The UK’s first palm oil-free beauty brand is set for significant expansion after landing a £48,000 grant.
A year after Cornish ethical beauty business Bloomtown featured on TV’s Dragons Den it is on a growth curve boosted by cash from the BIG Productivity fund.
The Falmouth-based business is the UK’s first independently certified palm-oil free company and was founded in 2016 by husband and wife team Preyanka Clark Prakash and Medwin Culmer.
The couple lived in Bali, in Indonesia, for two years where they saw first-hand the devastating impact of deforestation caused by the palm oil industry.
They decided to set up their own body and skincare company, offering consumers ethical and cruelty-free products. An appearance on BBC 2’s Dragons’ Den last year – where entrepreneurs pitch for investment to a panel of investors – saw the couple come away empty-handed but buoyed by the praise and encouragement they received, and a clear idea of where to take their company.
And it led to vast exposure for the young business, which started life in the couple’s kitchen in Mylor. In the year following their Dragons’ Den appearance, turnover almost doubled and Bloomtown now has a number of high-profile stockists including Monsoon, Not On The High Street, National Trust, Eden Project and the Royal Horticultural Society.
To meet growing demand and capitalise on the Dragons’ Den exposure, the business applied for a grant from BIG Productivity.
This is a £3.1million fund that offers grants from £2,500 up to £150,000 to qualifying small and medium-sized businesses in Cornwall to boost their productivity.
BIG Productivity is supported by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Growth Programme, and is delivered by Cornwall Development Company. It aims to help 175 local businesses become more productive and create 175 new jobs in the Cornish economy.
Bloomtown was supported with the application by Access to Finance, another ERDF-funded project that offers fully funded support to local businesses looking for growth finance, and is delivered by Oxford Innovation.
Preyanka said: “The entire Dragons’ Den experience was so useful to us and we had great feedback about the potential of our brand.
“We had a much better idea of what we needed to do to grow and more than 30% of our current customer base was because of the programme.
“The BIG Productivity grant allows us to boost production capacity and efficiency by investing in new machinery, and revamp our branding and packaging while developing new products.
“This will allow us to acquire more high profile stockists and meet growing demand, and we plan to take on two more staff in the next six months. The grant application process was straightforward and Access to Finance were wonderful in helping us prepare our application.”
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BIG Productivity’s programme manager Anna Staevska said: “Bloomtown have built a great business and they are making the most of the national exposure and advice they received through Dragons’ Den.
“As well as brand development and product expansion, our grant will enable them to buy new equipment so that they can produce bigger batches and transform their productivity.”
Jackie George, a finance specialist with Access to Finance, said: “It’s been an absolute delight working with Preyanka and Medwin over the last few months helping them develop their successful BIG Productivity funding application.
“They are both very committed and professional people who, following feedback from Dragons’ Den, have focused on what they wanted to achieve for the business.
“Access to Finance is all about helping people raise the money they need to bring their ideas to life, Bloomtown is an exciting venture and Oxford Innovation looks forward to continuing to support them as the business grows.”