Published: February 11, 2022 | Updated: February 12, 2022

Russ makes a splash with his bellyboards and Morgan’s keepsake creations are a hit on Etsy

Russ and Morgan Ritchie-Haydn and their son, Gunnar. Picture: Dorset Biz News.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

They’ve been well and truly bitten by the business bug.

Former soldier Russ Ritchie-Haydn had already demonstrated his entrepreneurial flair by retraining as a sports massage therapist and launching RH Sports Massage in August 2019.

Despite everything the pandemic, and its lockdowns, threw at him the business continues to thrive, in no small part due to second massage therapist, Vic Walls, who joined last year.

Now the 33-year-old has successfully started a second business – Fat Buoy Bellyboards – making and selling wooden sustainable boards for bodysurfing.

Meanwhile, and not to be outdone, his wife, Morgan, is about to celebrate the first birthday of her business, Muthas Makes.

She creates keepsakes and events décor out of acrylic and birch.

The venture started on the dining room table at the couple’s Christchurch home.

Morgan, 31, has now achieved more than 825 sales on Etsy with a number of her items either former, or current, best-sellers on the global online marketplace.

Her goods, and service, are rated five star.

Fat Buoy Bellyboards officially took to the water last November and bridges the gap between bodysurfing and bodyboarding.

Handmade out of plywood they’re hand-painted by Russ with custom laser engraving.

Prices start from £65 for a full-size board and £45 for a half size.

Russ, pictured right, a former infantryman who served six years in the British Army, said: “There is a huge focus right now on getting away from plastics.

“These wooden alternatives are making a big resurgence.

“They have their origins in the 1940s when people had very little money and made these simple boards for bodysurfing

“They’re very accessible and suitable for all ages and abilities.”

The boards are available direct from Russ or through stockists such as HUX Customs in Poole.

Russ said: “I was looking at other avenues of business as I don’t want to be too reliant on one.

“There’s a lot of pressure if you have a single business and I wanted to spread the load.

“We’ve already sold dozens of the boards which are completely custom-made.

“It’s going surprisingly well and I have a number of plans for the future.”

Russ and Morgan have a one-year-old son, Gunnar.

His birth prompted Morgan to design one of her best-sellers for Muthas Makes – a ‘baby on board’ sign.

She’s now invested £3,500 in a laser engraver, also used by Russ for Fat Buoy Bellyboards, and taken studio space at BizSpace in Christchurch.

Morgan, pictured left, is looking to branch out into wedding décor as well as working on other ideas to grow the business.

She said: “I love being creative and this fits in perfectly with trying to achieve a work/life balance.”

Russ added: “Fat Buoy Bellboards has got off to a surprisingly good start.

“You can pay a lot more than we’re charging for a bellyboard.

“I reckon we’re very good value for a totally individual product.

“I think there’s lots of potential for the future.”