Why VOOM is about more than just business investment

Peco Poncho made it to the finals of Pitch to Rich back in 2014. They create biodegradable ponchos that are perfect for festivals and outdoor events, helping to fight the problem of abandoned raincoats and the subsequent environmental damage caused by the discarded plastic. We caught up with Lettija Lee, founder of Peco Poncho, to discuss her business and find out what’s happened since the competition. 

Lee came up with the idea for Peco Poncho after attending Wireless festival in Hyde Park where as often happens, the heavens opened on an unsuspecting crowd. “I remember seeing people wearing disposable plastic ponchos. As I looked around I thought that I would have bought a poncho to wear only if it wasn’t made of plastic as it would probably end up in landfill hanging around for a few hundred years or polluting the ocean,” she says. “So I set out to find a better product that would keep me dry and wouldn’t pollute the environment.”

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After making it to the finals of Pitch to Rich, Lee received some invaluable advice that changed the way her company worked. “At the time of the competition the intention was to focus on building a business to consumer (B2C) model selling our Peco branded version and have a business to business (B2B) service as an add on. Richard’s advice for me was that I should focus on B2B – focus on supplying companies with custom logo printed compostable biodegradable ponchos for outdoor events,” Lee explains. 

As well as getting some invaluable business advice, the competition also helped to raise awareness of Peco Poncho. “The exposure was helpful and opened up some very exciting prospects, on the back of it we received business enquiries from different parts of the world” Lee says.

Having a mentor has been invaluable

As Lee’s business grew, she was able to secure a Virgin StartUp loan, supplying her with additional funding and mentorship. “Having a mentor has been invaluable,” she says. “My mentor has a strong background in sustainable start-ups so it has been helpful making use of his many years of experience in the field.”

After the Pitch to Rich final, Lee’s business developed significantly. Once deciding to follow a B2B model, she set out to understand how this structure would work. 

Lee says: “Once it was decided to switch the focus to B2B it was important to set up different internal processes, ensure a super tight supply chain as well as revamp the language of our website amongst other things. It was quite challenging. We went from having to only be concerned about shipments of our own logo to dealing with custom orders for other companies. Quality control, clear production lead times, making sure we provided a good service to B2B customers, finding good shipping companies etc became extra important.”

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Reflecting on her business’ success, she adds: “The hard work has been worth it though. B2B customers are really on board with our mission. Companies want to reduce their waste and meet their corporate responsibility targets. They get it.”

Through all this success, Lee has maintained a full-time job. “I would spend my early mornings before work, evenings and weekends researching and working on the business,” she says. And it seems her hard work paid off, in the last year she says that she has adopted a much better work-life balance “now that many systems and processes are in place”, although she admits “it could still be better!”

Entering Virgin Media Business VOOM 2016 and succeeding with your business is no mean feat. It requires dedication and hard work but, as seen with Peco Poncho’s success, the reward is extremely valuable. Find out more about the competition and enter now through the Virgin Media Business VOOM website – there’s just two weeks left for entries! 

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