In conversation: Laura Tenison, founder of JoJo Maman Bébé

The entrepreneur launched her mother and baby brand in 1993 after a head-on car crash.

by Stephen Jones

On her entrepreneurial journey

I started with a cottage industry fashion company, but I’d been struggling to raise the finance to get to the next level. I spotted a gap in the market to find and renovate property in Brittany for rural British clients. A few years later I sold that company as a going concern and finally had some start-up capital to get back into fashion, design and retail. This time the banks were helpful and they match-funded my investment. 

I had the cash but then I needed to hone in on the right idea. Through adversity comes opportunity: I launched Jojo Maman Bébé in 1993 when I was 26, while I was recovering from a head-on collision on a French country lane. I struck up a conversation with my ward neighbour. I was gradually getting better but sadly she was terminally ill with cancer, so to keep herself busy she would spend her time looking through mail order catalogues looking for clothes for her two babies. She was really frustrated at the lack of choice and quality. I love French nautical style - but it can be quite serious - so my idea was to take that French practical, classic French style and add a bit of British humour.

On growing a business

In the first year with a team of two employees we turned over £30,000. We had to type in 40,000 names and addresses of mail order customers into the computer. I sketched the designs, visited the factories, wrote the press releases and packed the parcels all from my parents’ shed in Wales. Money was tight and it took three years to make a profit, but we survived for two reasons. 

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