Kids Bee Happy Ltd
What town/city are you based in?
Number of generations
Number of employees
Tell us about your family business (What you do, how you started, who’s involved etc)
Kids Bee Happy is the ultimate family business, the idea for its conception came from a children’s activity on a family holiday, the company was set up and run by a husband and wife team (with frequent contributions from our teenage daughter), and sells activities and products to families via a network of family based direct sales consultants.
The business was started in 2011 by Alistair Patterson, who did all the preliminary research, development, market research etc. Sandra came on board full time as the business launched. In 2012 Kids Bee Happy was recognised in the Startups 100.
Sandra and Alistair have worked together now for 17 years (successfully selling their 2 previous businesses). And part of the secret sauce that makes it work so much is the fact that we are a husband and wife team. You can afford an honesty and directness with your spouse that you just can have in any other working relationship.
When you are a husband and wife team you can’t do what other people normally do when they get fed up at work. Normally people go home, moan about work to their spouse, have a glass of wine and then go back the next day and sort it afresh.
We have found that the secret for us is to deal with all business things at work, no disagreements are left ticking over to the next day, everything is sorted then and there on the spot (even though these conversations might perhaps be at a louder volume setting than in other businesses). Because this means that at 5 pm we can both go home together and be a family, cook tea, talk to our kids, sit on the sofa with a glass of wine.
Throughout all of this, the role of Jessica (our now 13-year-old daughter) in the business has been essential. Jessica has been involved every step of the way in developing new products for the business, as well as equipment and processes. Jessica has run Kids Bee Happy events single-handedly since she’s been 11 years old, and our consultants use her as inspiration – if Jessica can do it, then there is absolutely no reason why they can’t too.
As the business has grown, we have found that Alistair’s and my skillsets are switched to best suit the situations, which means that effectively the CEO role is shared and swapped between us on a regular basis, as we each play to the strengths. We realised a couple of years back that if a task involved speaking then it was Alistair’s if it involved reading and writing then it was mine. It’s a simplistic overview, but we have worked together now for so long that we really are able to approach things like this – and this level of sharing, communication, non-competitiveness etc – whatever you call it – wouldn’t be possible in anything other than a family business.
What’s your proudest moment/biggest achievement as a family business?
In September 2016 we had our first Direct Sales conference, at Haydock Racecourse. It was a very moving event as a consultant after consultant came up on stage and told the audience how Kids Bee Happy had a made a difference to their lives. We heard from people who had been housebound, but through Kids Bee Happy were now out and about on a regular basis with their Kids Bee Happy business. We heard how one consultant left an abusive relationship taking only her phone, her purse and her business equipment with her – because her Kids Bee Happy business meant that she could earn a living and start to build a new life. We heard how the extra income that our consultants were earning, was making a real difference to so many families lives, enabling parents tow work around caring for their children, paying for driving licenses, much needed holidays, and income that is essential to their family budget.
A benchmark moment for us was being nominated as finalists for the New Frontiers Award in 2016 and having to send one of our consultants to collect the award because we were on a family holiday. It was the ultimate example of how we’d managed to grow a family business, whilst still keeping our own family at the centre of our lives.
And on a slightly more personal note, sitting on a train with my 15 year old daughter, who showed me a photo from a local restaurant of their latest gastronomic burger which incorporated along with the burger, a fillet of chicken, bacon, sausage and haggis, and as she showed me she simply said: “How can they sell that at £5.95 and be making a profit?”, and I smiled and thought “Job Done!”. Whatever my children do in life, I know that they approach their careers understanding the fundamental basics of businesses, and a simple understanding that they can make it happen, whatever it is that they want to do.
What do you love about being a family business?
Kids Bee Happy is really special in the Direct Sales world because what we treasure is that close family connectedness.
Unlike other Direct Sales companies, at Kids Bee Happy our consultants know who we are, and we are in regular direct contact with our leaders, who really relish the fact that we’re not another big anonymous company, but that we are here, we UK based, we understand and we care about our consultants individually. All of our leaders tell us that they have never felt so much of a part of a company as they do with Kids Bee Happy, and that tells us that we’ve got it right.
As we are based in a small rural town in Scotland, another aspect that is very important to us is employment, we currently have 2 apprenticeships, and we are investing significantly in developing their skills both to fulfil our needs now, but also to develop their skills for what we want them to be doing in a few years time. We don’t live in a town that has a large base of highly skilled employees and so it really is up to us to develop and train people, and we really do see that as one of our obligations as a family business in a small town.
If our company so chose, it could be more profitable, and grow faster, we employ fewer people, we could manufacture a lower quality product, and sell it at a slightly higher price, we could cut back on the training, we could push our consultants harder and push for monthly targets, we could all work longer hours, and out all of that we would probably be more profitable.
But being a family business means that we can say that profit, growth and sales % aren’t all that our company is about.
We sell a high-quality family product to families at a value for money price, that enables our consultants (who are mostly mums) to earn a good income whilst working flexibly around their families. And we can do all of that and still grow the company steadily, be home in the evenings for our children and spend time together as a couple at the weekends.
And it is being a family business that lets us do that, to prioritise people over profit percentages, and to let us have pride in every aspect of our business.