UniBu – short for unique British underwear – is a throwback to the UK’s once thriving textile industry, which has dwindled to almost nothing as manufacturers outsourced production to the Far East.
The business is the brainchild of Shirley Crisp who previously ran a lingerie shop, Shirley C, in Windermere.
She said: “I was the buyer for the shop and as I went to trade shows I would ask where the products are made. Hardly anything was made in the UK any more. That’s what gave me the idea for UniBu.
“I wanted a unique selling point and that was it.”
Finding suppliers and manufacturers was a long drawn out process, given that most of the UK textile industry perished when Marks & Spencer made the decision to outsource production overseas in the 1990s.
But she managed to piece together an all-British supply chain, enabling her to launch UniBu in 2015.
Shirley said: “I had a soft launch selling the lines in my own shop. It went incredibly well to the point where I closed the shop in March last year to go forward with UniBu.
“People very much want to get behind the whole ‘Made in Britain’ concept. They see British manufacturing as a mark of quality.
“Everything we design, dream, produce, manufacture, sew, stitch and send on its way was found in Britain and manufactured in British factories.
“We have sourced all our products’ components – that’s fabric, elastic, trims, labels, packaging and more – entirely in Britain.”
UniBu isn’t just about the ‘Made in Britain’ label. Materials, fit and workmanship are of the highest quality – there are no compromises.
Shirley added: “I did a lot of research about what women and men like and don’t like. I know I’ve got a quality product because we have zero returns.”
As I went to trade shows I would ask where the products are made. Hardly anything was made in the UK any more. That’s what gave me the idea for UniBu.
When setting up UniBu, Shirley enrolled on the Business Start-Up Support (BSUS) programme delivered by the Chamber’s Growth Hub.
Her Growth Hub adviser Tony Ferguson, an accountant with Dodd & Co, worked with her on cash flow forecasts and costings to look at what her unit price should to generate sufficient margin.
She said: “We’re lucky to have the Growth Hub because BSUS is a really valuable service for anyone starting a business.”
UniBu won national recognition last summer when it was named in the ‘Small Biz 100’ – 100 businesses whose products and achievements were recognised by the Small Business Saturday campaign.
At present, the products are sold online through the UniBu website, and through independent retailers, but Shirley has the national multiples and export markets in her sights.
She added: “I have had interest from larger retailers and the whole Brexit thing has focused attention on exporting. It’s building momentum but I’m taking it one step at a time and building the brand.
“I want a sustainable business, not a flash in the pan.”
If you are thinking of starting your own business or social enterprise, then Cumbria Chamber of Commerce and our partners are here to help with a free business start-up programme to point you in the right direction.
Our comprehensive package of support includes:
- Free meetings with a business adviser to review and develop your business idea;
- Free training covering business planning and self employment, an introduction to marketing/market research and sales forecasts, promotion and sales, an introduction to planning and managing finance, taxation and bookkeeping, using the internet and social media;
- Free help to develop your business plan and get your business up and running;
- Free membership of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce.
The £1.7m Business Start-up Support (BSUS) project is creating almost 700 new businesses and nearly 1,200 jobs. It is also supporting around 250 young businesses and generating more than £92m GVA.
For more information, call us today on 0845 226 0040 or click here to visit the Cumbria Business Growth Hub web site.
The funding that supports the Growth Hub comes from a range of sources including Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, the European Regional Development Fund, Allerdale Borough Council (Sellafield Ltd’s Allerdale SIIF, distributed by Allerdale Borough Council), Barrow Borough Council (FEDF Coastal Communities Fund Supply Chain Initiative, the Coastal Communities Fund is funded by the Government with income from the Crown Estates marine assets; it is delivered by the Big Lottery Fund on behalf of UK Government), Carlisle City Council, Eden District Council, South Lakeland District Council and Cumbria LEP.
The BSUS project is receiving up to £1,112,686 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.
The Department for Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund.
Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information, click here.