We at City Wharf Private Wealth are passionate about highlighting, celebrating, and supporting entrepreneurs. Introducing #WorkingThroughAdversity – An exclusive series of business interviews to support and inspire entrepreneurs and others.
Discover successful founders who have taken control of their future despite adversity to provide for themselves, their families and for others. We were lucky enough to interview one of these inspiring entrepreneurs. Without further ado, introducing an interview with Guy Fennell from Pura.
Hi Guy, can you please tell us a little bit about you and your background before starting your business?
My wife Abi and I launched Pura under lockdown, in June last year. We’re not new to the process of launching and running a company as we both have other businesses: I run a wholesale business called Brand Ambassadors International, selling FMCG brands, while Abi has her own clothing retail business called Abi Fisher Clothing. Having sold other people’s brands, we were both keen to launch our own brand.
Thank you Guy Fennell Founder of Pura for the great introduction. Can you please tell us in your own words how and why did you decide to change direction and become a founder?
The trigger to launching Pura was when we started thinking about having a family. A lot of our friends were starting their families at that time and Abi and I were shocked by how many plastic based wipes we saw in friends’ homes.
I did my own research and discovered that 90% of the wipes currently sold in the UK contain plastic, meaning they can last more than 100 years in landfills, yet the vast majority of parent don’t know that the wipes they are using are made from plastic.
We had our first child Ezra, in March last year and it made us think about the legacy we’re leaving for our children.
We, therefore, decided to take on the big names in wipes, and in June last year our company Pura was born and we launched our own range of 100% plastic-free 100% biodegradable flushable, and non-flushable wipes.
1) What is the name of your business. 2) What does it do/provide? What is your website address? And finally… 3) Where is it based?
The company is called Pura and we produce a range of eco-friendly baby products. We’re based in Tattenhall near Chester. We’re on a mission to democratise environment-friendly products, making them affordable for all.
Following the launch of our wipes, we launched hand sanitisers in August last year and we launched our range of eco-friendly nappies. They are kind for babies’ bottoms, good for the planet, and are the most affordable disposable eco nappy available in the UK, They are competitively priced to match non-eco branded alternatives, while being cheaper than other eco nappies, with free next day delivery on all orders.
2021 has set the launch of our wipes and nappies in Europe, starting with Germany, then France, Spain, and Italy, with long-term plans to enter the US and Canadian markets.
We’re also responding to consumer demand that we extend the range beyond baby care into other sectors too.
What has been the story behind your success and what led to your ‘aha’ moment?
In addition to our 100% plastic free wipes offering, our subscription model, offering free next day delivery on all orders, has also been a critical factor in the success of the business so far. Convenience is key for consumers and we provided a timely solution for parents that stayed at home and avoided the supermarkets during lockdown.
In the first week after our wipes launch last year on the 21st of June (Father’s Day), we took 27,000 orders, and we’ve since seen sales growth of between 150% and 200% week-on-week, and our subscription base is expanding by 70% weekly.
What’s been your biggest hurdle so far and how did you overcome it? (Please kindly tell us about some of the challenges you’ve faced, what happened, how did you overcome it, what did you learn, and would you do anything differently?)
I think our biggest hurdle, which is ongoing, is the challenge to get the sale of plastic-based wipes banned in the UK. We’re making it our mission to achieve this.
We’re talking to MPs, other companies, and other stakeholders, to generate momentum to raise awareness of the issue among anyone who uses wipes.
We know it will take time to achieve, but we’re determined, as plastic-based wipes cause so many problems for the environment, going into landfill where they take generations to break down, or going into the sewers and clogging them up and contributing to fatbergs.
If there was one piece of advice you would say to another founder or someone thinking about starting a business, what would it be and why?
My approach to business has always been to go at it full throttle, but e-commerce is a whole different beast. It never sleeps!
You run at mach one, then you have to change gear – and then some more – to keep nimble. I don’t think I was completely prepared for how fast-paced Pura would be
1) What has been your biggest achievement and proudest moment so far and why? 2)What is your favourite quote? And lastly… 3) What motivates you on a daily basis?
I’m really proud of our Babies launch campaign which was hugely creative and original and conveyed a powerful anti-plastic message, encouraging parents to make a change. We didn’t think our budget would stretch to TV, but during lockdown a lot of companies had pulled their TV advertising to save costs, so we got a deal we couldn’t refuse. The film features different babies calling on their adults to ditch plastic wipes and it has already received more than 7 million views on YouTube.
I’m also really proud of the team for turning round our launch of a brand new range of eco-friendly nappies in the space of just a few months. There was an incredible amount of work involved, from sourcing raw materials such as eco-friendly sustainable organic cotton and certified natural plant fibres, with channel technology that draws moisture away from the skin to keep babies dry and comfortable, to designing packaging and web pages, working out pricing and production runs, we’ve achieved an incredible amount and the orders are already flooding in.
My favourite quote comes from my dad: ‘If it was easy everyone would be doing it’. He’s been my mentor on this journey and he nurtured me and been patient with me over the years. He’s a man of reason, always calm and is a good sounding board for me. Because he’s separate from the business and not involved financially, it means he gives objective advice.
On a daily basis I’m motivated by the progress Pura is making. We’ve just celebrated International Women’s Day.
What have you learned from the year 2020 and what do you look forward to in this year?
2020 has been the hardest year for everyone, so I’m naturally looking forward to how 2021 continues as the world is seeing progress emerging from the pandemic. While we faced many challenges last year, we’ve also learned a lot about being resilient and finding ways around problems.
This year will be a busy year for us as we’re launching our products into Europe.
We’re also going even further in our mission to reduce the environmental impact of disposable nappies, by working with the UK’s only nappy recycling company – NappiCycle – to keep disposable nappies out of the landfill and turn them into useful products like notice boards for schools and offices, panelling, and insulation.
In the last year alone, NappiCycle diverted more than 8,000 tonnes – the equivalent of 40 million nappies – from landfills in Wales and it’s Pura’s ambition to make nappy recycling the norm across the whole of the UK. We’re already in discussions with local authorities in England about piloting the scheme.
“Thank you, Guy Fennell and Abi Fennell for sharing your story.”
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