UCL Innovation and Enterprise


Lemon Ribbon

16 August 2013

A creative business itching to conquer a bigger market

Who are Lemon Ribbon?

Mel had a ten year history in designing children’s wear and her partner Ed was a recent ex-serviceman when they established Lemon Ribbon in 2009. Having spotted a gap in the market the business slowly developed, it’s main activity being the licensing of contemporary children’s designs to retailers like GAP, Mothercare, Marks and Spencer and Paperchase.

children’s wear monster design

During the early years, whilst Mel and Ed were establishing the business, the initial business support came from Business Link.

Business Link recommended the UCL Advances SMILE programme in 2011. Like most small business owners, Mel and Ed were concerned with getting to grips with some of the more basic activities of running a business, for instance understanding cash flow, planning for growth and dealing with employment issues.

How did UCL help?

With the help of the SMILE team, Lemon Ribbon’s concerns have been put to rest and a robust business plan was designed, the main focus being to build on these strong foundations and expand Lemon Ribbon’s range as well as tackling entirely new sectors. In the words of Ed “we want to become the Cath Kidson for kids.”

In addition to the licensing of their artwork to the clothing sector, print sales offered a second income stream that was described as the “best chance of developing and expanding the business.” Print sales offered the opportunity for Lemon Ribbon to break into a wider market, including product, accessories and homeware, “We knew where we wanted the business to go, just didn’t know what we had to do to get there,” said Mel.

Through the SMILE programme, Ed learnt about the Goldman Sachs 10,000 small businesses programme delivered by UCL. This offers a range of workshops and consultancy for a select number of businesses, at no cost. The selection criteria is rigorous and businesses are chosen for their potential for diversification and growth.

Ed attended a one-to-one application workshop that helps applicants understand the application process and give them a better chance of success. Their application was successful and Lemon Ribbon was one of the graduates from the first cohort in 2012.

“The programme gives you a mix of academic help and advice from experienced business people. If someone in the room (another participant) didn’t have the solution themselves, they would know someone who did, people on the programme exchanged knowledge.” Ed Weale, Founder, Lemon Ribbon

What were the results?

It became apparent that some of the most valuable advice came from the specialist workshops, for instance the Human Resources workshop. Lemon Ribbon has three in-house designers in addition to Mel and a host of freelancers; there is now need to employ a bigger creative team and establish a sales team. The programme has helped Lemon Ribbon deliver their plan, taking their turnover from, £27k to £170k in two years, a growth rate of 600%.

The business has diversified and has grown – they are partnering and licensing to companies like wallpaper manufacturer Raham and Brown as well as expanding their range into bath and kitchen accessories. All with the longer-term aim of building the brand recognisable as a ‘Lemon Ribbon design.’

Ed speaks at events at Goldman Sachs 10,000 small businesses events and takes an active role in the expanding alumni.