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Isabella Oliver invests £1.4mn to accelerate growth
Oct '13
As London-based maternity clothing brand Isabella Oliver celebrates its tenth year, the company is undertaking a significant investment in people, systems and processes to help accelerate growth after securing £1.4 million from Santander’s Breakthrough programme. 

Established in 2003, Isabella Oliver is an online retailer of clothing for women during all stages of pregnancy. The brand has grown rapidly since creation with its focus on stylish, flattering fashion appealing to pregnant women workers and high profile celebrities in both the US and the UK. Its customers include Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lopez and Natalie Portman and around a third of its sales come from customer referrals.

A winner of the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in 2010, the company is run by husband and wife team Geoff van Sonsbeeck and Baukjen de Swaan Arons from their office in Kentish Town. Baukjen is the creative director, whose passion for providing women with comfortable and stylish clothing during pregnancy has driven the success of the business.

As well as its catalogue and online business, the company also has a fast growing wholesale business, supplying clothing to retailers such as Harrods, Nordstrom, Fenwicks and ASOS. In 2009, the company established its sister brand Baukjen, a non-maternity women’s fashion retailer.

Isabella Oliver is undertaking an investment programme to help grow the company to the next level – including a sales and marketing drive alongside improving some of its systems and processes to manage the uplift in demand, resulting in an increase in its workforce from 65 to 95 over the next 12 months.

The funding includes £700,000 of Growth Capital investment, which is mezzanine-based finance at a low rate to help bridge the gap between debt and equity investment – in turn, helping to fill the investment funding gap for UK companies of less than £25 million turnover.

The Growth Capital loan is part of Santander’s Breakthrough programme which aims to support fast-growth small businesses to help them accelerate their growth potential. As well as funding, Breakthrough offers companies access to trade missions, business masterclasses, networking events and support in areas such as finance and marketing.

Isabella Oliver recently took part in a Breakthrough Masterclass with Richard Canterbury from Love Smoothies focussing on marketing opportunities for the brand. As well as a general marketing overview, it also received an individual step-by-step session on how to apply the strategic processes used by top marketing agencies to help it assess its overarching marketing strategy as well as its position in the marketplace.

Baukjen de Swaan Arons, Creative Director and Founder at Isabella Oliver, said:  “I believe pregnancy should be celebrated and have always wanted my company to be a trusted friend to women during this exciting, but sometimes quite nervous, time. I am passionate about creating clothing that makes women feel better about themselves, and can help boost confidence and make life easier, especially during this time of so much physical change. 

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