Sunbeam Jackie – A Transform Journey

11th April, 2018

Charlie and Katy Napier at Sunbeam Jackie have had a lot of success in making a name for their brand across the globe. They have built their business on the design and manufacture of garden parasols using vintage fabrics. They’ve secured partnerships for brands such as House of Hackney and Liberty’s of London; appeared in magazines such as Home & Garden and been featured in exhibitions across Europe. They’ve had private commissions for big names in Hollywood, and venues closer to home across Dorset, the Cotswolds and Combe. First and foremost, Charlie and Katy are artists, and after spending a few years out of studying Fine Art at university, they decided to create their product and start the Sunbeam Jackie business. Eighteen months ago, they decided to get in touch with the Transform programme to gain a little more business expertise.

We’re artists, we don’t have any business training. The business coaches we’ve had with Oxford Innovation have acted as our sounding boards and it just helps us to think. It’s like therapy: you get to stop what you’re doing and talk to someone, and you come out of it and feel like you’ve reflected and moved forward. It’s been amazing to have had this support over the last eighteen months.”
Charlie Napier, Sunbeam Jackie

Martin Williams And Charlie Napier
Charlie Napier (right) & lead coach Martin Williams

Coaching allowed Charlie and Katy to explore different ways to grow the business, and after considering potential future goals with the support of Transform coaches, they’ve decided their ambition is to build their own design studio. They have a strong artistic vision and a lot of skill, and coaching enables them to work on the practical side of things.

“They went away and looked at other studios to create a benchmark of what they wanted, which has helped create the vision for the business. The goal of building a studio is great, and looking at how that’s been done across the world and then wanting to bring that into Cornwall is brilliant.”
Martin Williams, Transform coach

There have been several different Transform coaches involved with Sunbeam Jackie, all with different skills. But it’s now about where they go next and how they get there. Their lead coach Martin Williams has provided guidance with their marketing, but has also been able to introduce some other Transform coaches such as Meredydd Jones for finance, Jim Payton for export and Louise Hutton-Bailey for manufacturing / operations.

Staff Bios Meredydd Jones 717w

It was great helping Charlie and Katie explore the potential they had to further develop their business to meet their growing aspirations. Their fabulous bespoke parasols are a testament to the immense application of their combined design skill and attention to detail.”
Meredydd Jones, Transform coach

“Charlie and the team epitomise what we do well in the UK which is make and design beautiful, long-lasting, well-engineered, quality products. This is what we are loved for in international markets and therefore Sunbeam Jackie’s exports will thrive.”
Jim Payton, Transform coach

Staff Bios Jim Payton
Louise Hutton Bailey Circular

“I worked with Charlie to consider his product costings and manufacturing processes, to ensure that he is able to both meet the demand for his products and ensure that he makes an appropriate margin in doing so. This involved challenging his design choices with a view to best practice in manufacturing and helping him to create a cost model for his core product.”
Louise Hutton-Bailey, Transform coach

“Meredydd has encouraged us to get an accountant, which we now have. I think some people are more dynamic and even if they haven’t got the money, they act fast and push to make things happen. But I wanted to move a bit slower, be more careful and find the right person. The relationship’s got to feel right, so talking to a coach about that was really important.

It has been invaluable having [coaching from] Oxford Innovation, it encourages you to look at different aspects and reflect. We’re trying to manage the sales and marketing, and the design and manufacturing of these products. Coaching has given us a chance to step back and look at it, and consider other options. It’s a great knowledge base, and all those conversations paint the picture of what you’ve been doing. You don’t get to have these conversations with top marketers or people like Louise for free, they’re not normally available to you.”
– Charlie Napier, Sunbeam Jackie

Charlie Napier Sunbeam Jackie

“They’ve done incredibly well with the design and creation of their products, and are starting to create a wider range. They’re getting a lot of national and international PR, and they’ve even gained the support of Rosanna Orlandi, so they’re getting the support and patronage of some top industry people around the world. It’s interesting that there’s an eco-system here, a network in Cornwall for the fabrication of these items. So, when they get a job from Milan, for example, there are other businesses in Cornwall that benefit from that.”
– Martin Williams, Transform coach

As a business, the way they create their products is made up of beautiful, vintage fabrics, and fixtures that are all made of materials sourced sustainably within Cornwall, resulting in a minimal carbon footprint and supporting the local economy.

“[The business] is sustainable because it’s small, and the products aren’t at all disposable. We use vintage fabrics by design, so we’re not buying stuff that’s just been produced; the timber’s sourced sustainably – but I don’t see any other option anyway. There’s a big movement of sustainability in business and I don’t want to jump on a bandwagon, I just want the work to be good, and the products to look amazing. All the other things shouldn’t be at the head, and the sustainability is just standard for us. The important kind of sustainability for us is the fact that the business can sustain us. It feeds into our wellbeing, and if we’re happy, our kids are happy, and they have a better childhood.”
– Charlie Napier, Sunbeam Jackie

Sunbeam Jackie Fabrics

Although they’re still at the beginning of their growth story, the ambition is clearly there, and the passion too. Working to create new products that fit with their range of bespoke pieces brings more diversity to their brand. Charlie and Katy have the vision to grow the team and bring the specialisms they need. But they’re spending their time now building the foundations of a business they’ll be happy working in and on.

“Behind the scenes we’re working towards having a range of weird and wonderful products, they will never be mass produced. The story now is that there’s more to come from us. All made here in county, using different specialisms that would then be brought in-house when we grow.

We’re not your standard firm, we’re not on an industrial estate. The way we want to do things is quite specific. The way we’ve decided to live and work is defined by the way we feel, and we feel environment is important.

I love moving around Cornwall, meeting people and doing these things, and those people in their own businesses are profiting from us too. So, it’s like almost a re-modelling of the economy in a small way.”
– Charlie Napier, Sunbeam Jackie

You can learn more about Sunbeam Jackie, their parasols and portfolio via their website.

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