When Karen joined Belu in 2010, the former Emap and Barclays Executive turned the existing business plan on its head. Outsourcing everything from sales teams to distribution, Karen ensured that the products were completely re-branded and re-designed believing that it’s more important, and profitable, to look beautiful, not charitable.
Following this radical shake-up Karen transformed Belu from a company that lost £600,000 on sales of £1.5m in 2007 to a consumer brand with a profitable turnover of £4.5million forecast for 2014. Karen also increased Belu’s annual charitable donations of £30,000 in 2010, to over £300,000 in 2013 thanks to securing an official three-year partnership with WaterAid, pledging to give all profits to the charity.
Since 2011, Belu has given an incredible £583,341 to WaterAid, exceeding expectations and transforming the lives of 38,889 people through improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in the world’s poorest countries.
In March 2014, Belu announced an extension of this partnership with WaterAid, which will see the social enterprise pledge to give at least £1 million to the clean water charity by 2020. This exclusive partnership sees Belu donate 100% of its profits to WaterAid, with a minimum commitment of £100,000 per year.
Karen’s 38,889 reasons for leaving banking come in the form of human lives. Each £15 donation to WaterAid can enable one person to access a lasting supply of safe water improved hygiene and sanitation. That’s a lot of lives Belu is helping to transform.
Belu employs seven staff, most of whom, including Karen, have flexible or part-time working hours.
Belu’s biggest turning point
Karen believes that one of the major turning points for Belu was winning a national contract with Tragus Group (Café Rouge, Strada, Bella Italia), which helped the brand achieve economy of scale, competing on a national level with other well established brands.
Belu is now available nationwide in a variety of outlets including: D&D London LTD, Jamie’s Italian, Gail’s Artisan Bakery, Zizzi, Hard Rock, Nobu, Rick Stein’s The Seafood Restaurant, The Groucho Club and is the exclusive charity bottled water partner of retail giant, Sainsbury’s.
Driving change through supply chain
Karen and Belu are leading the way in terms of driving change in their supply chain and have most recently introduced green glass made using recycled wine and other alcohol bottles, in a bid to offer UK restaurants an ethical alternative to imported green glass water bottles.
Belu has also partnered with glass specialists Rawlings to develop the lightest weight glass bottle available in the mineral water industry, trademarked Ethical Glass and, as the first customer, Belu will save 850,000 kg of glass per year (equivalent to 2.1m wine bottles) and reduce its carbon emissions by a further 11%.