Q&A with Chris Forbes, Cheeky Panda

Friday, 22 November 2019

Cheeky Panda’s co-founder and Director Chris Forbes will be joining the Overseas Expansion panel at Elite Business Live 2020. Ahead of the event, Chris tells us about the brand’s international expansion, and how green consumerism is shaping the market.

Q&A with Chris Forbes, Cheeky Panda

Cheeky Panda’s co-founder and Director Chris Forbes will be joining the Overseas Expansion panel at Elite Business Live 2020. Ahead of the event, Chris tells us about the brand’s international expansion, and how green consumerism is shaping the market.

What was the ‘lightbulb moment’ that created Cheeky Panda?

It was Julie’s idea – I can’t take credit for it. We tested the products for almost a year before starting the company. The two big questions were ethical supply chain and scalability: once we visited China in December 2015 and saw it for ourselves, that was our lightbulb moment.

What were your biggest challenges in turning your idea for Cheeky Panda a reality?

People that come up with ideas for a business sometimes spend too long in the strategy phase and not the execution phase.  The most important thing for us was to test the market for demand. We launched a Crowdfunder campaign in February 2016 to test the water, once we hit our target in March, we took that business concept to reality. 

You now supply your bamboo tissue products outside of the UK – what sparked this decision, and how did you take the first step?

In 2016 we visited a large European Trade show at Excel and we decided to exhibit in April 2017.  This allowed us to showcase our products to international distributors and retail chains throughout Europe and the Middle East.  From there we started working with a few countries and that has now grown to over 20 countries. Europe and Dubai are going really well, next step for us in launching into the USA and China.

What were the biggest obstacles to taking your brand overseas, and how did you overcome them?

Our brand is clean and unique. Everything centres around the brand, and the hardest part of overseas expansion is making sure you have the translations correct.  We have both French and German nationals working in our team – having naturalised talent makes it a lot easier to get the translations right and build the brand.

Going global can be a daunting experience. What would you say to other entrepreneurs who are hesitating over launching their product in a new region?

It’s a global market but you need to understand your supply chains, the cost of delivery of the products and if the markets can support your prices.  There’s a difference between a product company and a services business. Scalability internationally takes many forms and if it is dependent on people it can be easier to grow domestically than overseas.  It’s a balance, but I would say it’s easier for companies selling products than it is for services businesses.

How are environmental concerns changing the business landscape? 

The growth of green consumerism is at the heart of the decisions we make in this part of human history.  I can see a world where sustainability is not a ‘nice to have’ but a default standard. The alternative prospect of ignoring the finite resources this planet has to offer has far reaching social and economic consequences, verging on global catastrophe.

You engage with your audience on social media – particularly about environmental issues. How has digital had an impact on your brand?

We love digital, we have a great brand message and we try to be Cheeky as well as educational in what we do and why we make our products.        

Why is it important to you to address other business leaders at events like this one?

Ploughing a field on your own is a lonely and hard path. If many people take on big challenges together, we create our own business eco system and achieve change much faster.  This platform allows me to engage with senior leaders in a more eloquent way that it would be if I reached out to each of them independently. 

To hear more from Chris, join us at Elite Business Live 2020. Find the advice inspiration you need to grow your business, whatever your challenge: book your tickets today https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/elite-business-live-2020-where-entrepreneurial-minds-meet-tickets-71142768937