About Rachel Dennett the creator of the Five-A-Dale Brand
Born at Cannock Chase, Lichfield, in 1973, my parents divorced when I was just a toddler. My mother moved to the East Riding, where she met my stepfather, who jointly brought me up, alongside my three brothers and two sisters.
Life was a bit ‘hand-to-mouth’ when I was a child, so I decided that I didn’t have something, I would simply create it. I remember longing for a horse, but I knew we couldn’t afford one. So, my bike became a horse, complete with rope reins tied to my handlebars! Then there was the time I wanted a seesaw; I found a plank of wood and propped it across the branches of my mother’s fir tree. It was all good fun until the whole tree split in half!
Upon leaving school I didn’t know which career would best suit me, so I searched for something I thought I might enjoy. I did have an interest in business, so I studied full-time at the Hull College of Further Education. A spell in an office was short-lived, and I decided on a swift career change.
An apprenticeship as a dental technician taught me that, while I didn’t want to make teeth for the rest of my days, I did discover a talent for ‘hands-on’ technical craftwork.
I tried all sorts of jobs, from sign designing to touring with the ‘Coming and Going Car’ act at the weekends, while studying at college full time. We toured the country during the summer months for the big shows. The owner of the act also performed a magician’s show, and, when his usual assistant took sick one evening, I was the lucky understudy. Being chopped up before an audience of pensioners was not for me in the long run, but I loved doing something so unconventional!
I even signed up for the Territorial Army in Hull. After completing the training at Chetwynd Barracks, I decided that army life was far too exhausting, plus khaki just wasn’t my colour!
Time moved on, and I took a role within the care industry, looking after people with mental health problems or learning disabilities. I enjoyed caring for others, and worked in this field for thirteen years. But a girl can dream, and I wasn’t ready to give up on finding my dream job just yet.
Then I met my husband, through a dating agency. It wasn’t the done thing to use dating agencies at the time, certainly not in little old Hull. We found out we were expecting our first child, Grace, just a few months before we married at Chillingham Castle.
I decided to switch to a more family-friendly career, so I trained to be a beauty therapist while pregnant. Upon qualifying, and after the birth of my daughter, I went self-employed. The beauty work was fine, but not what I saw myself doing indefinitely.
My husband and I went on to have five beautiful children, all eighteen months apart. And, yes, I’ve heard all the cracks – “Surely they’re not all yours?”, “By, I take my hat off to you, lass!”, “Do you not have a TV?”, “Crikey, I thought you were a nanny!”. Once, someone’s husband approached me in the supermarket to ask if they were all mine, to which I replied: “I think so!”
Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not always a breeze, but I wouldn’t change a thing. And it’s thanks to my little darlings that I came up with the concept of building a brand that aims to encourage children to eat and live healthily and prick parents’ consciences, too.
While at playgroups I would often get into discussions with other mothers about how, despite our best efforts to try to buy the right foods for our children, would later find out that so-called healthy ‘low-fat’ cereal bars were loaded with sugar, and that was the real problem, not the fat.
I was brought up in a household where my mother always made sure we ate very healthily – even on her tight budget. In doing so, we became accustomed to her homemade bread and freshly squeezed orange juice every morning. Pet chickens guaranteed even our eggs were fresh. I took my mother’s teachings into my own rearing, ensuring my family had a well-balanced diet with fresh fruit and vegetables daily.
All of my children would happily eat their five a day … except for one, Evelyn. When a nutritional paediatrician told me my daughter was going through a ‘fad’, I was left unconvinced. I knew that she was missing essential nutrients because of a lack of fruit and veg in her diet. I tried everything from mashing cauliflower into potato, which she detected, to “If you don’t eat your vegetables you won’t get a pudding” – nothing worked!
Then, one day, I had a brainwave while the children were having their tea! Children are attention-seekers, right? Even if it’s for the wrong reasons! I decided that every time one of the children ate some vegetables, I would applaud them and do a silly jig around the kitchen. They all found this highly amusing. My eldest child sensed what I was doing and played along.
Before long, the vegetables had names! Every time one was gobbled up, more applause, and the kids would all join in. Evelyn wanted praise for eating pastry, but we insisted you only get claps for Brock Lee or Carole Carrot. I promised that if she did eat them, I would let her talk to the veggies.
This went on for a few nights, and my daughter did not like the lack of attention. Then, one night, she gobbled the famous Brock Lee from her fork, so we all applauded her. My eldest daughter, Grace, skidded across the hallway floor in celebration. She probably thought, “Finally! I can eat my tea in peace!” Evelyn loved the attention, and then said, “Mummy, please can I talk to Brock Lee now?” The pressure was on!
Never one to disappoint, I thought l’d have a go at making a broccoli character. And so it began. Brock Lee #1 and four hours of patience went up in smoke because I didn’t read the instructions on the Fimo clay packet properly! The second just about passed as a Brock Lee, so I presented him to Evelyn while she was eating some broccoli. Her face lit up, she thanked me for finding him and promptly started chatting away to him, while I breathed a huge sigh of relief!
Carole the Carrot was next, and though I say so myself, was a prize veggie! Others followed, and after months of practice, I was becoming pretty green-fingered!
My children really engaged with the characters, so I took the opportunity to educate them about how, and why, these foods are so important for us. Collectively, the clay creations became known as the Krunchitz.
I realised I was onto something. I thought if could use the characters to educate my children about the foods they should eat, could I do the same with the foods they shouldn’t eat so much of, too? I set to work, and created a raft of characters that resembled sugar, fats and salty products, such as Frederic the French fry and Penny the sweet. I gave them unsavoury characteristics, too. Together, this gang formed the Dodgitz.
Now that I’d brought these characters to life, it was only fit that they should have a place to call home. Five-A-Dale suited them perfectly. In this land, you will find a whole host of foods and ingredients that have now been turned into memorable characters. If children truly engage with the characters, we can deliver important lifestyle and educational messages at the same time.
After three years of developing Five-a-Dale, I realised that all learnings from my previous jobs have fed into the creation of the brand. I’d like to give you a warm welcome to Five-a-Dale, a brand created by a mother – not a marketing committee. I found my dream job by accident in the end.