The Cheeky Panda
In May 2016, two entrepreneurs Julie Chen and Chris Forbes, founded a business to design, source, manufacture and package Bamboo tissue products in China for sale in its initial target market of the UK. The product was named The Cheeky Panda and volume supplies were targeted to arrive by containers in the U.K in August 2016 in time to start supplying a market demand for an eco-centric paper product that doesn’t involve cutting down much loved and ever diminishing forests.
Chris and Julie had a lot of in built skills to launch Cheeky Panda but needed supplementary skills in Logistics, Banking and Working Capital and Vendor management to make the business a success but they didn’t have the money or track record to entice a person with those qualities and experience to join them. What were they to do?……….they have an amazing business plan, a market that wants to buy their quality bamboo products but they don’t have all the necessary skills and resources to enable them to deliver.
This is where the idea behind Experience 4 Equity (E4E) was hatched as Ed Smith, the go to person to help the Cheeky Panda business thrive, had all the missing skills and life experience but he was in a role he couldn’t afford to leave to join a start up. An arrangement was worked out between Ed and Cheeky Panda that he would work a few hours a week for Cheeky Panda in addition to his day job in return for shares in Cheeky Panda.
This arrangement has reaped dividends as Cheeky Panda continues to grow and win industry awards. It now sells its products across Europe and will continue to globalise over the next months and years.
It also gave Ed Smith the idea to launch E4E perceiving there to be a gap in the market between Non Exec roles and start up funding. Many successful professionals are not ready to commit to a Non Exec role yet want to play a more overt executive role in helping to grow a business using their unique skills. Nor are they ready or able to put direct liquid equity into a business. E4E’s sweet spot is that it allows Executive input into a business; it’s not time consuming; and it’s not tied up in investing money in the business as all the equity that it can unlock is in return for their intellectual capital!
There are thousands of companies similar to Cheeky Panda that need to attract talent to help them grow, help to launch new product lines, or help to conquer new territories and they cannot attract the talent due to cost and the fact that they only need a small time requirement from these experts which can deliver a disproportionately large payback for both the business and the expert.
E4E hand picks introductions from the experts and the host businesses and brings them together to test the chemistry and make sure these partnerships work.