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CD3966 Coffee shop confesion headerspsdJoJo

The royal-endorsed babywear brand that’s changing lives across the world

JoJo Maman Bébé is proof that a business can succeed with a commercial – and an ethical – ethos at its heart.

“There are so many things you might see in a nursery today that just didn’t exist 25 years ago,” says Laura Tenison, founder and chief executive of mother and babywear brand JoJo Maman Bébé. “We are always innovating, and over the years we have invented dozens of practical gadgets that are now household essentials.

“But I also think parents have become more conscientious. They want to invest in the future of this planet for their children, and so look for businesses that have good values too.”

Certainly, Ms Tenison has managed to create a thriving business with a social conscience. From humble beginnings in 1993 as a catalogue business to creating one of the earliest retail websites and opening more than 90 stores around the world, JoJo owes much of its success to its originality and inventive spirit.
Practical, stylish clothes for mothers and children, alongside quirky toys and child-friendly homeware, sum up the brand – and have garnered no end of celebrity fans, most notably the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

But it is not just commercial success that Ms Tenison is interested in; with her company mantra, “People and planet above profit”, she has also worked hard to instil ethical principles, sustainable practices and promote diversity across the business.
“Running a business is about corporate social responsibility,” she says. “The point of JoJo is to be a commercial business, but run as a force for good.”

Global outreach

JoJo’s sustainable ethos has been core to the company since before “sustainability” was such a buzzword. Ms Tenison purposefully uses recycled materials and packaging. The brand’s celebrated Polarfleece, launched in 2000, is made completely from recycled plastics, and the business has spearheaded charitable projects in the UK and abroad.

“We realised if we funded projects on the ground – being really hands-on with our charities – we would be able to achieve so much more with our philanthropic giving,” she says. “We partner with a small charity in Mozambique [that works to sustainably eradicate poverty], Nema Foundation, where I’m a trustee – and we handle the accounts, marketing and fundraising.”

Closer to home, JoJo also supports employment for people with disabilities, who may otherwise find it difficult to get work. “We employ all sorts of people from all walks of life, and it’s great. I think diversity is what makes the world go round,” she says.

In 2003, these efforts were recognised with Ms Tenison’s appointment as an MBE – but she says this has simply spurred her on to make even more of her business. “Having received this accolade, I felt it was my duty to drive the business even further,” she says.

Learning from experience

A clear passion and vision for a business are great starting points; but budding entrepreneurs should do their due diligence as well.
If you spot a gap in the market, Ms Tenison says, make sure that there really is a market there before you take the plunge. “One of my previous businesses was to make really elaborate men’s clothes, because I didn’t see men wearing them. I then realised that men don’t actually want to wear really elaborate clothes!”

But equally, it is important to follow your gut – and buck the trend when you need to. In an era dominated by online sales, it may seem unusual that JoJo invests so much in its physical stores. But Ms Tenison says: “We find that our stores balance out our online offering, and people come to trust the company.
“When you become pregnant, you’re starting a new stage in your life with so much to learn – so getting advice from people who are well trained in their field really helps. Customers who come into our stores are better long-term customers than those who find us purely online.”

Ultimately, staying agile and evolving with your market should help your business thrive in the long term – as long as your brand image is clear.
Ms Tenison says: “In today’s digital age, it’s so important to maintain your brand consistency across all your channels. Our aim is that it’s immediately clear that you have come to JoJo – whether you walk into a store, land on our website, catch our Instagram or Facebook pages, you should instantly recognise you have come to JoJo Maman Bébé.”

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