Proving that Kickstarter and other crowd funding sites aren't the only place to find backing, mother and cycling enthusiast Jo Hockley has tapped into a government campaign to support British businesses to boost her 'first bike for toddlers' to retail.
West Sussex-based Hockley founded Toddlebike and had already negotiated exclusive distribution rights in the UK for the quality, lightweight bikes for young children but was keen to increase sales.
Through the PitchUp programme – run by national enterprise campagin StartUp Britain – Hockley won the chance to present her product successfully to high street retail giant John Lewis and as a direct result, Toddlebikes are now on sale in 32 John Lewis stores around the UK.
PitchUp offers start-ups and new businesses a chance to get their products in front of key retail buyers, something notoriously difficult to do for many start ups. Since the initiative was started in 2012, more than 1,000 new businesses have applied and almost 50 have pitched to buyers. Eight are now stocked or in the process of being stocked on high street shelves as a result.
Hockley said that the mentoring she received from the store group was invaluable, “in terms of how my offer fitted into their bigger offering, as well as about speaking to the press and promoting the product.
"The development of my business has been phenomenal. It’s propelled us from being little more than a hobby to being a proper business. The benefits in terms of exposure, help and training, and of feeling part of a bigger, experienced team, have been amazing.
“We are supporting the Business is GREAT campaign to highlight our story to other SMEs looking to grow and show the support available to help them fulfil this ambition.”
The “Business is Great Britain” campaign (www.greatbusiness.gov.uk) was kick-started by Business Secretary Vince Cable and Skills and Enterprise Minister Matthew Hancock in 2013. The campaign offers information, inspiration and support for businesses to take the next step in their growth journey.