Laughter, camaraderie, give and take, vulnerability, and synergy...
According to a quick Google search, when you meet someone with whom you share these characteristics, you’ve found your soulmate. As with most soul partners, Jemma Blaylock and Emma Hill (rhyming names must also be a dead give-away that you’ve found your perfect match) knew almost immediately that they were destined for best mate-ship and a joint business venture. When I met these business partners/soul mate sisters at the Social Venture Network (SVN) conference, I knew I was destined for gut-wrenching laughter and intelligent conversation about what it takes for mission-driven companies to succeed. What more can you ask for in a delightful afternoon?
Just a few years ago, Hill founded kibikibi Partners, a UK-based consulting firm that helps early stage, values-driven companies access the best markets and, as defined by the Japanese word kibikibi, helps “accelerate” growth. With dedicated careers in technology and retail at companies like IBM and Heinz, Hill and Blaylock offer the clients of kibikibi Partners a holistic scope of the market. But let go of all assumptions you hold about consulting firms. Forget fancy reports and boring meetings. Kibikibi Partners dives in headfirst with clients; they aren’t in consulting to make a quick buck. They choose their clients very carefully, only supporting companies they know that they can truly help succeed. Mission-driven retail and technology companies with a triple bottom line approach are their sweet spot. They call their approach “intelligent market penetration.”
“We aren’t about firing bullets for our clients. We spend more time at the beginning getting the right insights, so that our investment into marketing or sales is strategic and targeted. We don’t want our clients to spend money on things that the market doesn’t want or need,” says Blaylock.
Whatever it takes to find the best partnerships or market opportunities, kibikibi Partners becomes an industry expert for their client. In fact, when I first met Blaylock, I thought she had a long career as a manufacturer of plastics and packaging. Two of kibikibi Partners’ clients, GreenPiP and Parax Stone Paper, have developed plastic alternatives. Kibikibi Partners is exploring a variety of uses for the technologies. GreenPIP produces a renewable, recycled paper product, 56 percent more energy efficient than plastic, which can be molded into any shape and can replace hard plastics. Parax Stone Paper is an alternative to traditional pulp paper, waterproof, and saves the cutting of 20 trees, 7,480 gallons of water, and 167 pounds of waste per ton as compared to regular paper. Both Green PIP and Parax Stone Paper demonstrate an opportunity to revolutionize pet food packaging—with GreenPiP’s paper replacing the bag and Parax Stone Paper the inner liner. Pet food packaging is a market Blaylock and Hill are exploring in-depth for both clients.
“Americans spend approximately $60 billion on their pets and they really care about their health and welfare. A huge amount of innovation has gone into producing healthy pet food. We want to be able to provide the pet-care market with packaging alternatives which support sustainability and health. If we can achieve this with paper or solutions which use less plastic, then this has to be a good thing for consumer choice. ” explains Hill.
When kibikibi Partners first opened its doors, developing sustainability strategies for their clients was important, but not a driving priority. Joining SVN quickly helped to change that. After experiencing the passion of the SVN family at the fall 2015 conference, Blaylock and Hill knew flying across the pond twice a year was a priority.
“There is nothing like SVN in the UK. What we value is that it’s intelligent, motivated people coming together,” begins Blaylock. “. . . to make a difference for our planet,” finishes Hill. (Finishing one another’s sentences—another sign of a soul mate).
Spending an afternoon with Blaylock and Hill at SVN reminded me that not only should a business partnership serve to maximize capacities and best serve its clients, it should also be fun. Their corporate backgrounds, commitment to clients, and values-driven approach are why they have what it takes to lead a successful consulting firm. Their sisterhood, their joy, their laughter is why you want to work with them. Trust me. You’ll have a blast.
Photo: Helen Abraham