When A 'Big Idea’ Goes Global
28th June 2018 Paul Andrews
Bambino Mio are the most widely used reusable cloth nappy brand in the UK with an award-winning range of products that are loved by parents all over the world.
Paul Andrews spoke to Founder, Guy Schanschieff MBE to find out more.
Bambino Mio, is founded on the principles of quality, convenience, style, comfort and value for money. As a business they are committed to developing products that are better for babies and the environment. Their aim is to deliver a superior customer service and product experience enabling parents to focus on the joys of parenthood with the intention of making reusable nappies commercially acceptable worldwide.
Run by husband and wife Guy and Jo Schanschieff, Bambino Mio is based in the heart of the English countryside in Northamptonshire. As Guy explains, “I knew from a young age that I really wanted to run my own business and Jo had been working as a management trainee at Marks & Spencer when she was made redundant so we decided to take some time out to look for our ‘big idea.’”
It all began in 1991, Guy and Jo were travelling through India where they met an American at the Taj Mahal. Over dinner they got talking about a reusable nappy laundry service offered in New York, that was it, the seed of an idea was sown. Later on during their travels the concept was brought up in conversation in Sydney and so on returning to the UK, Guy and Jo set up a reusable nappy laundry service from their home in Northampton, and although the laundry service showed slow growth, Guy and Jo were convinced reusable nappies were the way forward.
As Guy continues, “It became apparent that reusable nappies were increasing in popularity, but the demand of a laundry service was limited as parents soon realised how easy they were to wash and how much money could be saved by doing so. We understood at this stage that the business was never going to be scalable but had built up a loyal customer base and learnt a lot along the way.”
As a result, in 1997 Guy and Jo started to sell reusable nappies and associated products directly to parents through mail order and the business began to grow. As Guy adds, “In 1999 we secured our first national account and then went to the 2002 trade show in Cologne to look for new market opportunities. This resulted in our first international distributors in Spain and Malta. Growth continued over the next few years and turnover rose to £2 million by around 2007 which was split between the UK and overseas markets.”
Like many other businesses, in 2010 the recession took its toll. Pretty much overnight the orders from the US and France stopped and the business was facing an uncertain future. As Guy explains, “This was a difficult time for us as a family and the business too and in hindsight, the next few years were tough and involved some difficult decisions. We did manage to turn things around and provide the platform for future growth and this is probably my proudest moment in business to date.”
“Nobody saw the dip coming and so there was not time to prepare, we just had to get on with things and so we took the opportunity and delivered growth with the supermarkets in the UK and through a digital marketing strategy too. The digital strategy enabled us to go international directly and changed our business model that had previously been distributor led. As a business we grew by approaching potential customers directly which worked incredibly well for us and led to lots of new and exciting opportunities such as supplying the three biggest pharmacies in Germany,” continues Guy,
As a family owned business, Bambino Mio invests for the long term with significant investments over the years coming in the integration of new IT systems and new appointments to strengthen the management team. Currently having 42 employees and turnover of £7 million, the digital marketing strategy has clearly worked and proven to be a worthwhile investment and as a business, Bambino Mio have managed to successfully use digital platforms where others are struggling.
Guy is aware of the way that the business is growing and accepts that there are challenges too. “We are on a fast train with exciting growth projections and are moving on constantly. Challenges are always present but we see them as great opportunities going forward such as the integration of new skills to help drive the growth, investing in new social media and ecommerce operations and for a small firm of only 42 and 15 different nationalities, we need to make sure we retain the culture and essence of who we are as a business,” he explains.
Growth is on the agenda and as Guy and the team are aware, “It is all about managing the resources and the space that they need to grow. We wake up to a different challenge every day but that is the exciting part about being involved with a business like ours,” he adds. “There is a culture at Bambino Mio and everyone buys into what we are doing. Historically, like other businesses cashflow was an issue but the recession and the attitude of the banks forced us to drive all the borrowings from the business and with no borrowings now we realise how much we are saving each and every day and it certainly helps us to sleep better at night too!”
Relationships are key to the business in all areas – management, employees, customers and suppliers and form the core of what the business stands for too. “We do our best to make all the relationships work and have great staff and customers who appreciate what we do and how we do it. As we continue to evolve as a business there will inevitably be change but we’ll always remember the journey we have been on and where the business has come from and continue to build on what we have got now. Who knows where we will be in ten years time but the future is certainly exciting,” adds Guy.
In terms of the family and the next generation it is still early days. “All of them have done their bit already, working in the school and university holidays but they range in age from 13 to 22 so there is plenty of time for them all to decide what they want to do in the years to come and there is certainly no pressure from either Jo or I for them to follow us if that is not what they really want to do. We’ll support the decisions that they make,” continues Guy.
It has been a great journey to date and one that has resulted in Bambino Mio becoming a well established brand too. Now, 27 years later, since the day they discussed nappies at the Taj Mahal, a wedding, 3 children, an MBE, over 50 awards and products available in more than 70 countries worldwide; Bambino Mio is the largest and most accessible reusable nappy brand in the world.
Bambino Mio may have grown in size but the core family values remain the same, to manufacture high quality, simple, reusable nappies and associated products and make them accessible and affordable to all.