How a gift company built in lockdown changed its creator’s life

The co-founder of Colleague Box and the Beer and Business Club talks flexibility, family and their 100,000th sale.

colleague box


Adam Bamford is the CEO of personalised gift company Colleague Box that he set up with his wife Natalie during the first national lockdown after Natalie was furloughed. In five months, they had turned over £1m and moved into their second warehouse, taking on new staff to cope with demand. They’re busy preparing for Christmas, so we grabbed Adam for a quick chat.

What was the inspiration for starting the business?

I was previously working remotely for a company that did really well at looking after employees and making them feel valued. When lockdown hit I saw an opportunity to introduce good value products that would appeal to companies new to remote working and needing to engage colleagues who were suddenly dispersed.

How tough did you find that as a working dad?

Initially it wasn’t so bad as my day-to-day workload had fallen, but as the business grew and Lockdown 1 ended I was effectively working two full-time jobs whilst having two children at home. This made balancing time away from working nearly impossible at times which made me feel guilty despite the success I was seeing from the business.

How do YOU work flexibly?

I’ve found that having a rigid structure to my day has really helped. Allocated time for family, emails and relaxing helps me enjoy those slots more as I no longer feel guilty, whereas before it didn’t matter if I was working or leisure I would feel guilty for not doing the other!

colleague box

Are you able to have family-friendly policies for your employees?

We have a relaxed policy to working hours; come and go as you please as long as you complete your set hours. I don’t expect our colleagues to ask permission to attend school commitments, doctors or generally anything as I trust the team to do what we need them to do regardless of location or having children around. I much prefer the feeling of knowing the team are happy and relaxed over having them around 9-5pm and watching over them.

What more could the government do for entrepreneurs like you?

I think taxes need to be reviewed for small businesses within the first three years of trading. We are expected to grow, take on more colleagues and invest in equipment, but at every turn you are either taxed or penalised for doing well and I feel a disproportionate amount of revenue ends up on tax rather than staying within the business.

You obviously started off small and are growing. How have you found that transition and what do you think helped you achieve that?

As you grow, the business and all the component parts get harder as you deal with more complex issues. However, bringing on a solid team of leaders has helped and where we can’t afford the in-house expertise we have outsourced for things like accountants that are vital but always challenging. So I’d say it’s been hard but utilising the strengths of those around you will help you move much faster than on your own.

Read more:

Bobby Lane of Factotum on how he sees companies adapting their family policies moving forward

Getting a job in 2022: some expert tips and tricks


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