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HOW I BUILT A BUSINESS WITH BABY SPICE

As business meetings go, it was unusual. It’s not every day that an entrepreneur with a background in manufacturing pitches to a Spice Girl. But somehow, this rendezvous was going ahead. And Christopher Money was pumped.

The year was 2016 and Christopher had moved heaven and earth to get an audience with Emma Bunton. But the outcome of his proposal was in the balance. The idea that Baby Spice would say no to his business partnership invitation wasn’t worth thinking about, as the idea she’d say yes was so incredible. *Enter huge amounts of adrenaline.

But how did this situation even arise? It’s not as if you can WhatsApp a global pop star and say: “Hi, I’ve got a great business idea and I’d love you to be my co-founder. Fancy a cuppa?”

Fem hygiene

West London-based father of three Christopher Money has the least’ pop star’ background you could imagine. His first taste of business came 20 years ago at a South Wales factory of feminine hygiene products whose claim to fame was it made the UK’s first panty liner. His dad had invested in the factory two decades earlier, and after enjoying some success, it was losing money.

Christopher says: “I’d graduated with a business degree and wanted to be an entrepreneur because I’d seen the freedom Dad enjoyed. One day, he said: ‘You know that bloody Welsh factory?’ (The factory always elicited an expletive). ‘It’s probably a dead duck, but do you fancy trying to turn it around?’”

In at the deep end

“I was 22 or 23, naive, and thought, yeah, I can do that. So I found myself driving down the M4 twice a week to see forty disillusioned Welshmen. What they saw was the boss’s son rocking up to save the day, so you can imagine what they thought. I was in at the deep end.”

Turning it around

But the young businessman got stuck in. He oversaw the factory’s diversification into maternity products and reached out to the likes of Mothercare and Tesco. Mothercare mentioned they wanted a swim nappy, so Christopher made a mental note.

He says: “I was doing every trade show possible and at one event in Amsterdam, I spotted a swim nappy in the corner of a massive hall. The producer was a South American manufacturer with no UK representation. What I liked about them – and this was 15 years ago – was their focus on sustainable, biodegradable materials. I knew then that it was the future.”

Firefighting and learning

Christopher negotiated exclusive UK distribution rights, set up a separate company to represent his new South American partner and won contracts to supply the likes of Mothercare, Boots and Sainsbury’s. “I did that for the next ten years while running the Welsh factory and helping my father out. I was firefighting the whole time and learnt so much.”

Evolution

No sign of Emma Bunton yet, but Christopher was now speeding towards Kit & Kin. Next, he launched direct-to-consumer brand Bloom Essentials and began supplying essential products to mums and newborns. “It gave me the perfect experience for what I did next,” he says.

Birth of Kit & Kin

The genius of Kit & Kin, which Christopher created after Bloom Essentials, is the strategy behind the brand. But that strategy didn’t come in a flash of inspiration; it took 20 years of work and learning since Christopher’s first day at the failing factory. It was also the result of two years of focused brand development and planning.

Here’s how Kit & Kin was born: Christopher spotted a big opportunity to build an eco-friendly nappy, skincare and babywear brand. He realised that sustainable products were the future, but high-street retailers were dragging their heels in that area because of high prices. The entrepreneur had learnt the market inside out and had manufacturing muscle at his disposal, so if he could get the branding and strategy right – a big challenge – he knew he could create a successful new brand.

Shooting for the stars

The first thing he did was fly to Mexico, meet the directors of his long-time manufacturing partner, and tell them he wanted to launch an eco-conscious challenger brand in the UK. They gave him their blessing, saying he’d done an excellent job for them over the past ten years.

Next, Kit & Kin’s co-founder contacted a branding agency with a strong reputation, London’s B&B Studios. “They gave brands this beautifully modern, clean, Scandinavian look,” Christopher says, “and that was my vision for Kit & Kin. I knew they’d be expensive, but I pitched the idea and B&B wanted in. We negotiated an equity deal, which was perfect.”

Approaching Emma

Then came the moment of inspiration: the wooing of Baby Spice. Christopher says: “I had the product and the brand, but how could I compete with the Pampers and Huggies of this world? I’d seen The Honest Company’s success in the US, co-founded by Jessica Alba. Could I find a celebrity partner to make Kit & Kin stand out?”

A friend of a friend of Christopher’s knew Emma Bunton, which is where this canny entrepreneur’s thoughts soon turned. Maybe, just maybe…

Just a random nappy guy

“I reached out to my friend and asked if they could introduce me to Emma. It just so happened that Emma had children with sensitive skin and was thinking about launching her own brand, so she loved the idea of a sustainable, eco-conscious brand for newborns and young children. The stars aligned.”

Fortuitous maybe, but to Emma and her team, Christopher was still just a random guy who developed maternity products a random guy asking to use Emma’s name across the globe. “As you can imagine, a fair bit of due diligence was needed,” says Christopher.

Sealing the deal

So, how did he transform himself from “some random nappy guy” to a trustworthy potential business partner? The answer is slowly and carefully. “It took about nine months,” he says. “I started speaking to Emma’s management agency and was introduced to her lawyer. Finally, her representatives said OK; Emma’s super-excited. The two of you can meet and if she likes you, away you go.”

And that was the state of play as Christopher sat nervously, waiting to meet Baby Spice, hoping for the best but not quite daring to dream it could happen. “As I waited to go in, I remember thinking crikey, well, I really hope she likes me,” he says.

A magnanimous mission

We now know the result of that unusual meeting. But what convinced Emma to co-found Kit & Kin? A big attraction was the brand’s “three pillars”. Christopher explains: “Our brand makes three promises. Everything we do has to be better for baby, better for the world and must give something back.

“We’re better for baby because we strip out toxins found in everyday products. We’re better for the world because we use as many sustainable plant-based materials as possible. And we give back because everything we sell goes towards our ‘Buy An Acre’ programme. For every ten subscriptions sold, we buy and protect one acre of rainforest through our charitable partner, World Land Trust. That’s why our strapline is ‘Protecting Your World Naturally’. We’ve also taken our giving back one step further as we now fund educational scholarships and buy vital medicines for communities living in these areas”

Fast growth

That compelling mission attracted Emma and soon convinced big retailers, too. Despite Kit & Kin launching as a direct-to-consumer brand in March 2017, Ocado placed a significant order within a few months. Tesco, Boots and Waitrose soon followed. Awards came next: at the time of writing, Kit & Kin has won 38 industry medals, ranging from ‘Best Eco-Nappy’ to ‘Best Ethical Brand’ as voted for by parents.

An exciting future

Hard work, vision and ambition are the key ingredients behind Christopher and Emma’s Kit & Kin story. First, the hard work to transform the problematic Welsh factory into an opportunity. Next, the vision to recognise the opening presented by an eco-friendly swim nappy hanging in a giant hall in Amsterdam. Finally, the ambition to launch a sustainable brand to challenge the blue chips, fronted by a Spice Girl. The result is a fast-growing company with a huge future doing all it can to make the world a better place.

The Kit & Kin story is inspirational. It proves that even the wildest of visions can become a reality if you’re ambitious enough to pursue them, and wise enough to persevere carefully and patiently. So entrepreneurs rejoice! If a former manufacturer can team up with a Spice Girl, your business dream must surely be within reach.

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