Bag It Don’t Bin It (BIDBI) a Sheffield based eco-friendly printing company is bucking the trend as a UK manufacturing business, consistently going from strength to strength. unLTD’s Sasha Mossman spoke to finance director Marc Larsen to delve into what makes BIDBI work

More consumers are considering their carbon footprint when shopping, so for eco-friendly BIDBI who produce custom-printed reusable branded cotton tote bags, business is really booming.

However, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for the firm. Founded in 2007, BIDBI has had an illustrious history, as finance director Marc Larsen (pictured right) explains: “BIDBI was one of the first companies to start selling 100 per cent Fairtrade cotton bags in the UK around 12 years ago and back then, it was quite a niche market.

“The company has seen growth year-on-year, and when the previous owner left in 2017 both our managing director Daya Singh (pictured left) and I bought the company, as we could see the potential for further growth.”

Marc and Daya were able to transform the business with help from HSBC and government funding, taking BIDBI from a small niche operation to a larger-scale modern manufacturing company.

Marc explains: “Up until that point, BIDBI was renowned as an eco-bag company, which was fantastic, but when we took over, we were able to look at it with a fresh set of eyes. “In our minds, if the company was going to have a chance to benefit from market trends, we needed to upscale dramatically.

“BIDBI had been growing organically and subsequentially we created numerous jobs after the takeover, our workforce eventually doubled.

“However, from the onset both Daya and I quickly realised that we needed to increase the work space to reflect their further growth strategies, so plans were put in place to move premises quickly. 

“Before the move, we had a cramped work facility in an old factory where the staff needed better machinery to work on. So, one of the things we wanted to improve quickly was to have a better working environment, and that’s what we have given them!

“Moving production into a new unit was a huge milestone for BIDBI! The investment alone was possibly the biggest investment made into screen printing equipment in Britain that year.”

Nevertheless, growth didn’t stop there, the original print factory was totally renovated and reopened in August 2019, with a view to creating more jobs for local people.

For BIDBI maintaining its core company values as well as looking after staff is essential, and one of the business’ main aims is to tap into what keeps their young, career-driven workforce happy.

“We encourage in-house recruitment and career progression in each department, keeping in line with the company’s ethical way of trading.

“We are Fairtrade registered, therefore our ethos is to ensure all of our workers are treated well, this is the same for those in India and in Sheffield.”

Efforts made to improve work spaces haven’t gone unnoticed by staff either, as Marc continues: “Operations are completely different to how they were previously, and we’ve definitely found it’s improved output from our staff too.”

Despite going through a period of major growth by creating an atmosphere of job security, Marc acknowledges that this hasn’t been the case for most firms. “Although we’ve seen vast improvements here at BIDBI, the reality for a lot of manufacturing employees in Sheffield and across the UK is to be worried about being made redundant. It’s been quite an experience to hear how people applying for roles here at BIDBI have been going through the mill and potentially worrying over losing their job.”

As more and more consumers are becoming ever increasingly environmentally conscious, BIDBI has seen more and more customers seek out reusable products and prioritise being able to deliver quality ethical goods.

“We’re focused on driving our environmentally-friendly ethos as well as maintaining a fully-fledged print factory, though, wanting to remain ethical in what we’re doing.”

The company saw a rise in the demand for their Fairtrade and organic products and decided to release a premium-quality range. “We’re extremely proud of our Fairtrade and Organic ranges as we’ve found that we’ve definitely captured what the consumer wants and needs.

“Everybody claims to have the best quality products, but we truly believe ours are – and the response we’ve had definitely proves it. The demand has been so great that sometimes we struggle to replenish stock quick enough.”

In looking to the future, Marc and Daya have a host of ideas to continue BIDBI’s growth: “We’re continuing to make investments, revamping and utilising areas of our original building to house new print technologies, which we’re hoping to offer to our clients shortly.”

Marc adds: “We’re aiming to introduce a range of printing techniques as opposed to one skill set. We will still specialise in printed cotton bags but we’re also branching out into other substrates – that should be interesting!

“The main thing for our company is to keep to our ethos whilst continuing to be driven and continue our growth.”