Bizzi Growin - the nursery textiles company born in Euxton
PUBLISHED: 00:00 08 October 2015
Two women who set up a firm to design and supply high street stores with nursery textiles have seen turnover pass a million. Roger Borrell reports. Photography by Charlotte Baxter.
Just like their little customers, the business founded by Lancashire lasses Cathy Bolton and Becky Rowlands has grown and grown. What started as a good idea has developed into a company with a turnover of £1.4 million and a client list that reads like a Who’s Who of British retailing.
Now they are going global with a business that started life on the dining room table.
Both women, married mums in their 40s, held senior jobs in the textile industry – Becky as a design director while Cathy’s expertise was in the technology side and at one time she had her own business.
When they first met they discovered they both came from the village of Euxton near Chorley. But they had a lot more in common - a desire to do something different and a positive, fun approach to life. They seemed a good fit so in 2012 they set up Bizzi Growin, now a leading supplier of high quality, best-selling bedding and soft furnishings for home nurseries. ‘We felt if we put our heads together we had the potential to do it better than anyone else,’ said Becky.
And they did just that. ‘From a standing start with suitcases full of products, we knocked on doors to secure meetings with buyers,’ said Cathy. ‘Hard work and determination paid off and our products were quickly taken by Tesco, followed closely by Next, and we feel that we have carved ourselves a strong reputation in the industry for providing great designs and high quality products.’
There are two facets to the business. They produce Bizzi Growin branded ranges available in high street retailers such as Mothercare and Babies R Us, but they are also the team responsible for producing bespoke, own-label products on behalf of all the leading retailers, again including Mothercare, Babies R Us, Tesco, John Lewis and Waitrose.
Time and again, they went to top retailers and pitched their ideas to hard-nosed buyers who were happy to do business with two women who obviously knew what they were talking and were able to deliver on their promise of well-designed, on-trend, quality beddings and soft furnishings at sensible prices.
Their range of items, including quilts, cot bumpers, blankets, cot mobiles, Moses baskets, soft toys, sleeping bags and rugs, took the industry by storm to the extent they are now having to look overseas for new markets.
These include the Middle East, Europe, Australia and China. ‘We are very excited by the opportunities for launching around the world,’ said Cathy, who looks after sales. ‘It’s important for the business to extend our customer base so we aren’t reliant on the same small number of clients.’
Net profits are expected to reach somewhere between £300,000 and £400,000 and they’ve been nominated for a business award. But neither woman has any great desire to make millions. ‘This has never been about money,’ said Becky. ‘Yes, of course we want to be comfortable but we just love doing what we do.’
Becky, who overseas product development, added: ‘We get up every morning knowing we are going to be doing a job we love. We have great fun running the company and we would be happy if the turnover stayed at this current level forever but we need to keep looking for new markets. We can’t be complacent.’
Bizzi Growin remains rooted in Euxton but it has migrated from the dining room to offices and warehousing. The size of the order books means they will need more space. ‘We are very proud to be a Lancashire company and we know that being British gives us an edge when we are doing business overseas, China in particular,’ said Cathy.
The next big push will come with their 2016 marketing campaign which follows a photo-shoot with Charlotte Baxter from Lancashire-based Scrumptious Photography at the luxury Ribble Valley venue, Eaves Hall.
It was based on a competition to find ‘The Face of Bizzi Growin’ from more than 400 babies and toddlers. The judges included A Place in the Sun TV presenter Laura Hamilton and the winner was ten-month old Nancy McFarlane. Six runners-up will also be involved in the campaign.
Becky said: ‘Bizzi Growin is a fun and striking brand and these are traits that we could see as soon as we looked at Nancy’s picture and her lively and bubbly character didn’t disappoint when we met her.’
The one disappointment for Cathy and Becky is that while all the design and development work is carried out at home, the textiles have to be sourced overseas. ‘It’s a great regret that the infrastructure for making the textiles we need just doesn’t exist here any more,’ said Cathy. ‘When you consider that we are in what was once the centre of the textile industry, it is very sad. There are still some specialist manufacturers but the prices would be unrealistic.’
Because of the need for textiles to conform to health and safety rules, especially those used by babies and toddler, the two women find themselves travelling the world to see their products coming off the production lines. They also need to be sure that the workplace conditions comply with ethical standards – they don’t want to work with sweatshops.
‘We’ve been to China, Turkey and India to visit manufacturers,’ said Cathy. ‘We go a couple of times a year and travel together. It’s great fun.’
With only four people working full-time in the business, they see an awful lot of each other. ‘We are both strong-minded and when we first set up we rubbed heads a bit,’ said Becky. ‘But we soon set boundaries and now, believe it or not, we have even been on family holidays together!’