‘Making tissue from bamboo? I never would have come up with that’

Chris Forbes and Julie Chen might be laughing now, but the political turmoil of 2016 almost flushed their fledgling business down the drain entirely.

14 November 2019

In this series, we ask small businesses around the UK about their founding journey – uncovering the great ideas, the difficult moments and the harsh realities that have helped define these ambitious enterprises.

If you stick with your business dream long enough, there may come a day when you get to experience a genuine ‘wow!’ moment that validates all the long hours you’ve put in.

It might be securing a major industry award or seeing double-digit growth for the first time. But for London-based Chris Forbes and his fiancée, Julie Chen, their chance to punch the air came rather undramatically – when they were online, looking at Amazon.

“We’d seen our sales on Amazon grow from £5k a month to £20k, but being made ‘Amazon’s Choice’ – where they recommend your product – was something we just hadn’t seen coming,” says Chris. “They don’t tell you, it just happens. And when it did, sales went from £20k to £50k a month.”

What it lacks in glamour, this story certainly makes up for in business kudos. Being named Amazon’s Choice is something most brands only ever dream of – and, truth be told – the incident was just one of many incredible landmark moments that the young company has enjoyed. Awards? They’ve got a wall-full. Celebrity endorsements? How does Joanna Lumley and Sir Richard Branson sound?

It’s all very impressive for a company which only started in 2016 and whose products are designed to be thrown away. In fact, it could be said that the whole business is going down the pan. The Cheeky Panda makes and sells paper products such as loo roll and tissues that are made from bamboo.

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Mike Peake is a freelance business journalist, copywriter and SME blogger. He’s written for NatWest, RBS and BBC business across topics such as finance, business advice and luxury lifestyle.

Article updated on: 18 March 2020

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