Bamboo is Awesome
The Cheeky Panda was started in January 2016 by Chris Forbes and Julie Chen, when they saw a gap in the market for an eco-friendly alternative to tree-based toilet paper. They approached INVEST Essex and the Essex Innovation Programme at the start of their journey.
From an initial concept just over 20 months ago, they have come a long way and have a whole host of Awards to show for it. The company is now selling a range of environmentally sustainable, quality bamboo tissue products. Interestingly bamboo is the world’s fastest growing plant. It grows 30 times faster than trees and being a grass, bamboo does not require replanting after harvest. In fact the growth is so quick that a lot of it ends up in landfill in China. Don’t worry pandas are not going hungry as a result as it is a different type of bamboo!
In the early stages the company ran a successful crowdfunding campaign on Crowdfunder to test the market appetite and help pay for their first container shipment from China to Essex. Since then they have taken on private investment and currently have a live equity campaign on the Seedrs equity crowdfunding platform at a £5 million valuation! After hitting their target in just a few days they have decided to overfund to 135%. They are not far from this new total and the round closes on the 31st of August 2017 so get in quick if you’d like to invest.
Thanks to this new investment they have hired a managing director, an experienced data analyst and are recruiting salespeople.
How Did We Help them?
When the Cheeky Panda first approached INVEST Essex and the Essex Innovation Programme they had a range of support needs in order to get their product distributed and in the market place. They initially asked for help with logistics, risk and operational management for fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) products and retail and supermarket tendering guidance.
Following an initial meeting the company was allocated one mentor with a great deal of experience with FMCG products and retail and also a PR and marketing expert.
“The Essex innovation programme gave us two mentors which allowed us to focus on PR and awards as well as how to negotiate with retail and wholesale distributors.”
INVEST Essex assisted the Cheeky Panda in setting up a global distribution network through introducing them to 3rd party shipping, warehouses and fulfilment suppliers. The mentoring and guidance provided through the Essex Innovation Programme resulted in some changes to the initial brand design and contributed to the many awards that the company have achieved. They were also supported with additional marketing to the retail channel and from this they were able to stock 100 stores with their toilet paper.
“The Essex innovation team gave us valuable advice on our supply chain and the contacts to negotiate a very good rate”
Chris Forbes CEO
Access to other Programmes
Through the Cheeky Panda’s engagement with us they were introduced to other initiatives such as the Low Carbon across the South East (LoCASE) programme. As they are classed as a Low Carbon Business they could apply for a grant of up to £10,000 to help their company. They successfully applied for and received a grant in the region of £8,000 towards their marketing and PR activities. They also won an Award through the Big Business Boost with prize money of £2,000 and have the prestige of being one of the 50 most innovative companies in Essex.
The Future for Cheeky Panda
The company plans to expand its product range and gain more and more customers (whilst adding to their awards repertoire). They want to see their products disrupt the market and go global; helping the environment on the way. As an Innovation50 company we will continue to support and follow their journey and are very excited to see what’s next for them.