Mugs Afloat trade from a D'riculous boat

March 2017 - By Peter Underwood

The Floater takes another of its monthly looks at canal traders – people creating businesses on our canals and rivers. Their numbers are increasing almost daily and the chances are you will see a floating market or a sole trader on the canal at most times of the year. As Peter Underwood reports, our latest traders combine design with a determination to live a different lifestyle.

Colin Shearer and Sue Meades describe themselves as 'just two hard-working, nature loving people that got fed up with working at stressful well-paid jobs just to be pushed harder by forever changing targets.'

Working just to pay bills every month with not much time or money left to enjoy life became a lifestyle they wanted to leave behind.

“We love the nature and the peace on the canals and don't miss the world of business at all,” said Sue.

“A few years ago to miss a bonus of a few hundred pounds was devastating now to trade from our boat and take a few pounds in very rewarding.”

Home for the couple is now the narrowboat That's D'riculous but boating started when they wanted a hobby away from their successful but stressful jobs in Scotland 10yrs ago.

Colin explains: “We went to look at a few boats in Derbyshire, and saw one 30yr old 42' Minden boat called Tin Lizzie at Mercia Marina and fell in love with the boat.

“We bought our current boat new with an inheritance, sold our house and started scaling down.
“Seven years later we were able to move aboard full time but a lack of finances meant we had to generate an income.

“We did some research on trading boats and put a business plan into C&RT to be able to print and sell bespoke and personalised ceramic mugs.

“I have also taken up Pyography, burning deigns on wood, and we produce some wooden gifts too, Sue enjoys up cycling unloved jewellery.”

Colin used to design timber frame houses, so using a computer to make up his own designs for mugs came fairly naturally.

Sue was previously a regional Sales Manager so she is quite at home with customers.

Colin expolained: “We buy the mugs in but all designs are our work. Likewise with the wooden gifts.”

But it hasn't all been plain sailing. “We have been trading since May 2016 and this winter has been quite tough,” said Colin, “but we are hoping to be more involved with organised festivals this year to hopefully build a financial cushion for the winter.”

They are confirmed travellers and in 2017 hoper to carry on trading and travel to areas that they haven't yet explored.

“We started in Dewsbury last year and travelled the Aire and Calder, Leeds and Liverpool, where we produced some bespoke mugs for the 200th anniversary celebrations and sold one to Richard Parry,” said Sue.

“We sold at two festivals last year but it has mostly been on the towpath so far.”

Analysing their sales Colin says they have produced lots of mugs for boaters, featuring their favourite picture of their boat and adding design touches to enhance the image.

Colin added: “We have spent this winter split between The Shroppie and Llangollen canals, trading with The Pirate Boat and The Blacksmiths Boat along the way.
“We do livaboard and CC.

“Our experience of the Business Boating team at Leeds is that they were brilliant in helping us get our Roving Traders Licence.

“The RCTA were very helpful too and Sue has now joined new the committee to help and promote Roving Traders.”

Photos: (1st) Colin Shearer and his stock in trade, (2nd) Colin Shearer and Sue Meades, (3rd & 4th) Mugs for sale afloat, (5th, 6th, 7th) Full trading rig, (8th) Mugs by night.

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