JoJo Maman Bébé
Laura Tenison has grown JoJo Maman Bébé into one of Britain’s biggest names in maternity clothing and babywear, with more than 90 UK stores and a rising international profile. She explains why corporate responsibility and a dedicated Welsh workforce are key to its success.
I started a Welsh company with a French name because I wanted to make clear that we had inter - national ambitions. Wales isn’t just a beautiful country; it’s a great place to run a global operation. We have extremely good communications networks. It’s easily practicable to commute from South Wales to London, where we have our marketing and design office, and Heathrow is less than two hours from our base in Newport. We’re part of Europe and part of the world.
The JoJo Maman Bébé ethos has always been to put social responsibility above profit. I come from a large family, and I’ve tried to stay true to two of my mother’s mottos. The first is “waste not, want not”. When I worked for other people, I couldn’t fathom all the wastefulness I encountered, and was determined to run a lean and efficient business when I started up on my own. That’s why we’ve always aimed to be environmentally responsible – even before the term became part of our vocabulary.
The other motto that was drilled into me was “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. If you look after your team, it makes for a far better and friendlier working environment, and the business gets much more out of everyone. The workforce we’ve built up in South Wales is loyal and dedicated, and employees stay with us for a long time. This means we have people in operational roles who know the brand well and understand our values. It gives them the chance to get better and better at their jobs – and as long as we keep up with the latest technological advances, they become more productive.
We work hard to ensure we can recruit from within Wales. It’s a great shame when companies are crying out for a particular skill set and young people are looking for good jobs, but the two just aren’t connecting. We liaise with colleges and educational establishments across our region, and I’ve spent time lecturing in local universities and advising course directors on the skills that students need for our industry.
We have both graduate and non-graduate trainee programmes, and we run work placements for local schools. Over the last two generations, we’ve seen South Wales move away from heavy industry, but the Welsh Government and local education providers have been focused on ensuring that students come through the system with the qualifications that modern businesses are looking for.
Staff development is important to us, too. If someone on our team wants to pursue studies that will be of benefit to themselves or to the company, we’ll support them. Ours is a busy workplace and we’re a growing company, so people need to work around the pressures of the business; but where possible, we’ll give them the time to study and revise for exams. Empowering people through education is essential.
All our people have to have an international mindset. JoJo Maman Bébé now ships to around 56 countries on the trade business side, and we have two international websites, selling directly to consumers in Ireland and America. We send our Welsh teams all across the world to meet wholesale clients or train our local workforce.
Our four stores in the United States are run directly from our retail operations team in Wales. We want our American customers to be able to talk to JoJo rather than go through a local call centre, so we have a US customer services team here in Newport, working an evening shift to allow for the time difference. It’s important to me that the world sees Wales as an international, outward-facing country. We’re not insular – we are the “Global Welsh”.