DR Diana Powell runs a successful non-profit business – Wirral Unplugged.

She helps families unplug from screens and disconnect from devices by enabling them to create and explore at home.

Here, in our latest Business of the Week feature, Diana tells us about running a successful non-profit business and shares her plans for the next few months – a few things youngsters can look forward to.

If you would like to appear in one of our business features, email heidi.summerfield@newsquest.co.uk

Diana Powell with one of the creators of the Vietnam box and a child at their Vietnam event

Diana Powell with one of the creators of the Vietnam box and a child at their Vietnam event

What’s your full name?

Dr Diana Powell

What’s the name of the business?

Wirral Unplugged

What’s the address?

We don’t have a permanent shop front, instead, we pop up in different places. This autumn, we’ll be at the Bloom Building in Birkenhead and Merseymade in Liverpool leading events and selling from Christmas pop ups with the Chocolate Cellar, Wirral Environmental Network and the Williamson Art Gallery for Wirral MakeFest Christmas Edition.

Are you the owner/manager?


When did you open the business?

We became a non-profit in July 2019, after nine months of weekly face-to-face sessions with local volunteers and families.

A space box

A space box

Has it always been in the same location?

No, in fact, we love to travel! Our first location as Wirral Unplugged was Higher Bebington Library, but we now mostly host events from the Bloom Building in Birkenhead. We were also the lead organisation behind Wirral Makefest, running a free day of makers involved with science, tech, art, engineering and maths in the Williamson Art Gallery and the Birkenhead Central Library June 3rd last year. We’ve done plenty of pop ups working with Eco-Schools, community groups and charities as well as in some local businesses like the Chocolate Cellar and Merseymade.

Are you local to the area? Did you grow up here?

Yes, I’ve lived on the Wirral since 2015 and I love it. I’m originally from Detroit, Michigan, but I went to university in New York and Ohio, before moving for my first job to Bangkok, where I worked as a middle and high school teacher and then to Liverpool for 10 years, where I did my MA, PhD and worked at the University of Liverpool.

Tell me a bit about your business. What do you do? What services do you provide?

We help families unplug from screens (find screen balance), create and explore at home through activity boxes on topics ranging from Japan to engineering. These boxes provide 10 hours of activities with cooking, crafting, games and physical activities. They take three to nine months to create with local experts, artisans and makers. For instance, our Dinos Roar? Box was created by a music student at the University of Liverpool and focuses on the noises made by dinos. It has a crunchy fossil from the Chocolate Cellar (you have to dig through the chocolate rock to reveal the chocolate dino), a dino bone xylophone made by a local artisan from repurposed wood from Bulky Bob’s and the Bridge to Bamboo project, and a Dinos snap game, made by student artists. We also run two-hour events for families to explore and craft with us.

Fairy troll box

Fairy troll box

Why did you decide to open your own business?

I think many people can relate to that moment in their career journey, where you’ve built up experience and skills, and you stop and ask yourself, am I happy? My ‘moment’ happened when I was off work for my mental health and volunteering in the community. I heard from parents two key things that led to the creation of Wirral Unplugged - one, that they find managing their children’s screentime difficult. Some parents used the words fight and battle. Secondly, that they were amazed by the diversity of experience I had had and were keen to interact with cultures, careers and local experts. I think the final thing is really that I love being creative and problem solving, and Wirral Unplugged offers me plenty of opportunities to do both!

Wirral Unplugged has been a labour of love for me, but its impact has been clear in the lives of families in our community, from inspiring children to be engineers and chemists, to travel to places like Vietnam or to spend quality time with their families.

Parenting is extremely hard and there’s plenty of parent guilt around screen time out there, but we have heard back from our families that we make them feel like the cool parent and enable happy crafting with their children.

Unplugging should be as easy, and as cool, as possible, hence our whole ethos is about the positive things you can learn, explore and do together through our boxes.

What’s your business background?

Can I say ‘adventurous learner’? I started off as a middle school and high school teacher and have worked in higher and further education developing curriculum, entering management and event coordination. I’ve worked all kinds of odd jobs as a teen and university student, including running my own proofreading business as a sole trader, but I rely on my volunteer directors, like Bala from the Chocolate Cellar, and training from places like the Women’s Organisation and Small Business Saturday to help me make up the rest!

Why this type of business?

Wirral Unplugged began as a community group focused on supporting families to unplug from screens, create and explore, so it was clear from our other volunteers and members, that the best option available to us would be as a non-profit, reinvesting whatever we make into the community and having the community guide our projects. Any products or services we develop go back to a few key questions: Is it helpful? Does it encourage careers, cultural awareness and support mental health? Is it sustainable? Have we chosen from eco-friendly suppliers? Is there someone locally we can work with? Can we deliver it sustainably? And is it fun? Perhaps the first and most important point - if it’s not fun it doesn’t go in the box.

Families love the boxes created by Wirral Unplugged

Families love the boxes created by Wirral Unplugged

Were you open before/during/after the Covid-19 pandemic? How did this affect your business?

Yes to all! We were meeting weekly before the pandemic in the library, for two hours of screen-free fun. We had such a good group of parents involved, when lockdown started, I immediately thought how could we still support them through this if we can’t meet face to face? As a child, I had written letters to a character on a TV show, Lambchop, and they had written back, and I thought there’s so much joy and excitement in that. I asked our community, who thought it was a great idea, and from that developed the ‘Fairy Troll Post’ which had a series of fairies, trolls, dragons and unicorns who lived in Merseyside and wrote letters to kids and sent packages of crafts and activities to do at home. We later had a student artist create these characters and they’re part of our FairyTroll World box. For the parents, we provided daily activities on a theme, and for the kids we would write back weekly. I delivered the packages on my bike with a local Duke of Edinburgh student Jack taking part of them. I even had university student volunteers in lock down in Cypress and Poland writing letters and making craft and cooking videos for the Fairy Troll Post! This was the start of our boxes, however, with this lockdown version we were doing them on a quick, weekly basis, that we really couldn’t bring them up to the level we wanted to work with local artisans and crafters. So, when lockdown stopped, we closed the post, and spent time developing our first boxes which now take 3-9 months to create but are based on one theme and offer 10 hours of activities for families.

What makes your business different to others in the same area/field? What sets your business apart from your competitors?

We’re different in that we’re working with local experts, people from those countries or careers, artists and artisans to create our content. We’re also using sustainable materials and delivery (ecargo bike or Royal Mail). It’s a completely unique experience, bringing you the best of Merseyside!

Why do loyal customers return to your business?

Loyal customers stay with us because they really feel the benefit of unplugging together through cooking, crafts and games, on their family time and mental health. They also stick with us because they love having a go and try new things. Finally, families and young people support us because of our environmental/ sustainability aims.

What’s next? What do the next few months hold for you and your business?

We’ll be launching a subscription box in time for Christmas! 12 boxes: 1 for each month of the year for your family to explore with us! We think having a subscription will help parents regularly take time out with their kids and will give families something exciting to look forward to each month.

Poo balance game from the environmental chemistry box

Poo balance game from the environmental chemistry box