Following her studies, travelling, and running her small clothing business, Laura sets up a company based in Brittany, France. Here, she falls in love with the outdoor lifestyle, the practical way children are dressed to enjoy being active whatever the weather, and of course, the chic Breton stripes first worn by the French Navy as a form of high-vis jacket in the case of ‘man overboard’. On her way to sell her company, Laura has a near-fatal collision, leading to an extended stay in hospital. Her ward neighbour complains about the lack of good catalogue fashion for her children, and the idea for JoJo is conceived: Breton-influenced, quirky British fashion via mail order.
From our humble beginnings as a kitchen table start-up, our ethos has always been the same: to offer gorgeous, quirky yet practical designs and excellent customer service while putting people and the planet before profit. So much yet so little has changed since 1993; we’re no longer a one-woman band, but we’re still creating beautiful collections while being kind to the world around us.
In the beginning
JoJo is born
The first team members arrive
The first team members are recruited (who are mostly still with the company today). Some lucky PR and an eclectic maternity collection get the brand noticed by the press and customers flow in. Predicting and keeping up with demand is a steep early learning curve.
Learning from experience
After 3 years of working around the clock, Laura’s first son is born. Finally having a child of her own, she starts to really understand the needs of the mother, and innovative nursery products are added to the range. Helping the collection keep up with modern technology, JoJo launches its first website early on, when 99% of internet users are computer geeks, and most people don’t know what the WWW is.
Keeping up with demand
After years of trading out of various sheds and garages, JoJo finally buys a 20,000 sq ft warehouse in Newport, Wales to help cope with growing demand. Within 4 years the company doubles the space with a large extension. JoJo head office works closely with the community and builds good local loyalty.
Putting people and the environment first
Productivity is high; employees understand the brand values and work in an environment which puts people and the planet above bottom line profit. A profit share system is introduced and after years of development, the JoJo recycled Polarfleece is perfected and put into production.
The first JoJo store opens
JoJo opens its first store in Battersea, London after giving in to customer pressure. Old fashioned customer service and highly trained staff prove to be a hit, and several more stores open soon after. Within 10 years JoJo becomes the leading boutique mother and baby brand in the UK.
Hard work gets recognised
Laura Tenison receives an MBE for services to
business in the Queen’s New Year’s honours list.
Doing good while doing well
Wanting to support a charity where the funds really make a difference, JoJo decides to work directly with communities in rural Mozambique to reduce infant mortality. Working with a small local charity, JoJo takes on the accounts and helps with fundraising and managing the teams. Nema, together with JoJo, has since built 5 schools which provide education to 1,500 children, introduced 2 motorbike ambulances to the village and brought access to clean water to 20,000 people via 42 water points. Read our blog for more details.
The expansions continues in Newport…
The international department launches at a start-up level with trade fairs around the world, offering the quirky British designs with a French nautical style to worldwide customers. The collections are a hit and agents are appointed, with JoJo now being sold in 50 countries across the world. To keep up with demand, JoJo needs more space and relocates down the road to a new 90,000 sq ft warehouse and new purpose-built offices, staying local to retain the loyal workforce.
…and in London
After 10 years of working from a small property in London, the JoJo Design, Buying and Marketing studio moves to its gorgeous new home in a converted convent school. JoJo House is christened with a company BBQ and the introduction of a team gardening club.
JoJo celebrates 20 years
JoJo celebrates its 20th birthday. The mission today is exactly the same as it was in 1993: to design gorgeous collections and innovative products for mums-to-be, parents and their babies, whilst offering exemplary customer service, being loyal to our suppliers, sensible about the environment and respecting our teams. To mark the occasion, JoJo recruits Eloise, a vintage Citroen HY Van who now travels all over the country, spreading the JoJo word.
A place for everybody
JoJo is voted Best Employer in the Disability Awards by Sammy-Jo our long-time employee with Downs Syndrome, recognising the company’s on-going effort to work with those with learning disabilities by offering full contract employment or work placements.
Fit for a princess
JoJo comes to the attention of the world’s press when worn by the British Royal Family. The Duchess of Cambridge looked amazing in the already aptly named “Cream Princess Coat” whilst visiting the set of Downton Abbey. The youngest member of the Royal Family is spotted in JoJo too; Princess Charlotte can be seen wearing a JoJo Peter Pan top in her 2nd birthday official portrait.
From a Mother to Another
JoJo begins its latest charity initiative, From a Mother to Another (FAMTA) which aims to provide Syrian refugees living in Lebanon with good quality, donated clothes, as well as families in need based in the UK, all while helping to reduce the amount of clothing sent to landfill each year.
As the company grows, so does the need for technological upgrades. Moving the whole business onto a new software system is a long and complex task but the hard work pays off, offering much-needed improvements. Customer behaviour is changing too, with social media playing an ever more important role in the consumer journey. JoJo focuses on producing more video content and collaborating with influencers to connect with and inspire parents.
Preserving our planet
Looking after the world around us is more crucial than ever before. JoJo ramps up its efforts by introducing a number of projects in line with its B Corp status, including installing water refill points in new stores, increasing the range of clothing and products made from recycled plastics, working with the Better Cotton Initiative and planning the JoJo Forever Forest to help offset carbon emissions.
As we welcome a new decade, little do we realise the whole world is about to be confronted by a global pandemic. COVID-19 hits and we go into lockdown, with shops, schools and offices shutting their doors. Life as we know it has changed overnight, and so have customer needs. JoJo sees unprecedented demand for online orders, and the brave teams work round the clock to keep up.
Where to next..?
Despite its devastating impact, the world begins to acclimatise to the lasting effects of the pandemic. With restrictions gradually being lifted, a glimmer of normality is on the horizon and JoJo is able to shift its focus back to its environmental projects. This year, as part of a pledge to more than balance JoJo’s carbon footprint at organisational level, thousands of trees will be planted in the JoJo Forever Forest, and other environmental initiatives will also be actively pursued, which you can find out more about at The Heart of JoJo.