Baby Hub is growing into a global business
BABY HUB, the innovative Jersey-based brand, is expanding globally with new stockists in France, Germany and Spain, as well as continuing to build its UK presence. Founder of the design and export business, Catherine Curtis, wants to see more structured support for local entrepreneurs like her.
Baby Hub’s launch product, the SleepSpace cot, is now on sale across the UK and has just gone into Argos. By the end of this year they will be launching two new products and are in talks with a major new investor.
Founder, Catherine Curtis, has been joined by operations and business development assistant, Gemma Aubert, and they are now eyeing India, China and the United States markets. The SleepSpace cot is currently going through the American safety check process.
Catherine, who is a mother herself, launched the idea more than five years ago after designing the SleepSpace cot during her final year of a degree, ‘It’s strange sometimes to do a Google on baby hub and see it’s for sale the other side of the world and think, “how did that get there from a thought in my mind?”.’
Catherine had already started two small businesses before launching Baby Hub and received a lot of support and advice from Jersey Business, as well as patenting advice from Derek Bernard. However, she said there were several challenges: ‘Making something new and different means there’s a big resistance to it. Being based in a small island is difficult because there isn’t that easy access to expertise. I think a lot of the time I wasn’t taken very seriously, but that hasn’t always been a problem and also I didn’t have any funds myself for the business so it took a long time to convince people to put money into it.
‘I think one of Jersey’s advantages is that we have really good people to invest in business, the trouble is you have to go out and find them yourself and I think it would be great if Jersey Business could have something set up for people to tap into this resource. It’s not structured in that way here, but there are lots of good investors here.’
Catherine received a loan from the now defunct Innovation Fund, and what has been seen as an overall failure of the start-up support fund still haunts her: ‘It does still come up and it doesn’t feel good when I hear people saying none of the businesses paid it back because we did pay it back in full with interest. I’m not going to lie, it was a very difficult process for us as well. Very hard work.
‘Overall I think it’s great that Jersey was willing to support Jersey residents with new ventures and I fully support that and I think it would be better run as an investment business rather than loans.’
It’s the current lack of support that Catherine thinks can hold back Jersey businesses, particularly those like hers who want to export: ‘One thing I didn’t keep in mind at the beginning, and a lot of people don’t realise as well, it’s not enough to have good products and funding and retail outlets and promotions because you’re also in competition with other people wanting to sell products to the same market. This is where people with Jersey businesses have a much harder time than those in the UK because in the UK, a similar business to ours, one we know, received a £100,000 grant straight away before they even started prototyping; so there is a lot more support. So although it doesn’t look good and it hurts when there is money loaned out to businesses and they haven’t paid it back, the overall picture is that businesses in Jersey don’t get the same support and because they’re in competition, if they’re exporting, that matters. That’s much more likely to make them fail.
‘If people want anything else apart from the finance industry then they will have to expect government to support those other businesses because, like I said, they’re in competition with businesses that are supported and so without that support you’d only get maybe one out of a hundred that would get anywhere because they’re at a huge disadvantage.’
Catherine has some advice for entrepreneurs looking for some funding support and not risking giving away all their equity: ‘People need to have something new and exciting before they go and speak to a potential new investor. We wouldn’t look to sign off a deal with an investor unless we’d just had a new award or a new product coming out or some new sales to show them and then you’ve got something to keep the price up.’
It’s been a busy year for Baby Hub and there is lots more to do. They have been working on two new products for the past two years and these will be on sale by the end of the year, with a long list of others to follow and some big plans: ‘We’ve got a very big investment business we are talking to at the moment, based in London, so if we do get together with them then that will launch us up to the next level.’
Islanders are now able to buy the SleepSafe cot at specialist baby retailer, Little Star in Liberty Wharf.