what was effectively, a Boromi crisis meeting. Operating Boromi’s core business was going to be impossible, but Evie was determined to continue to support children and families in some way.

In the end, it was actually her younger sister who came up with an idea that would become ‘#Daily Play’ – daily emails which shared simple, accessible and play-based activities for families to explore together at home using everyday materials from around the house. The venture was a huge success and ran every day for 27 weeks.

The second product developed and launched during the pandemic were ‘Keepmi boxes’, little sister to ‘Boromi boxes.’ These were letterbox size boxes that, again using everyday objects, each had one week’s worth of play inside.

They also proved phenomenally popular, so much so that in response to feedback from teachers - additional types were designed to specifically assist with the emotional wellbeing of families during that difficult time.

When schools finally began to reopen there remained a general unease around the sharing of items, and as a result orders for Keepmi boxes actually increased. Evie’s strong network of support was critical in helping to manage production.

“I think we did around 8,000 boxes. We had to get in extra production staff to help us make them up. Even my granny helped out by putting together the little cardboard boxes.”

Image of Keepmi boxes, first developed during the Covid pandemic Image of Keepmi boxes, first developed during the Covid pandemic.

Managing that transition phase was complex and stressful particularly as Boromi was such a new business there was very little to fall back on.

“You’ve built up school numbers and reputation and then, essentially, you’re building from zero again because schools are not in a position to commit to anything anymore because the world is now so volatile.”

Indeed, there were multiple moments when Evie admits to wondering whether her venture would survive, although she’s now grateful for all the lessons she’s had to learn fast over the last few years and for the loyal support of many people.

Business mentor Pam, who was connected to Evie via UnLtd’s package of bespoke support, which is offered alongside a financial award, has been an integral part of the Boromi support crew since the beginning.

“Pam is incredible. She is by far the best business mentor I’ve had. She’s experienced all these moments with me and has been a very valuable external voice and critical friend, challenging me to question the rationale behind the decisions I’m making but also being a huge support at the points I’ve felt that I’m done with this.”

“Even as we go into year six, she’s still very kindly giving up her time to be a mentor. Boromi was essentially a one-person operation for a long time, but it’s never really felt like that because of the generosity and support of all the people like Pam I have around me. Without their help and guidance, it would be so much harder to find that grit to keep going.”

Image of Evie and baby OliveImage of Evie and baby Olive as Boromi secures new bigger premises.

Find out more about Boromi and The Entrepreneur Ship 2023.

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