Tell us about your business
In the spring of 2014, I was attending an introduction to fostering course when I was shown a video interview of a young girl in a wheelchair who made the following statement:
“Health Trusts or local authorities don’t provide suitcases. Sometimes foster carers loan us a suitcase but more often our belongings are moved in black plastic bin bags and we lose our dignity”.
This statement really stuck with me and for the remainder of the evening I thought of nothing else. I was moved immediately to think of ways in which he could help these vulnerable children make their way with dignity.
As I began my research and considered many possible solutions, I was continually drawn to the value and worth of children in care. I was also aware that the widespread use of bin bags to move the belongings of children and young people in care is a global issue.
It was at this point Madlug (which stands for ‘make a difference luggage’) was born. Madlug is now an award-winning bag brand that raises awareness of the value and worth of children in care along with helping them make their way with dignity.
The social enterprise, which recently received b-corp status, operates under a buy one, give one initiative where for every bag purchased, a pack-away travel bag is given to a child in care.
Why did you join FSB?
We joined FSB to be connected with an organisation that provides support and guidance to small business owners. We have also found the legal support available around HR policies and procedures invaluable. The HR templates from FSB have been extremely helpful as the Madlug team has expanded. We have also sought legal advice on a couple of occasions – support which we greatly appreciated.
How did Covid-19 impact your business/organisation?
Like many businesses, we felt the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. When lockdown hit initially, our sales were adversely affected due to the decline in demand for new bags. Six months into the pandemic, IKEA contacted us with a request to supply over 12,000 of their staff in the UK and Ireland with a Madlug bag.
Choosing not to take a break as a business or furlough our staff not only gave us time to focus on the direction of Madlug, but ensured we were in a good position to respond to opportunities like these. It also taught us to keep going during times of struggle.
What do you consider the single greatest challenge for any SME/small organisation at the minute?
I would say that the single greatest challenge for any SME or small organisation at the moment is the uncertainty of costs. Everything is changing and it’s difficult to know where it will all land.
What are the opportunities and positives for SMEs at the minute and how are you embracing recovery?
At Madlug, we always had a clear mission: to ensure children and young people can move through the care system with value, worth and dignity. It’s this that pushed us to keep trading and innovating throughout lockdown – a period when unfortunately, the numbers of children and young people in care increased to over 100,000. We are embracing recovery by continuing to run our business with intention and keeping as lean as possible to ensure we can respond to new opportunities and challenges.
Which FSB campaign affects your business the most at the moment?
The most important FSB key campaign issue at the moment is supply chains. It’s taking far longer to get stock than it did previously and as well as being affected by higher shipping charges, we’re also faced with more paperwork as a result of Brexit and the protocol.
What words of advice do you have for anyone starting a small business?
My one piece of advice to anyone starting a small business or running a small organisation would be to distinguish the problem that you are solving for the customer. This is the most important thing you can do to learn how to pitch your business.
Find out more about madlug via their website, and through @wearemadlug across social media.