Eco Bag Business Carries off International Deals with Santander Backing

When an eco entrepreneur’s requests for financial support went unheard, she bagged herself a new banking partner.

In Brief

  • Company turnover: £1.4 million
  • Sector: Retail 
  • Bag It Don’t Bin It is an eco-friendly bag printer and designer based in Sheffield and run by serial entrepreneur Julia Gash.
  • The bags are manufactured by Fairtrade suppliers in India and shipped to the UK. The time delay between paying suppliers and product despatch was several months, which created cashflow problems.
  • Santander created a solution that included trade finance, invoice finance and a loan.
  • After putting in place a solution to BIDBI’s cashflow problems, Santander also helped Julia with her export strategy, building extra confidence in the business.
  • A £400,000 solution resulted in 35% year-on-year growth, the recruitment of eight new staff and entering new markets in the US, Japan and Canada.

Julia Gash started her promotional bag company, Bag It Don’t Bin It (now shortened to BIDBI), in 2007. The business imports eco-friendly cloth bags, which are printed in the UK for high-profile customers including Marks and Spencer, Lush, the British Museum, and Harvey Nichols. 

The business is committed to Fairtrade and Julia always pays her Indian suppliers when they ship the goods to the UK. However, long shipping distances mean the bags take up to six weeks to arrive, and it can be up to 12 weeks before BIDBI receives payment from its customers.

A call for help

Julia approached her existing bank seeking support for her cashflow problem, but the bank was unable to provide any additional funding. “When I made requests for a loan the bank wouldn’t put the request through, claiming I didn’t meet the criteria,” says Julia.

The situation improved when Julia attended a Santander Trade Mission to New York. She found the Santander attitude to be a refreshing change. “The Santander people I met through the Trade Mission – and subsequently – had a genuine interest in the business. There was no hard sell,” explains Julia.

Straight talking

Santander brought in Relationship Director Liz Pickering to work with Julia when she returned from the Trade Mission and this dialogue resulted in BIDBI moving to Santander in January 2013. “We chose to take on BIDBI because of Julia. She has built the business up gradually and she has a great vision for the business. She is a very inspiring person,” says Liz.

When BIDBI moved its banking to Santander, Julia took up the offer of a finance package worth £400,000. This included a trio of products – trade finance, invoice factoring and a loan. The finance package, combined with a new supplier in India, has improved cashflow. BIDBI has seen shipment times reduce by four weeks and it has since been able to fulfil its expansion potential, with an impressive 35% growth on the previous 12 months.

More than money 

Apart from financial success, better cashflow has also given Julia a new lease of life. “Santander’s confidence in me and the business has spurred us all on at BIDBI and has enabled us to put our plans into practice. We are improving our facility and investing in marketing our new own brand range.”

The new brand is Talented Totes, a range of off-the-shelf designs that Julia hopes to sell through distributors around the world. “My original plan after the Trade Mission was to sell to the US. However, after spending some of the money I ring-fenced for new market development (including an Overseas Market Introduction Service report for Japan) and exhibiting at trade fairs, we’ve decided to hit the US, Canadian and Japanese markets with the Talented Totes range first, with a view to bringing in BIDBI later.”

Talented Totes is now in its second season. It has a dedicated website with a new Santander financed online stock and order management system and four new full-time staff, and with revenues at double their target.

What is Breakthrough?

Breakthrough is a programme of funding, business support, events and consultancy to help high-performing small and medium-sized enterprises leap to the next level of sustainable growth. Taking part in Breakthrough does not guarantee access to all elements, as each programme is tailored to meet the individual requirements of the business. To find out more, or to register your interest, visit the Breakthrough website. 

All lending is subject to status.

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Where Next?

Relationship Director Comments


Julia is a fantastic business woman with a strong plan for the future and I’m absolutely confident she will continue to make a success of the business.

Liz Pickering