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As the Founder and CEO of JoJo Maman Bébé, Laura Tenison has grown the company organically from its start-up in 1993 to become the UK and Ireland’s leading independent omni channel mother and baby brand. Offering in-house designed fashionable maternity wear, a Breton inspired children’s collection and original nursery products, gifts and toys; JoJo offers everything you need from pregnancy to pre-school. Tenison previously ran a small fashion company before setting up a French property business based in Brittany. When she sold this venture, her aim was to offer practical and affordable fashion for mothers and babies combining classic nautical styles with fun British humour in the designs.
With start-up capital of just £50K and two part-time members of staff, JoJo now has a gross turnover of nearly £70M in the current financial year and employs around 900 people. The company has more than 90 stores across the UK and Ireland and continues to expand domestically.
Internationally the business sells across the globe on a small scale and concentrates on building brand awareness in Germany, and in the US where a retail stores roll out has been launched to compliment the trade and ecommerce sales. Sales have grown around 200% over the past two years and the first four retail stores opening in Connecticut and New Jersey in summer 2018.
The business ethos is based on a strong code of ethical business practice, where people and the planet are ranked higher on the agenda than bottom line profit. The company prides itself on its long standing employees with many of the founding members still part of the team. Emphasis is placed upon the service offered to customers and the value for money in the product. This ethos permeates through the company and has established the brand in the eyes of the consumer as a business to trust.
Laura Tenison is a trustee of the company charity, Nema Foundation, based in Mozambique. The tie-in was initiated to ensure that company donations make a real difference to the lives of less fortunate children and to reduce infant mortality in this extremely poor area of Africa. ‘Nema’, which translates as “happiness after hardship” has built 5 schools, feeds 1500 children a school meal daily, funds up to 100 secondary school boarding scholarships, runs two ambulances and offers employment to the 10 strong local team. All projects are undertaken with a sustainable aid ethos, working with the local communities. The greatest challenge to date Is underway; to build the hospital which supports 24,000 people.
Tenison is a keen cyclist and is passionate about sensible environmental policies. She is adamant that it is possible to do well whilst doing good, and eschews waste in any form. She has launched a nationwide clothing recycling initiative called From a Mother to Another which encourages parents to gift outgrown clothing to those in need. Over the past year up to 100,000 items of clothing and 30,000 pairs of nearly new shoes and boots have been saved from landfill, re-packaged and donated to those in need in the UK and Syrian Refugees living in Lebanon and Turkey, via the in-house managed Initiative.
Laura Tenison has worked as a voluntary role model in schools and universities and enjoys giving inspirational and information speeches to women’s groups, business conferences and at networking events both in the UK and internationally. In the past she has given many talks including a speech in French on behalf of the Welsh Assembly at the Hotel du Matignon, Paris and inspirational talks at such diverse venues as the British Library, London Chamber of Commerce, the Cycle Show, Earls Court and Women in Business, Abuja, Nigeria.
Her subject matter is varied and covers environmental and ethical business practices, juggling a career and family, building a business without capital and many other subjects. Her style is candid and informative whilst being entertaining. She has appeared on TV and radio programmes and has taken part in the BBC’s Peter Jones Meets, Beat the Boss, The Apprentice – You’re Fired, Channel 4 News, BBC Breakfast TV and BBC2’s Working Lunch, BBC Radio 4 and 5, Sky News and Bloomberg TV to name a few.