Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Success Is on the Cards for a Business That Keeps It Simple; GROWTH CAPITAL HOW LONDON'S ENTREPRENEURS ARE BUCKING THE ECONOMIC GLOOM

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Success Is on the Cards for a Business That Keeps It Simple; GROWTH CAPITAL HOW LONDON'S ENTREPRENEURS ARE BUCKING THE ECONOMIC GLOOM

Article excerpt

Byline: Lucy Tobin

THEY say the best ideas are the simplest: entrepreneurs Patrick Gavin and Chris Bibby are so adamant their Card Vase is easy to make and sell, they named their business Blooming Simple to ram the point home. The duo's product is two pieces of cardboard -- which buyers can inscribe with a personal message -- that look like traditional greetings cards but can be folded into the shape of a vase. Each has a lining to hold water, making what Blooming Simple thinks is the ideal gift to go with a bouquet of flowers.

"It's the sort of idea that makes everyone who sees it at trade fairs say: 'I wish I'd thought of that,'" laughs Gavin. But as they didn't, the card vase has seen these two old school friends, plus Tony Pinder, the father of one of their friends who originally came up with the idea, to create a business based in Bexleyheath which has attracted retailers from America, France, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Hungary, Poland, Belgium, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands and South Africa as well as the UK.

Gavin, 35, had spent a decade as a photocopier salesman when Pinder approached him and Bibby, 36, about the card vase. Pinder had started work on a patent but was keen to take a stake in the business and pass it onto the duo.

They agreed, and brought in a third old friend from school, Trent Scanlan, to contribute to the [pounds sterling]3000 to finalise the patent and launch the business.

None, however, had any idea how to make the card vase. "I would spend days at paper mills, trying different thicknesses of cards and inner bags," says Bibby. "I'd spent my life working in the cleaning business, I knew nothing about vases, but we all stumbled along." Keen to manufacture here, the entrepreneurs were pleased when a contact offered them cut-price labour rates to create and assemble their vases. It turned out the cheap labour force was made up of local prisoners in a London jail. "At first, the samples came back looking brilliant but after a while we noticed the packages coming back with tape hanging off -- the quality wasn't high enough," says Gavin. "We realised we'd need to produce the cards abroad to make it viable."

Demonstrating their first, prisonmade card vases at a trade fair, all 2000 units sold out, "even though when we look back at it now the design was so amateur, with just one image stuck on the front," says Bibby. So the founders felt confident enough about their idea to commit themselves to manufacturing several thousand card vases in China.

"It wasn't easy," says Gavin. "We went in via a sourcing company because we had heard so many horror stories of corruption in China. Even so, our first Chinese factory had production problems, and our UK printers were using the wrong templates and dies to cut the vases. …

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