After returning to work from maternity leave in July 2020, Stephanie Cotterill was thrown in at the deep end and officially handed the reins of Juice Global Ltd, the UK market leader in the manufacture and supply of mobile phone accessories, while the founder/CEO took a step back to focus on other projects.
It wasn’t a bad first year at the helm after Juice announced it experienced its most successful year to date, with sales up by 66% from the previous year. Added to that,
Juice’s online presence has grown 124% over the last 12 months alone.
So, what’s next? We hear there is a huge project in the pipeline…
Yes, 2022 is going to be an exciting year as we are making some ground-breaking changes across every single one of our product lines.
In July 2020, Juice became the first mobile phone accessories manufacturer in the UK to remove all single-use plastic from our packaging. The big challenge for us in 2022 is to go one step further and remove all single-use plastic from our products as well. This means our cables, power banks, speakers, mains chargers…every single product we sell, over the next 12 months.
There are a few product areas that will be tricky (such as our cables) because they are made from soft materials rather than plastic, however, where it is not possible to use recycled plastic, we vow to use environmentally friendly materials instead.
Why have you decided to do this? How will you achieve it?
We love plastic! The main driver for us is trying to re-use materials that are already out there – 91% of plastic isn’t currently recycled which is shocking.
There is plastic in our packaging and products, but it is plastic that already exists, needs recycling and is then 100% recyclable. Why not use a readily available resource? There are over 30 billion tonnes of plastic in our oceans and landfill sites, and we want to use it. Why generate more virgin plastic?
We avoid using biodegradable, plant-based and any other natural alternative materials as we feel these should be left alone. Instead, we want to re-use plastic that is otherwise redundant.
We also insist on this recyclable plastic coming from China as this is where we manufacture our products. Shipping it would defeat the object of what we are doing, leaving a carbon footprint and not being environmentally friendly. Huge amounts of plastic waste from around the world are shipped abroad to places like China.
After such a successful year for you – both in your new role and such an impressive business year for Juice – isn’t this a big risk for your career and the company?
I thought that by seeing this question in writing I might feel fearful as yes, we are taking a huge step, but actually, the risk of not doing it is far bigger than doing it.
If we’re not making these changes in 2022, then I believe that’s a bigger risk than going forward. Businesses and customers are shopping more ethically and more consciously and want to become more responsible as individuals and as families.
Conscious consumerism has had huge press coverage lately and the businesses that are not at the forefront of it and enabling it will fall behind – so it is a bigger risk to ignore it.
Added to this, the retailers we deal with now have a huge target internally to become more environmentally friendly and while we as a brand are completely separate from them, they could choose not to use us going forwards if we don’t start making these changes now.
Businesses need to change and evolve with the times. It’s already too late as a society but we still need to act now and are accelerating our efforts. I believe it is absolutely the right thing to do; it is our corporate and social responsibility as a business.
I also want to make sure we are ahead of the game – we succeeded with our packaging so I see no reason why we can’t succeed with our products.
How has it been for you stepping into big shoes, big MALE shoes, and taking on such a pivotal and critical role in such an established business and very much a male-dominated industry?
Thankfully, it’s not something I think about on a daily basis and certainly isn’t something I thought about when I came back to Juice and changed roles. I don’t have a pre-conceived idea of how I should act in taking over from a male, or in a male-dominated industry. I don’t allow it to cloud my judgment or affect my role and decision making. I don’t believe it should be a factor, so I don’t allow it to be one.
My predecessor, Jolyon Bennett, is a huge presence. It’s his business and he built it from scratch, but the transition to management was quite smooth as I have been at Juice since the start – I haven’t just jumped in at the deep end.
I don’t ‘manage’ in the same way as Jolyon as we have completely different styles. We are completely different people, so I haven’t imitated his leadership style at all.
Right from the early days we have been such a strong team; we are Ying and Yang. It would never work for me to try to be him or step into his shoes – I have my own fresh new ones!
How has the team adapted to working with a female leader and have they been receptive to a new style of leadership?
The team has known me from day one. My approach is to work very collaboratively which has probably been the biggest change for them. Everyone here is a consumer, so I’m keen to get their opinions and I also need to be able to share experiences across the sales team with open communication. Their experience and opinion is extremely valid.
On the flip side, if there is a business problem, it isn’t one individual problem, it’s a collective problem and we all work to solve it. I don’t think this has anything to do with gender, it’s just the way I do things, but now I’m a mum of two then maybe it goes more hand in hand to work as a family and as a team.
So yes, it has been different but one of the things we do so well at Juice is change – we are used to it, and we are all very open and receptive to it, so we adapt. It’s one of the cultures within Juice – we feel if we’re not changing then we’re not moving forward.
Have you had any issues getting the team on board with such a huge project for 2022?
No. This kind of project is expected which is great for me! The team pushed for these changes, so I don’t have to push hard.
The changes we are making are part of our ethos and always have been, so thankfully we haven’t had any issues with the team not being fully on board. This kind of change in the business is part of what makes Juice, Juice and the people who work here; it’s part of its appeal. We have naturally attracted employees who have this culture in them and want to work in this environment to feel as if they are helping with a cause.
How do your factories respond to and cope with these changes?
It’s a slightly different story with our factories and definitely more of a challenge as they have to make the changes to manufacture what we are asking for, but timing wise it is the right time and again, it is expected. They are able to source the materials directly and the technology isn’t a barrier.
Our factories are like partners and work with us rather than being a place we just purchase from. We go through the design process with them so that the products are designed specifically for us. We see them as partners, not as suppliers.
Will Juice take a financial hit to make these changes succeed?
No, because we’ve been working on this for some time, but if you had asked me 6 months ago, I might have given you a different answer! We have worked really hard in the background to ensure this isn’t a factor as we have to run a viable business.
Sourcing recycled plastic is more expensive compared to using virgin plastic as it has to go through a process before we can use it, but we are a strong, market leading brand with great relationships and should be able to use that as a motivator.
Will the prices of your products go up?
No, they can’t. It would defeat the object of why we are doing this. Essentially, we are doing the right thing, but we don’t feel that the customer should have to pay for it. In fact, I don’t think they would pay for it.
Customers expect it from us now, it’s just the norm. We have never been in the market of putting prices up; we want it to be cost effective – being able to offer the highest technology at reasonable prices.
Do your customers really want this?
Yes. Of course it is risky, but we really feel that our customers want this.
What we are endeavouring to do in 2022 is something we are all passionate about and runs right through the core of Juice. Customers are now digging deeper to see who and what is behind a brand, so if you aren’t genuine in your offering, then you will be found out. Thankfully, what we do here at Juice isn’t some sort of stunt to win customers, it is genuine, and we have been doing it right from the start. It’s part of our DNA. All we are doing now is building on these foundations.
‘Doing the right thing’ has always been our motto. Juice has used renewable energy from the very start and encouraged the team to do the same since we started working from home at the start of the pandemic. This was so ahead of its time but it’s how we roll and what we believe in which is why I am not afraid to embrace this challenge and really push the boundaries of technology for good in 2022.
Can you give us any mind-blowing stats?
By reducing the size of our packaging, we are using 1,514km less material each year which is the same distance from Juice HQ in Banbury to Barcelona.
By removing all pouches/travel bags from our power banks, mains and speakers, we are saving 5.783 TONNES of material each year!