Role and company:
Managing Director of Bambino Mio
Growth forecast for the next three years:
We anticipate to grow by 25 per cent each year by introducing new products and entering new emerging markets.
In under 50 words, what makes your business distinctive in its marketplace:
Bambino Mio have been the pioneers of the reusable nappy market, at the forefront of pushing reusable nappies into the mainstream and making people aware of their benefits. We have had involvement in both political and export activity, being the first to go into retail in a big way both nationally and internationally.
What’s the big vision for your business?
Our original aim was to make reusable nappies commercially acceptable worldwide and over the last 15 years I think we have achieved that by taking a really small, fringe product category and introducing it to the mainstream.
Current level of international business and future aspirations:
We’ve sold in over 70 countries worldwide. Whilst being the most dynamic part of the business and the fastest growing, the export market has been hit very hard, losing us nearly £500,000 in turnover last year. Our aspiration would be to sell as many products per birth in each of the countries we sell in as we do in our home market in the UK. The challenge is to motivate international distributors and give them the information and tools to do this.
Biggest career setback and what you learned from it:
The 25 per cent drop in business with a few of our key international markets in a business which has always experienced growth. The lesson is to come back from that even stronger with the foundations to build on our ambitious growth plans.
What makes you mad in business today?
What will be the biggest change in your market in the next three years?
The baby market in general is changing; there is a huge move towards internet and mobile communication. Companies in the market who do well will be those who adapt and find the most effective ways of working with these new mediums to deal with the predicted baby boom.
We expect the growth of reusable nappies to continue. In the early 1990s, only two per cent of parents were using reusable nappies. Now, 30 per cent of parents try reusable nappies and a third of parents have chosen to reuse; this is not only due to environmental concerns but massive economic savings for parents in the present climate.
Can businesses in your sector/industry access the finance they need to grow? If not, what can be done to improve things?
We are operating in an industry which is consolidating through M&A activity to help product categories grow. Despite the fact that people will continue to have babies, we are seeing the second hand market booming in all areas of the industry. As nursery is essentially retail focus, obtaining finance through traditional sources, as for most industries, is difficult. Firms need to look for investors of some sort if they need financing to grow.
How would others describe your leadership style?
Others would describe me as taking a hands-off approach. I manage by encouragement and guidance; giving responsibility to those who demonstrate they can take it along with being able to provide a clear strategic view of what we’re trying to achieve as a company.
Your biggest personal extravagance?
My love of the arts. I try to attend a wide variety of art forms, and make sure I visit Edinburgh Fringe Festival every year with my family. I fell in love with the theatre as a student and am thrilled I can now share this with my children.
I am also a board director at The Royal & Derngate theatre in Northampton, the most dynamic regional theatre in the UK. If I can use some of my experience from running my own business to help this art organisation then I am pleased I can give something back to the arts.
You have two minutes with the prime minister. Tell him how best to set the UK’s independent, entrepreneurial businesses free to prosper:
I would press that he needs to ensure that banks are providing SMEs with properly qualified and dynamic bank managers. Over the years, I have been lucky enough to have had two or three outstanding bank managers who have understood my business and what we are trying to achieve. However, these days you seem to have box-ticking, inexperienced bank managers who are stifling small entrepreneurial businesses. They are having a greater effect on independent businesses’ inability to develop and grow than the lack of available finance.
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