As the founder and Managing Director of JoJo Maman Bébé, Laura has grown the company organically from its start-up in 1993 to become the UK and Ireland's leading mother and baby independent brand. Offering fashionable maternity wear, a Breton inspired children’s collection and original nursery products, gifts and toys; JoJo offers everything you need from pregnancy to pre-school. Laura Tenison previously ran a small fashion company before setting up a French property business based in Brittany. When she sold this venture, her aim was to bring the quirky nautical style home and offer practical and affordable fashion for mothers and babies.
With start-up capital of just £50K and only two part time members of staff, Laura has grown the company to a forecast gross turnover of £55M in the current financial year and employs over 700 people. The company, now with 75 stores, continues to expand both organically in the UK and via trade sales to over 60 countries across the world. With real time sales via all channels; UK and USA website, social networking platforms, catalogues and boutiques across the UK and Ireland, JoJo offers a truly multi-channel service.
The business ethos is based on a strong code of ethical business practice, where people and the planet are ranked higher on the agenda than bottom line profit. The company prides itself on its long standing employees with the majority of the founding members still part of the team. Emphasis is placed upon the service offered to customers and the value for money in the product. This ethos permeates through the company and has established the brand in the eyes of the consumer as a business to trust.
Laura Tenison is a trustee of the company charity, Nema, based in Mozambique. The tie-in was initiated to ensure that company donations make a real difference to the lives of less fortunate children and to reduce infant mortality in this extremely poor area of Africa. ‘Nema’, (registered charity number 1113131) which translates as “happiness after hardship” is currently receiving assistance from JoJo in the form of UK administration; bookkeeping, funding of charity overheads, ongoing in-house donations and fundraising. Nema is currently building it's 5th school, funding up to 100 secondary school boarding scholarships, running two ambulances and offering employment to the 9 strong local team. All projects are undertaken with a sustainable aid ethos, working with the local communities.
Laura is a keen cyclist and is passionate about sensible environmental policies. She is adamant that it is possible to do well whilst doing good, and eschews waste in any form. She has launched a nationwide clothing recycling initiative called From a Mother to Another which encourages parents to gift outgrown clothing to those in need. Over the past year up to 50,000 items of clothing and 22,000 pairs of nearly new shoes and boots have been saved from landfill, re-packaged and donated to those in need in the UK and Syrian Refugees in camps on the borders in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan.
Laura has worked as a voluntary role model in schools and universities and enjoys giving inspirational and information speeches to women’s groups, business conferences and at networking events both in the UK and internationally. In the past she has given many talks including a speech in French on behalf of the Welsh Assembly at the Hotel du Matignon, Paris and inspirational talks at such diverse venues as the British Library, London Chamber of Commerce, the Cycle Show, Earls Court and Women in Business, Abuja, Nigeria.
Her subject matter is varied and covers environmental and ethical business practices, juggling a career and family, building a business without capital and many other subjects. Her style is candid and informative whilst being entertaining. She is also happy to appear on TV and radio programmes and has taken part in the BBC’s Peter Jone’s Meets, Beat the Boss, The Apprentice – You’re Fired, Channel 4 News, BBC Breakfast TV and BBC2’s Working Lunch, BBC Radio 4 and 5, Sky News and Bloomberg TV to name a few.
Laura Tenison has been fortunate in receiving many honours and awards over the years, including:
- MBE for services to business in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List
- Veuve Clicquot Business Woman of the Year
- Honourary Fellowship of Cardiff University
- Welsh Women Mean Business, Lifetime Achievement Award
- Women in Public Life Awards, Business Woman of the Year
- Honourary Doctorate of Business, University of East London
- Leading Wales Awards, Business Woman of the Year
- Every Woman in Retail Awards, Innovator of the year
- Fast Growth Business, Female Entrepreneur of the Year
- Honourary Fellowship of the University of Wales
- Harpers & Queen Entrepreneur of the Year
- Welsh Entrepreneur of the Year
Laura is currently sitting as a judge for the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Awards. She is extremely proud that JoJo has won numerous awards over the years, including the following:
- Winner, UK Champion European Business Awards, 2015
- Winner, Best International Brand, Ernie (USA Children’s Wear) Awards, 2013
- Winner, Best New Product for Baby and Child, The New York Gift Fair 2013
- Winner, Best Maternity Jeans, Maternity & Infant Awards 2013
- Winner, Leading Wales Awards, Best Company Award 2010
- Winner, Prima Baby Reader Awards, Best Children’s Wear Website 2010
- Winner, Prima Baby Reader Awards, Best Maternity Lingerie 2010
- Winner, Drapers Children’s Wear Retailer of the Year 2009
- Winner, Prima Baby Fashion Awards, Best Catalogue/Mail-order Service 2008
- Winner, Fast Growth Business Awards, Retail Business of the Year 2007
- Nominated a Superbrand 2005
Laura Tenison has two sons (Toby and Ben) who both modelled extensively for JoJo as babies. She is a hands-on mother, juggling her children with her career and putting in long hours to ensure that neither suffers, although she admits that being able to survive on little sleep is essential. Laura was the youngest of a large family and thrives on a busy house full of children. She is known among her friends for cooking huge meals at the drop of a hat and loves impromptu parties and to be surrounded by people. Her home is often the meeting point for JoJo team members (and sometimes their children) from across the company and these days is generally full of teenagers. She has two dogs Ruby a Staffordshire bull terrier and Truffle a Labrador who is the official JoJo office dog and has been known to write a blog!
She divides her time between London (where the JoJo design studio and marketing office is based), the company’s headquarters in Newport, South Wales (where her family are from) and her cottage in Brittany, France where the idea for JoJo was first conceived. She enjoys travelling and likes to personally audit the company charities; visiting the remote Capo Delgado area of Mozambique and the Bekaa Valley on the Syrian border this past year.
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