We are not your classic archetypal small business owners. We like to move fast and break things!
I am Jonathan Phillips, founder of Group FMI Ltd and together with my wife Rachel, we built a home grown business which now boasts several market leading brands, in the UK.
I worked in the city for several blue chip giants in the IT sector, specialising in Marketing Software and Knowledge Management. In 1994, I left that world and set up my own agency called FrontierMI Limited, (latterly renamed GroupFMI Ltd). I specialised in Marketing Strategy, Software and Marketing Consultation; to companies who were launching new projects and brands.
We had two young children, so started off working in our spare room of our home. Until 2007, when our third daughter Willow arrived in March 2007 and was diagnosed with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease [GORD], or ‘baby reflux’ for short. The condition meant that Willow was extremely sick with projectile vomiting at every feed, waking every hour, every night, with no end in sight. This prompted us to look for sleeping devices that would help Willow sleep and keep the acid in her tummy down. As there were no products available in the UK, so we imported devices from all over the world. In next to no time, we had accumulated some quite specialist baby reflux products – many imported from the USA, Australasia and Europe.
We realised there was both a knowledge gap and a product gap in the UK. We built our first web portal called www.littlerefluxers.co.uk for UK parents to discover more about baby reflux and sold a few of the devices we had imported in an online store. As more people became aware of the devices sales grew until we had to import even more!
At that point we turned our small venture into a ‘proper’ business and set up babyREFLUX [www.babyreflux.co.uk]. Years later, we’re now the leading provider of reflux devices for babies in Europe with the majority of devices made to our specification in the UK. On the back of this, we also have new brands, Pelicare, reflux SUPPORT and The Wedgehog.
In the last few years we have moved into a new warehouse, implemented large business management software and taken on new staff.
We started our business with an excel spreadsheet, a basic accounts package and some low cost site builder software that had no inventory management! Our spare bedroom was soon full of stock and we found ourselves counting stock weekly, manually updating the spreadsheet and borrowing garages and lock ups from friends and neighbours as more products were sourced!
We used to pack orders in the afternoon between our daughters nap times, as the tape gun made a loud ‘Squeeeeeeel’ noise (even with low noise tape) and then walk them up to the post office. Nothing like standing in a queue of tutting customers behind you, as you hand over fourteen parcels, all needing to be sent tracked!
Soon we moved up to mid-range eCommerce software to integrate all the various processes we had developed. Inventory management became easier, label printing was faster – but we were still spending a lot of time double entering customer details and address information. We had by then also set up a customer services email ticketing program, which needed daily input.
It was the decision to move to a warehouse in 2011, which changed our view on technology for our business. Having a large space to manage stock, so it could be picked and packed easily was brilliant, but we needed an Inventory management program to match, which also had customer relationship management capabilities, accounting and P/L functions. Marketing was still handled manually by Jonathan, who used his skill to navigate the various online tools and SEO. We chose an expensive all purpose CRM eCommerce solution, which was highly detailed and required many hours of training to use. To this day I think we only ever used about 40% functionality, but it taught us which software functions we didn’t need!
More recently we have simplified our tech and software.
If you are interested in knowing more about us, our brands or products, then get in touch!
We are registered at Companies House (No. 3473315) and our VAT registration number is GB 709 3468 19.
Our offices and warehouse are based at:
Group FMI Limited
Basingstoke Business Centre