Former casting director uses lockdown inspiration and £150 to set up successful Boredom Bags business

A former casting director whose work dried up during lockdown has transformed her life by creating a new business - inspired by parenting her children during the pandemic.

Tuesday, 2nd March 2021, 11:45 am

Mum-of-three Ellie McPhail, from Sheffield worked as a freelance theatre casting director prior to the devastating coronavirus pandemic hitting the UK, helping directors and producers find actors for roles in productions for the West End and regional theatres.

However, her work quickly dried up due to the closure of the arts and Ellie had to think on her feet in order to save her financial situation.

Inspired by her own experience parenting her three children under the age of 5, Ellie created Boredom Bags UK which she now runs with her husband.

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Mum-of-three Ellie McPhail, from Sheffield, worked as a freelance theatre casting director prior to the devastating coronavirus pandemic hitting the UK, helping directors and producers find actors for roles in productions for the West End and regional theatres.

Boredom Bags are 'quirky craft and activity bags that get families and children aged 2-100 having creative fun, keep boredom at bay and ease stress on parents and carers', Ellie told the Yorkshire Post.

Each bag - priced at £20 - contains awesome activities covering crafts, recipes, silly games, science hacks, nature, discovery of new skills and mindfulness that children can do independently.

Ellie said: "There are things that children can do independently, enabling mum or dad to take a work call or make dinner, or things that the whole family can enjoy together to create happy memories."

Ellie's family had only recently relocated to Sheffield from London and were in the process of buying a house having sold their flat in the capital.

Mum-of-three Ellie McPhail, from Sheffield, worked as a freelance theatre casting director prior to the devastating coronavirus pandemic hitting the UK, helping directors and producers find actors for roles in productions for the West End and regional theatres.

The necessity to continue bringing in an income in order for them to afford their new mortgage payments was paramount, however, without childcare finding a new job when everyone was meant to be staying at home and was practically impossible.

Parenting their own three children in lockdown conditions created the spark that made Ellie think about how she could create a product that would help.

Having trialled the bags locally to where they live over the school summer holidays the business truly took off and launched nationally in October 2021 when cases of covid began to soar, requiring families to isolate at home and tiered restrictions came into being.

The sum total of their investment was a £150 gifted donation from their church to help cover the costs of some initial materials.

Mum-of-three Ellie McPhail, from Sheffield, worked as a freelance theatre casting director prior to the devastating coronavirus pandemic hitting the UK, helping directors and producers find actors for roles in productions for the West End and regional theatres.

The vast majority of the materials are donated by members of the local Sheffield community and then reimagined and repurposed in an eco-effort to reduce, reuse and recycle.

Hummus pots and egg boxes are used as packaging solutions for the individual kits inside the bags and materials such as old buttons, fabric, bottle tops and seedling pots are used as components for the activities themselves.

Since October, hundreds of bags have been posted to households across the UK and last week their first international order made it across the globe to New York.

Ellie added: “Without sounding too worthy although we are selling a product, our approach to the business is a very philanthropic one. We are not driven by the potential profit that could be made but by the spread of fun and creativity that we can spark in others.

"We want to give back as much as we can, creatively collaborate with individuals/groups who inspire us and in turn inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs, tech gods, and disruptors.

"The world will depend on problem-solvers, not consumers, in the years to come.

"We like to think we might play a very small part in inspiring that in others.”

Whether Ellie will return to her casting career following the pandemic in the theatre industry is uncertain.

"Things can only get better", she added.