Dad creates £4M business from bamboo invention

Joel Parkes, a father of four, created sustainable business Bamboo Bamboo to make toddlers’ meal-times plastic-free.

joel parkes entrepreneur dad


What sparked you to start the business?

In 2015, I was in the process of weaning my son and was struggling to find a solution to the mess he would make by flipping his bowls and plates. The suction utensils on the market were disappointing, poorly made and didn’t work as promised. On top of that, they were all made of plastic.

That’s when I came across an article that really struck me: “Did you know that nearly every piece of plastic ever created still exists?” This made me want to do something to make a difference. I realised that there was a need for functional, stylish, and sustainable suction bowls and plates, and I decided to start my own business to fill this gap. Bamboo Bamboo was born to create something that was not only practical and effective but also positively impacted the environment.

How difficult was it at the beginning?

Starting a business can be daunting, and the beginning of my journey was no exception. The hardest part was deciding to self-fund the business by selling anything I hadn’t used in six months. It was a risky move, but I was determined to make my dream a reality.

With that decision made, I launched in 2016 with my own website and on Amazon. Amazon continues to be a large part of the business, contributing to 65-70% of our sales. It’s helped us grow quickly and reach a wider audience of parents by enabling us to expand into new markets across the globe.

Fast forward to today, we are now an established brand with several millions in revenue. Since inception, we have grown almost 100% YOY, accelerated through Fulfilment By Amazon which enables our products to be in the hands of many parents quickly. We have also been fortunate enough to partner with large global brands like Peppa Pig, which has helped to increase our visibility further. It hasn’t been an easy road, but it has certainly been worth it.

What do you think you have done right and wrong?

What I believe we did right was keeping the customer at the centre of our business and always focusing on their needs. We listened to their feedback and used it to guide the expansion of our product range, and we never compromised on quality, even when competitors and replica brands copied us and used cheaper materials to sell a cheaper product.

One of the things that we did wrong was not anticipating how fast we would grow and the possibility of running out of stock. This was a lesson learned the hard way, and we have since put systems in place to better forecast and manage our inventory to avoid future shortages.

How do you juggle work and family?

Juggling work and family can be a challenge; honestly, I haven’t always done it very well. It can be hard not to bring work home when your children use the products daily and are the original product testers 🙂 But I am getting better at finding a balance between work and family.

It’s important to set boundaries and ensure that I am present and focused with my family. This means setting aside dedicated time for work and family, and ensuring that I am not constantly checking my phone or email when I am with my loved ones.

How do you utilise family-friendly policies in the business currently and what do you have planned?

At Bamboo Bamboo, we understand that balancing work and family responsibilities can be a challenge, especially for parents. That’s why we have implemented several family-friendly policies to support our employees and their families.

For example, we offer flexible work schedules that allow our employees to work around their commitments, and we have a paid parental leave policy to help them transition back to work after the birth or adoption of a child. In addition, we also make an effort to be flexible and accommodating of the needs of our employees working with young children at home. We believe that these policies help to create a positive and supportive work environment for everyone.#

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