Chris Forbes, founder of Cheeky Panda.

Talk Straight | Think Smart with Chris Forbes

Talk Straight | Think Smart with Chris Forbes

By putting "purpose over profit" Chris Forbes, Co-Founder of The Cheeky Panda, found that by doing the right thing, money follows. Focusing on being socially conscious has led to incredible growth for his business.
Quote mark icon

We've saved 8,000 tonnes of carbon, 182,000 trees and reduced 10 tonnes of plastic out of the supply chain

Chris Forbes
Co-Founder of The Cheeky Panda

From day one The Cheeky Panda has been focused on bringing sustainability to the mass market, and the impact the business has had is incredible. They've saved 18,000 tonnes of carbon, 182,000 trees and reduced 10 tonnes of plastic out of the supply chain, and they intend to do even more!

After dating for about a year, Chris Forbes's girlfriend at the time, Julie, had an idea to make tissue out of bamboo, the world's fastest-growing plant. This idea lead to a successful partnership in life and business. The Cheeky Panda was founded in 2016 producing bamboo products as a sustainable alternative to what was already out there.

As a first step it was important to ensure the factory they worked with in China to manufacture the goods and everything about the process was "green". It was then time to test the market. They soon realised that the demand for sustainable household products was huge. Their first crowdfunding target of £10,000 was met within a matter of weeks.

The Cheeky Panda has gone from strength to strength over the last six years. The turnover in their first financial year was £100,000 and they've just finished this financial year with a turnover of £11.3m. But it's not simply about the money for them, they care about the planet and aim to inspire other entrepreneurs to do the same.

From processing orders in their house during their first year to having their products featured in an Anne Hathaway film, Chris tells us all about The Cheeky Panda's growth journey and their plans for the future.

To hear future episodes from a wide range of inspirational entrepreneurs subscribe to our Talk Straight | Think Smart with Howard Kennedy series.

Listen here ↓

Subscribe on your favourite podcast channel ↓

Listen on Apple Podcasts badge. Listen on Spotify badge. Listen on Podbean badge.

Quick fire round

Each episode we ask our guests quick fire questions. Hover below to see what this revealed about this week's guest, Chris Forbes....

Favourite Cheeky Panda product?

Why us down arrow

The kitchen towel, it doesn't have lint or leave residue behind. It's brilliant!

Zoom meetings, here to stay or distant memory?

Why us down arrow

It's going to be a mix between the convenience of being at home and physical face-to-face.

Grow, sell or start again?

Why us down arrow

Would rather grow. Growth is addictive and becomes super fun. Let's grow it as fast as we can.

Invest in people or tech?

Why us down arrow

People are probably the most important part of what we do, it's people that make the difference.

Decision-making, perfection or launch and learn?

Why us down arrow

80% perfection, 20% let it ride.

A little more about this episode…

Chris Forbes grew up in The Scottish Highlands, surrounded by his dad's high-performing and intellectual friends. He's always understood the value of surrounding yourself with people you can learn from. Even in his younger years, he had a strong interest in both nature and business and he always had a fascination with understanding things and going below the surface.

So Chris's curiosity made him a natural entrepreneur. But where did the idea for The Cheeky Panda come from? Chris's wife Julie, a fellow entrepreneur, had an idea to make tissue out of bamboo. It's the world's fastest-growing plant, and whilst it was known about in China, it hadn't yet been used much in the West. Julie thought it would make an exciting sustainable alternative in the household goods market.

In order to see if it was worth investing in, they used the product themselves. They were passionate about everything being eco-friendly so they visited the manufacturer in China to ensure everything fitted the green narrative. It was then time to test the market. They set a low target of £10,000 for people to pre-purchase the product. One investor even gave £1000 and didn't expect anything in return. This gave Chris a sense of responsibility to not let anyone down.

After two angel investors came into the business they grew even more. Month on month sales were increasing and the demand for more products started coming from consumers. They quickly realised they couldn't build the business slowly and did an equity crowdfunding round where they raised £500,000 in just two weeks. This set the wheels in motion to build the team and scale up.

The turnover for the first financial year was £100,000 and six years later they've finished this financial year with £11.3m. But despite the incredible growth the business has seen, its purpose remains the same. Sustainability and the planet is at its heart. The Cheeky Panda has three core values: impact, inspire and innovate. And all come back to the importance of being green.

Looking forward they plan to grow further, with a goal of £50m turnover on the cards. And the mid-term goal is to go public and be one of the first B Corps to list.


For email notifications of each episode, sign up below. 

*Mandatory fields

Express Consent *

By selecting, you agree to Howard Kennedy LLP processing your personal data for the purposes of sending you information about products and services as selected above. If this button is pre-checked, this indicates that you have previously given us your consent. You can withdraw your consent at any time by either emailing or clicking on the opt out link within our communications to you. For more information, please visit our GDPR Provisions documents found here.