Hey there, wee Gazer! Happy Monday to you! If you’re feeling a little sluggish let’s kick off your week with a huge dose of entrepreneurial inspiration from George Bramble, co-founder of the award-winning, ‘green’ pet product and accessories company, Beco Pets.
Stocking an impressive range of eco-friendly products for dogs, cats and other pets, Beco exports products to 43 countries worldwide and are the UK’s leading poop bag specialists, selling more than 10 million bags worldwide.
And while poop bags may seem the stuff of giggles, with 8.5 million dogs in the UK alone, not to mention how much the Americans spend on their furry friends, George and his business partner, Toby, are a seriously enterprising pair.
So if you’re ever dreamt of changing direction career-wise but have no idea where to start, read on to see why you really should keep an open-mind about the direction you take. George’s innovation and motivation (which has seen Beco Pets featuring in The Times for selling chopsticks back to China in the form of dog bowls), is seriously rousing stuff…
Over to you, George…
Can You Tell Me A Bit About What You Do?
I am the Co-Founder of Beco Pets, the UK’s leading manufacturer of eco-friendly pet products. I look after the sales and marketing side of the business and we sell to pet specialty stores in the UK and in 43 markets abroad.
What Was Your Previous Experience Before Starting Your Business?
Having left the University of Birmingham in 2005 with a degree in geography and environmental sciences, I started on a graduate scheme at a global drinks manufacturer Bacardi Martini, where I gained invaluable experience in lots of different areas of business, from finance to marketing and sales. But after four years I decided the company wasn’t for me and I decided to start my own business.
What Inspired You To Start Your Business?
My inspiration was my brother Richard Bramble, who already ran his own successful business. I saw that hard work and dedication can lead to success and that the great thing about running your own business is that you are in control of your own destiny, which really appealed to me.
The other reason for starting my own business was having studied geography and environmental sciences at university. I have always had an interest in conservation and the environment so I decided that if I was going to make money out of a business, I wanted it to have an environmental and eco aspect to it – which is what inspired me to start Beco.
How Did You Manage To Build Your Business?
I was introduced to my now business partner, Toby Massey, through a mutual friend. I was sourcing eco-friendly products and Toby had vast experience in eco-friendly design and also, more importantly, manufacturing. We hit it off straightaway. He designed the products and sourced them through our network of factories in the Far East and I went about putting products on the shop shelves and the selling and marketing of the brand.
We have gone from strength to strength. From starting working out of Toby’s father’s garage in 2009, we now distribute to 43 markets worldwide and spend most of the year travelling round the world attending trade shows and seeing customers.
What’s Been The Biggest Highlight?
The UK pet product market is worth £4bn. The biggest highlight for us was conquering the American market. Last year we linked up with a US distributor and due to the size of the pet market there and Americans spending a huge amount on their pets and their eco purchasing decisions, we have grown tremendously. In fact, we have doubled our turnover in the last year.
What’s Been The Biggest Challenge?
Any start-up business faces various challenges, obstacles and really hard work. I remember sitting on Toby’s brother’s office roof putting stickers on pet bowls for 48 hours straight, downing energy drinks to stay awake – all because we were on a deadline to fulfil an order for our first big distributor.
As for anyone running their own business, each day presents itself with hurdles to overcome but the biggest challenge for us came at the beginning when Beco wasn’t generating enough to pay our wages and we were very much living hand to mouth. But after a few months of hard work and tight budgets, we turned the corner and we haven’t looked back since.
What’s Your Favourite Product?
If someone had told me when I left university that I would be making my living by selling eco-friendly dog poop bags I would have said they were nuts. But one of the biggest parts of our business is selling degradable poop bags, so there is money in s**t after all.
How Do You Build Your Client Base?
We use good old-fashioned sales. It started with a phone directory and we began ringing up and selling our products on the phone, within the UK but also worldwide. When you are selling to New Zealand, it meant there were some 4am starts. And when you are selling to the US, you have to stay up late into the night. Now we have distributors in markets all over the world and a full sales team in the UK with reps on the road.
What’s The Best Compliment You’ve Received?
We get compliments every day but the biggest compliment for me is when members of the public review out products online and say how much they – and importantly, their pets – love them and that they are so pleased that a company like Beco Pets is trying to make a difference to our planet.
What Advice Would You Give To Budding Entrepreneurs?
I’ll offer three pieces of advice.
1. Innovation And Hard Work
I was always told it’s not the dog in the fight, it’s the fight in the dog. Meaning that you have to give everything 150 per cent and always be thinking of clever ways to compete with your big rivals in the market place.
2. Cash Is King
In other words, keep on top of your cash flow. You might be selling millions of pounds’ worth of product but if you run out of cash your business is no more.
3. Listen To Your Customers
You might think you have the greatest product or service, but if your customers don’t, you haven’t got a business.
What’s Next For You?
We have enjoyed record growth and success in the last year and our next objective is to grow our international profile even more. We currently export our products to 43 countries around the world and it is my ambition to meet as many of our customers in the US and around the world as possible. Beco Pets has a fantastic profile in the UK and our eco-friendly approach to business is something we share with colleagues around the world.
How Can We Contact You?
What’s Your Favourite Quote?
Tell Us Something We Didn’t Know About You….
One of the secrets of my success, I believe, is starting every day with a cold water lido swim as it gets my endorphins going. I always swim for up to 45 minutes. One day I’d like to swim the English Channel.