As a part of the run up to Small Business Saturday we have been championing some of the small businesses we work with. After the excitement of yesterday we thought we’d bring you one more. Our last instalment is the story of 3 Blonde Bears run by Jo Jenner in West Sussex.
When did you set up 3 Blonde Bears?
3 Blonde Bears in its current form was founded in March 2011 and is named after my 3 small children Finley, Amelie and Dexter. I had another company on notonthehighstreet.com called HOME which myself and my mother set up in 2007. As you can guess the focus was very much on home accessories. We traded well but in 2012 my mother decided she wanted to retire so I bought her out of the business. I recognised a massive change in trade and re-focused the range of products to have personalised, family-orientated element to them: we now sell aprons, mugs, Christmas decorations, party accessories and much more. Everything is designed by myself and the team and we print each item individually here in-house.
How did you apply to join notonthehighstreet.com?
A friend of mine introduced me to the site back in early 2007. As soon as I saw it I knew I wanted to be a part of it and quickly adapted the product range we had at HOME to complement notonthehighstreet.com’s unique and refreshing approach. I love that they support and promote small, creative business and it tied in perfectly with being a mother of young children. I filled in the forms online and I haven’t looked back since.
What has been your experience of selling with notonthehighstreet.com?
It is just so easy! Quite simply notonthehighstreet.com has changed my life and enabled me to grow and develop 3 Blonde Bears to the point where I now have a credible brand, am an employer, have a fancy premises and a business that I am massively passionate about. 3 Blonde Bears and notonthehighstreet.com work really well together. I understand what they need from me and the business and they understand our capabilities and ambitions to grow.
The big milestones notonthehighstreet.com have provided me with are our first catalogue feature, first press coverage, 10k, 25k and then 40k orders which is outstanding! I owe notonthehighstreet.com so much and am grateful every day.
How have you and your business grown since you joined?
The business has literally gone from back bedroom, to kitchen table, to garden studio and now we have a 1,400 square foot premises in Haywards Heath Business Park. Employing staff was a big scary milestone for me personally but the notonthehighstreet.com team were there to support us. I now employ a team of 10 staff and we are still growing!
In 2012 we won Partner of the Year at the notonthehighstreet.com annual Make Awards. We were also selected as Small Business Sunday winners by Theo Paphitis and listed at number 26 in the prestigious StartUps 10o’s annual listing of the most creative businesses in the UK. 2013 has proved to be an equally successful year: I was selected by Sir Terry Leahy and Lord Young to become a founding member of Enterprise 250, a group of the top UK entrepreneurs that that collectively represent the biggest economic growth across industries and focus on job creation. We were also listed again in the Startup’s 100.
What did you do before 3 Blonde Bears? Do you have a business background?
I come from a fashion design and buying background. I completed a degree at Ravensbourne College of Art & Design and was lucky enough to gain work-experience with the late, great Alexander McQueen. I continued working for him once I completed my degree as a designer and then moved into retail fashion buying and worked for Laura Ashley and Warehouse. In 2006 I had my first child and decided to make a career change. I started out mentoring and consulting with smaller, independent fashion companies but this wasn’t creative enough for me so I decided to set up my own business.
What advice would you give to people looking to make a career change?
Do it. You won’t regret it. My favourite quote is “do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail”. There is not one rule to fit all and you can be really creative both in your skills and the way you make it work for yourself.
Shop the 3 Blonde Bears collection here.