Startups 100 company worth £75m just five years after launch

The Cheeky Panda ranked thirteenth in our Startups 100 index earlier this year.

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The Cheeky Panda, a net zero business which specialises in tissue alternatives made from responsibly sourced bamboo forestry, is celebrating its success after growing from a two-man start-up to a £75m business in just half a decade.

Founded in 2016 by couple Chris Forbes and Julie Chen, the company has raised over £3.6m in its latest round of investment via a campaign on Seedrs.

Earlier this year, we ranked the eco-friendly startup in our Startups 100 index for 2021 for the second year in a row. The list highlights the most disruptive and innovative startups from across the UK.

Sustainable household product businesses have been booming over the past 21 months, in-line with increasing public demand for climate action. According to Deloitte UK’s 2021 consumer behaviour report, 32% of consumers are highly engaged with adopting a more sustainable lifestyle.

Saving the planet one product at a time

Through its innovative use of sustainable bamboo, the company has saved 32,500 tons of carbon since 2016, with goals in place to save an additional 300,000 tons by 2025.

The Cheeky Panda’s product range includes toilet tissue, kitchen roll, hand wipes and straws. It is made from responsibly sourced and naturally sustainable bamboo that wasn’t being fully utilised.

This eliminates the use of chemicals found in regular and recycled paper products, producing 65% less carbon than conventional tissue while also saving trees and animal habitats around the world.

The brand’s products are the first bamboo tissue and wipes to be certified by the Vegan Society and Cruelty Free International.

The green road ahead

Forbes and Chen said they viewed themselves as pioneers of running a sustainable small business.

“Taking a company from concept to market at this rapid pace has been highly exciting. Many people said to us from the outset it wouldn’t work and that we couldn’t compete with the established brands, or asked why use bamboo when there is nothing wrong with trees for tissue? It’s been fun proving the doubters wrong and showing there is a high demand for more sustainable [products],” they said.

Commenting on what they wanted for the future, Forbes and Chen said: “If we can inspire other green companies to list and compete with less sustainable or less ethical business models, then we will see a green revolution with the same or perhaps bigger impact than what technology has delivered over the past 30 years, creating high yield for our investors and making the world a better place.”

Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.

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