Guy Schanschieff had always wanted to start a business but was lacking a strong idea. A conversation about dirty nappies spurred him into action, says Matthew Caines in The Daily Telegraph. Schanschieff and his wife, Jo, were touring India when an American they met broached the subject and told them all about New York’s growing demand for washable, reuseable nappies, as opposed to the currently common disposable kind, and the associated “growing nappy laundry scene”.
The couple decided to launch a nappy business in the UK, but realising that the laundry side of the business was just “never going to scale”, they focused on manufacturing and selling the nappies instead, leaving the problem of washing them to their customers. They launched the business in 1997, later buying up the Bambino Mio brand from a contact who had already launched a company of that name doing the same thing, but whose owner wanted to do other things.
Bambino Mio grew steadily over the next decade and by the late noughties the group was turning over £2m annually and working with about 40 distributors internationally. Then, in 2010, disaster struck. Problems at US and French distributors saw the business lose sales in crucial markets “virtually overnight”. Yet instead of complaining, the Schanschieffs re-launched with a digital strategy that enabled them to bypass the distributors and go direct to retailers.
Today the company boasts 50 staff and a projected turnover this year of £6m, a rise from £3.4m last year. “Crises are good for a company,” says Guy Schanschieff. “However dark something seems, the best things have always come out of it.”
The Czech billionaire buying up France’s press
In less than six months, the “new nabob of the French media”, Czech businessman Daniel Kretinsky, has bought seven titles belonging to the Lagardère media group, including Elle and France Dimanche, as well as weekly news magazine Marianne, says Benoît Daragon in Le Parisien. Last month, he added a 49% stake in the holding company of newspaper Le Monde.
Kretinsky already owns Blesk, his country’s best-selling tabloid, as well as co-owning the AC Sparta Prague football team. Some claim the 43-year-old billionaire is buying up the media to make it dance to a more eastern tune – he has connections with the Russian economy minister. But Kretinsky, a noted Francophile, dismisses such claims as unfounded. He does, however, have his eye on the tech giants. His has been a prominent voice calling for Brussels to do more to regulate Google, Facebook and Amazon. The impact of the big tech companies is still “widely under-estimated”, he tells Les Echos. In a world where ever more people get their information from digital sources, regulation is needed, he says, to defend the traditional press and its role in preserving the “values of liberal democracy”.
Plenty of business life left in dead celebrities
Marilyn Monroe (pictured), Elvis, Muhammad Ali and Michael Jackson might have shuffled off this mortal coil, but they still earn more than most of us do in life, says Zack O’Malley Greenburg in Forbes. Between them these four celebrities pulled in a combined $509m last year, and their estates are all represented – in full or in part – by New York-based Authentic Brands Group. The business is the creation of Canadian Jamie Salter, who notes that celebrity estates are often not used to their full potential. Most are inherited by family members, who may have little business experience or end up quarrelling among themselves.
Salter started out by buying decaying old brands such as Polaroid and Airwalk shoes and trying to monetise their nostalgia value. Then he began doing the same for people. In 2012 he paid a reported $20m-$30m for the Monroe estate. He cut 300 licensing deals – for everything from T-shirts to refrigerator magnets – down to 80, preferring to focus on brands Monroe actually used in life, such as Chanel No. 5.
Indeed, he managed the Monroe estate so well that its value shot up and “he ended up paying the same amount for the last 20% of the business that he had for the first 80%”. But his efforts have not always led to success. One of Salter’s first experiences in the business was being rebuffed in his attempts to buy the estate of Bob Marley outright. With around a dozen family members involved, decision making proved tricky. But as there are few comparable operators in the “icon business”, agents and celebrities have begun to approach Salter for his expertise. Today, he applies his methods to help out living celebrities as well as the dead.
A millionaire by the age of 16
Christian Owens was “frustrated with school and wanted to drop out”, he tells Liam Kelly in The Sunday Times. “My parents told me I could if I made £100,000 in a year to prove I could sustain myself.” So the then 15-year-old – who had spent the past two years teaching himself to code at evenings and weekends – set out to do just that. He started a software retailer called Mac Bundle Box and “hit the £100,000 mark within weeks”. By the age of 16 he had made his first million.
Now aged 24, his latest venture Paddle, which helps software makers sell their programs, has raised £19.5m to date and was named Britain’s fastest-growing software company by Deloitte last year. Paddle is a “one-stop shop” for firms and developers to sell and license their software, helping businesses with everything from signups and invoicing to taxes. Paddle now employs 90 people and Owens plans to take on 100 more with the help of new investment.