Good taste, authentic style: the team behind children’s clothes company Belle & Boo

Good taste, authentic style: the team behind Belle & Boo

In the third of a series identifying the most innovative businesses in Britain today, Abigail Townsend meets the founders of children’s clothes company Belle & Boo.

Team effort: Kate Shafe, Patrick Shafe and Mandy Sutcliffe Photo: Gemma Day


2:18PM BST 21 Jun 2013

Setting up any business involves challenges. But at Belle & Boo, the biggest hurdles Kate Shafe and Mandy Sutcliffe faced were biological. Sutcliffe was selling her exquisite illustrations of children online when Shafe, a friend from university, suggested that together they turn her talent into a business. Six months later, however, Shafe was pregnant with her first child – soon followed by her second. Sutcliffe then upped the odds by having twins. So family life has always been part of their business.Says marketing director Shafe, 39: “I used to go to meetings with Robyn when she was about three months old. I’d stroll in and apologise, but then carry on quite comfortably. After all, life is life and life has children.”

Creative director Sutcliffe, also 39, and Shafe and her husband Patrick, 43, who joined the business two years ago as a co-owner and commercial director, clearly relish challenges.

Belle & Boo is intended to be the opposite of garish, hyped brands, which young children adore but taste-savvy parents don’t. Using Sutcliffe’s delicate drawings of an idealised childhood, Belle & Boo produces books, stationery, clothing and other lines, for sale in the UK and overseas.

“There’s an authenticity about Belle & Boo,” argues Shafe. “It’s not a mass-manufactured, money-driven brand; there’s an honesty about it – the artist is creating something her own children will cherish and pass down through the ages.”

Without a television show or film to establish their characters, building profile for Belle and her friends has been harder.

Yet five years in, the company is profitable and they expect sales to jump significantly this year as more revenue streams come online.

What advice does Kate have for start-ups? “Be patient. I believe it takes 10 years to build a successful brand.”

So the Bristol-based trio continue to juggle families with business, with Shafe’s girls and Sutcliffe’s boys often seen in the office.

“They are our little models,” laughs Sutcliffe.


Company Belle & Boo

Established 2008

Turnover £500,000 in 2012/13

Number of staff 8


About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: