A company started by two Tunbridge Wells mothers just six months ago has been hailed a ‘national success story’.
Dominique Hughes and Rebecca Da Silva Lima scooped the Small Business Award on BBC Radio Two’s Jeremy Vine Show for their luxury baby changing bag. Branded Jem + Bea, the bags can cost up to £265 each and are designed to carry everything you’ll need to take care of the baby.
They were chosen for the award by business expert Nick Brown who said the company had ‘huge potential’ and is destined to be a ‘national success story’.
Named after their daughters Jemima and Beatrice, the company was founded in September after the close friends noticed a gap in the booming baby accessory market.
Ms Da Silva Lima, who previously worked as an accessories designer for Mulberry said: “We are both mothers with an interest in fashion.
“We sat down in summer of 2014 and came up with the idea of creating a changing bag which would be stylish with a luxury feel but also practical.
“Within a week we had decided on the brand and then started to hold regular meetings.”
With her connections in the industry, the 36-year-old was soon able to set up a supply chain through a factory in the Far East and even before the product was launched the pair had John Lewis looking to sell their products.
Importantly, they have managed to ensure the rigours of running a booming start-up have not had too much of a detrimental impact on their family life.
“We have been able to fit most of it around the family and as mothers ourselves we are already used to the challenges of working either late at night or very early while the children are asleep,” said Ms Hughes.
However, the 35-year-old, who previously worked in the legal office of a government business department after starting her career at local law firm Cripps, admitted there was a steep learning curve.
She said: “We have had to learn how to run a business from scratch and we are not keen on accounting.”
Ultimately their aim is to take the brand global without over-expanding in the process, said Ms Hughes, adding: “We are taking the slowly but surely approach at the moment as we want to stay in control of the business but we recognise that eventually we will need help.
“But the whole thing has been really good for our personal development. There just hasn’t really been the time to let it all sink in yet.”
Despite taking a cautious approach, turnover at the ﬁ rm grew 70 per cent in between September and January.
Speaking after the pair had been selected for the award, Mr Brown, who made millions following the sale of his PR firm Northern Profile in 2004, said: “Every 26 weeks I choose one of the winners to win a personal mentoring session with me.
“Dominique and Rebecca have come up with a great idea, I can see this being a huge national success story. With John Lewis already stocking Jem + Bea, this is a small business with great potential. I am delighted that Jem + Bea has won my Small Business of the Week Award.”