(Bloomberg Businessweek) —
With one swipe of a chubby little hand, a baby sends breakfast flying, plastering nearby surfaces with bits of blueberry porridge. It’s a scene Joel Remy Parkes, a father of four, is on a mission to prevent. In 2015, when his youngest child was starting on solids, Parkes grew tired of the food-stained patch on his kitchen floor. That prompted him to think about making sustainable plates and bowls, with suction cups on the bottom to stop dishes from toppling.
Parkes soon introduced a line of plastic-free, nontoxic tableware in animal shapes made of bamboo and silicone, appropriately called Bamboo Bamboo. The brand took off, thanks to social media posts from influencers and parents. In 2018, just over two years in, Parkes quit his job as a software sales rep to focus on the business. Here, the 40-year-old shares lessons from his journey.
How are you managing Bamboo Bamboo’s growth?
We grew very quickly and finished 2021 with around £5 million ($6.6 million) of revenue. But what it will take to get to eight figures is new hires, expertise, and growing new muscles in different places. That’s been the biggest lesson for me.
When did you realize you needed to bring in help?
I was a major blockage in growth. My first hire was a year-and-a-half ago. We sometimes ran out of stock because I didn’t have an inventory manager, and I realized I was feeding the competition. It’s common among entrepreneurs to be hesitant to truly believe your business is a success.
Are your kids involved?
They are the original product testers. My daughter loves unicorns so much that I thought, “I have to have a unicorn plate.” They look at products that are similar to ours and say, “Hey, these guys are trying to copy you,” or “This looks good.” They live and breathe it, which I absolutely love.
We are available in the U.K., Europe, U.S., Australia, and Singapore. The next step is to double down on those markets. Germany is huge and we have lots of customers there, but we haven’t done anything specific for the market—not even translation. We can become more local and partner with like-minded brands. Amazon.com recently reached out about its Climate Pledge Friendly initiative, and our products are perfect for that. How much plastic have we helped parents avoid? I’d love to have that validated.
Edited for length and clarity.
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Rebecca Penty in London at email@example.com
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