Two years since the start of the pandemic, Cheltenham firm M&M is celebrating dramatic turnaround, with business growth and a healthy increase in profits – all made possible with the expertise of other Gloucestershire firms.
Chani Martin founded the firm 20 years ago as a business she could fit around family life, but when the pandemic wiped out her core market – supplying branded clothing and promotional products for trade shows, exhibitions and events – it looked desperate.
M&M (Marketing and Merchandise) did not qualify for any of the initial government financial support offered to struggling businesses, other than the furlough scheme.
Martin said: ‘Two years ago, my immediate challenge was how could I ensure my business survived in the short term; instead, we have emerged on the other side stronger than ever.’
Key was identifying a new market – and that was employers seeking to look after the welfare of staff working from home, providing ‘onboarding packs’ and ‘thank you’ gifts.
The second wave of government support (Digital Recovery Grants, a Bounce Back Loan and the Kickstarter Scheme) was also vital, allowing her to use county experts whose skills have been vital to shaping a dynamic new business model.
She credits Pink Elephant Media for creating her website, Kip Katesmark for website copy, Squashed Robot for videos, Billy Smith from Action Coach Cheltenham, Erica Laurel-Jones for marketing consultancy and comms, Rebecca Fludder at Flexperience for recruitment and Brave HCG for HR support.
M&S has taken on two staff, two regular freelancers and predicts a turnover next year of £500,000 increasing to £1 million within the next three years and has moved into new offices.
‘Financially, our profits have grown over 150 per cent from their pre-pandemic rate and the diversification of the business has led to growth in corporate enquiries, including household names and high street brands,’ said Martin.
‘My business today is almost unrecognisable from the way it looked a few years ago.’