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Charley Chau - Great British Entrepreneur Awards 2018 finalists!

Charley Chau - Great British Entrepreneur Awards 2018 finalists!

Natwest Great British Entrepreneur Awards finalists - Charley Chau

It is now just over a month since we found out that Jenny and I have been shortlisted as finalists in the Natwest Great British Entrepreneur Awards and the enormity of being shortlisted for this prestigious award is only just beginning to sink in. Previous winners include Julie Deane OBE founder of The Cambridge Satchel Company, David Buttress who set up JustEat UK, and Shaun Pulfrey at Tangle Teezer to name just a few hence our “OMG” reaction!

Last week we had a brilliant evening at a celebration drinks for the Great British Entrepreneur Awards finalists hosted by Natwest at the very slick RBS building in Spinningfields, Manchester. Jenny and I got to meet the other 2018 finalists, GBEA organisers and judges, as well as some of the sponsors of the awards and we were completely and utterly humbled by the amazing people in the room.

It was a mind-blowing evening that left me reflecting on how on earth we got to be in the same room with so many inspirational people.

Left to right: Oli Barrett MBE, co-founder Startup Britain, Christine & Jenny , Francesca James, founder Great British Entrepreneur Awards

Jenny and I both find it a bit awkward when asked about being entrepreneurs because we’ve never considered ourselves to be business-y type people. We didn’t set out to run a business – not in the “proper” sense of running a business at least. We just wanted to design lovely dog beds that were super comfy for our gang.

Charley Chau started by accident on my sitting room floor when I needed a new bed for Anna and Charley. Jenny was visiting that weekend and we went to a local fabric store, bought some fabric and literally sat on the floor and made our first Snuggle Bed. We had no idea it would lead to us founding Charley Chau together.

Charley Chau Snuggle Bed prototype 2010The bed that srated Charley Chau - even though we didn't know it at the time! Hand made on Christine's sitting room floor for Charley and Anna!

Two years down the road and somehow Charley Chau had taken on a life of its own that no longer fit into evenings and weekends so we had to make a big decision: close it down or take it seriously. We opted to take it seriously so we left our jobs to focus on Charley Chau! It was terrifying. When we told our mother she almost had a heart attack at the thought of us turning our back on our long-time careers in ‘sensible’ jobs in the city.

And now, eight years on from that afternoon on my sitting room floor, Charley Chau has customers in over forty-five countries around the world and we’ve been shortlisted as finalists in the Great British Entrepreneur Awards. We still can’t quite believe it.

We never had a plan. We never had any expectations. We also had no experience of running a business – any kind of business. And perhaps that was actually a good thing in our case as the only thing we knew to do was focus on designing gorgeous dog beds and blankets and hope that other people, and their dogs of course, would like them.

We love what we do. We feel so unbelievably lucky to come to work every day with our five little monkeys who are still the inspiration behind everything that we do.

The real brains behind Charley Chau! Charley, Tino, Mabel, Theo and Anna. Our five little monkeys, cheeky as ever!

Our customers are the best. They have been the best advocates for our little company and it’s the amazing recommendations from our customers that have helped us grow over the years.

We’re still tiny – just a team of four with Kim and Laura behind the scenes – but people all over the world know about us and that is just so cool!

Team Charley Chau: Christine, Jenny, Laura and Kim

We’re two sisters, self-confessed crazy dog-ladies with no clue how to run a business ‘properly’.  Even now, we still don’t have a business plan - I hope that this little confession doesn’t put the judges off for the Great British Entrepreneur Awards. Our complete lack of commercial focus makes us feel like entrepreneur imposters!

With some of our friends and fellow Great British Entrepreneur Awards finalists: (from left) Daniel Lee Jacobs of ArtsHaus, Julie Anne Parker of Million Stars Sustainable Events,  Eric Bishyika of  Bishyika and Sanjay Aggarwal, Spice Kitchen. We also have one other thing in common ... we're all alumni of the Natwest Entrepreneur Accelerator Programme

At the drinks party last week we stood among a group of finalists who have all created unbelievably successful businesses. Entrepreneurs who generate millions of pounds in revenue every year. That’s definitely way out of our league and our minds boggle to think that we’re shortlisted alongside them but we feel very honoured and very thankful to be where we are.

Thank you – to all our customers, our family, and other friends … the Charley Chau story so far has definitely been a huge team effort.

The winners of the Great British Entrepreneur Awards will be announced at a glitzy gala dinner on 15 November. Needless to say, all of team Charley Chau will be there and, regardless of whether or not we win our category, we are just going to enjoy every moment!

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