Laura Tenison MBE is one of the most innovative entrepreneurs in the UK. Her enormously successful company, JoJo Maman Bébé is one of the UK’s most prominent retail outlets. She is an inspirational business and motivational speaker and addresses women's groups, business conferences and networking events, helping audiences to understand concepts around retail, CSR and entrepreneurial mindset.
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’s foremost niche multi-channel specialist in the pregnancy and baby market. 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.
Before JoJo, Laura ran a small fashion company before setting up a French property business. When she sold this venture, her aim was to bring Breton nautical style home and offer practical and affordable fashion to mothers and babies.
With start up capital of just £50,000, Laura has grown the company to a forecast growth turnover of ££50M in the current financial year and employs over 700 people. The company, now with 60 stores nationwide, continues to expand both organically in the UK and via trade sales to over 60 countries across the world.With the multi-currency website, social networking platforms, 200 page catalogue and 60 stores across the UK, JoJo offers a truly multi-channel service.
The business ethos is based on a strong code of ethics, more akin to a social enterprise than a commercial retail chain. The people and the planet are ranked higher on the agenda than bottom line profit. The company prides itself on its longstanding 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 plus the quality of life of the employees and third party workers above all else.
Laura 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’ translates as “happiness after hardship” and is currently receiving assistance from JoJo in the form of UK administration; bookkeeping, funding of charity overheads, ongoing in-house donations and fundraising.
This year Nema, with the assistance of JoJo, will build and support a primary school for 200 children and provide a further 140 children with secondary school scholarships as well as funding other projects, relating to health, water and orphans.
Laura is also a keen cyclist and is passionate about sensible environment policies. She is adamant that it is possible to do well whilst doing good, and eschews waste in any form.
Laura is a candid and informative speaker, whilst also being entertaining. She speaks about being an entrepreneur and also environmental and ethical business practices. Laura has also appeared on a variety of television and radio programmes including BBC’s ‘Beat the Boss’, ‘The Apprentice-You’re Fired’, BBC Radio 4 and 5 and the Channel 4 News to name a few.
Laura has won numerous awards over the last couple of years including ‘Welsh Woman Mean Business'; winner at the UK Champion European Business Awards, 2015; the Business Woman of 2011 award at the Women in Public Life Awards, She won the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Award 2010 and is currently sitting as a judge for the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Awards.
Laura was rewarded an MBE for services to business in the Queen’s 2004 New Year’s Honours List. JoJo Maman Bebe has also received a number of awards including the award for Best New Product for Baby and Child at the New York Gift Fair 2013 and the Best Company Award 2010 at the Leading Wales Awards as well as numerous others.
Laura's two sons Toby and Ben 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, and credits her successful juggling with the advent of technology.
Her home is often the meeting point for JoJo team members (and sometimes their children) from across the company. This allows her to work as required but also be around for her children.