British Design Fund names two firms swept up in first wave of funding

Rockit, a portable rocking device for pushchairs and strollers, and Calla Shoes, a shoe brand for women with bunions, become first recipients of fund

The British Design Fund, an early stage investment fund for product design and manufacturing start-ups, has announced the first two companies to receive funding.

They are:

  • Rockit – a portable rocking device that fits onto any pushchair, pram, car seat, or crib and gently rocks them to sleep
  • Calla Shoes – a new footwear brand for women who suffer from bunions founded by Jennifer Bailey

The British Design Fund was established by John Mathers, the ex-CEO of the Design Council, alongside design entrepreneur Damon Bonser – who was named a Young Gun in 2010 as the founder of gift product company Spinning Hat – earlier this year.

It looks to work with “extraordinary entrepreneurs” developing scalable products that are ready to accelerate in the retail space.

Since launch, the fund has raised more than £500,000 from over 160 individual investors and attracted applications from over 100 companies.

Bonser said: “Start-ups like Rockit and Calla Shoes represent the best of British business, creating exceptional new design-led products that deliver genuine value to their users. We’re delighted to be supporting their development and growth.

“The UK has the second largest design sector in the world, yet there is an astonishing lack of equity funding into early stage product design and hardware businesses. […] The British Design Fund aims to fill that gap and help entrepreneurs significantly increase their chance of success in what’s become a highly competitive sector.”

Mathers added: “During my role at the Design Council, I saw just how fast the UK’s design sector is growing – not just in size but in its contribution to the UK economy. With almost £72bn generated in 2015 alone, it makes no sense why early stage funding is so low for this market. That’s what inspired me to help address this problem and join Damon in launching The Fund.”