Baby business is booming as Cosatto celebrates 10th anniversary
Pram and baby goods firm Cosatto, named Bolton’s business of the year 2013, held a street party at its Farnworth base to celebrate its 10th anniversary. Robbie MacDonald spoke to the firm’s founder, Andrew Kluge, about his pride in the company’s development and heard how his parents influenced his move into business after leaving school.
COSATTO, the firm that makes “baby stuff with personality”, hosted a street party with food, games and music to mark its 10th anniversary.
The street party capped a summer of celebrations after the Farnworth business scooped two awards at this year’s Bolton & Bury Business Awards held at the Reebok Stadium.
The firm is based in Bentink Mill, in Bentink Street, and the street party was held in a small lane running down one side.
The lane has officially been named Kluge Lane, in memory of Cosatto founder Andrew Kluge’s late father.
Lorna Duncanson, the firm’s PR manager, said: “We wanted to mark the anniversary with something fun for staff, friends and families and also our neighbours in Farnworth, who’ve put up with us for 10 years.
“We wanted to give something back to the community for free. So we put on food, games and entertainment.
“We also invited some customers and a group of bloggers who write about our products. They have done lots of good promotional work for us.”
Andrew Kluge, aged 50, chose to launch his own business rather than go to university.
The former Thornleigh Salesian College student, who grew up in Sharples, initially made pushchair covers in a room above his parents’ pram shop after leaving school. Later the chance arose to buy the Cosatto brand name 10 years ago from its previous owners in Essex.
He said: “At the time, the Cosatto brand was struggling a bit. However, I spotted an opportunity, bought it and brought it to Farnworth. Over the past 10 years we’ve had ups and downs but overall we’ve really developed the brand.
“We have put our stamp on it, which is all about fun, personality and distinctiveness — saving the world from boring baby stuff. In the old days, prams were mostly plain colours. I wanted Cosatto products to be different with a recognisable style, bright colours and bold patterns. We seem to have caught the public’s imagination and have gone from strength to strength.
“Despite the economic gloom we have done particularly well in the past few years. I hope the firm will continue to grow.
“When I brought Cosatto north, we had just four or five staff. Now we have 48 staff and sell products in 48 countries. Our market share is growing and we are very active in promotional work, in social media and other activities with customers.”
Mr Kluge’s parents, dad Heinz and mum Brenda, ran two pram shops, Pram Corner, in Derby Street, Bolton and in Bury when he was younger.
Mr Kluge died in 2009, aged 90, but Mrs Kluge, who is 82, attended the Cosatto street party.
Andrew Kluge said: “It would have been great for dad to have been here. He’d have loved meeting the staff and seeing what we do. Sadly he’s not here. However, we have officially named a lane next to the office in his memory — Kluge Lane — which we officially arranged with Bolton Council.
“Growing up with entre-preunerial parents made me want to run my own business.
“My mum and dad’s ‘can-do’ attitude had a big influence on me. They kept me going through thick and thin.
“I chose not to go to university. I felt it was a choice between poverty-stricken university life or starting my own business and earning some money. I have no regrets.
“We recruit graduates sometimes but I don’t think a university degree is a guarantee of a good job or a disadvantage. We look at people’s attitude and personality. If they fit an organisation’s culture then we can teach them the job. Equally if they have fantastic qualifications and skills but don’t fit in, it won’t work. The culture of workplaces is very important.”
Mrs Kluge, who still lives in Sharples, has been retired for 25 years.
She said: “Cosatto’s products are amazing with lovely colours and patterns. In the old days, we used to sell prams that were just black, navy blue or beige. It’s all very different now.
“When Andrew was a young boy, before school, I used to bring him to the shop with me. He’d sit there and play. Later, after leaving Thornleigh School, we wanted him to go to university but he didn’t want to. He wanted his own business. He would make his own pushchair covers in a room above the shop. He later worked in a cabin and then got some factory space before moving to the mill in Farnworth. It’s great to see him celebrating like this. I’m very proud of him.”
Steve Green, Cosatto’s finance director, aged 51, originally from Skipton, has been with the firm for two years and has a retail-related background.
He said: “The retail sector is the industry I prefer. It’s fast-moving and fun. Cosatto has achieved good growth over the past few years — 10 per cent over the past 12 months — and we want to go higher in the next few years. We’re looking at 75 per cent in the next two years. There are a lot of opportunities in the UK and overseas. We want to export to new countries.
“There seems to be a lot of interest in the Cosatto brand and we use social media heavily to generate that interest. We have four people working on social media and PR activities.”
Speaking about this year’s Bolton and Bury Business Awards, Mr Green added: “I completed Cosatto’s application form. I feel it’s very important to enter awards because they recognise all the hard work we do.
“We might think it’s a wonderful business but it’s nice to get external judgement. We have spent a lot of time on creative and marketing work over the years, so it’s great to be recognise with the creative award too.
“We’ve taken on six new staff in recent times, from warehouse to administration and marketing. We’d expect to take on more with future growth.”
Visitors to the street party included Bethany McLaughlin, aged 23, from Kearsley with son Blake Sparrow, aged two.
She said: “My mum, Joan Holland, lives nearby and heard about the party. The kids have had a nice time, been on the stalls and games, and won some prizes. Everything is free, which is very nice. We’ve also seen a lot of Cosatto prams and things. They look very nice.”
Lisa Crimmins, aged 25, from Farnworth, was with children Ebony, Sky, Cole and Lincon (CORRECT) aged eight, five, four and two.
She said: “The kids have had ice cream and candy floss, went on hook-a-duck and won a few prizes. They’ve have enjoyed themselves. It’s a nice thing for the company to do. I’m sure the neighbours appreciate it.
“I bought a cot for my daughter from Cosatto, which is nice. Cosatto makes things that look trendy without being wacky.”
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