University of Bath entrepreneurs secure John Lewis distribution deal

An ethical bag company created by two University of Bath students has agreed terms with shop retailer John Lewis to distribute its products.

ElephantBranded, a supplier of ethical bags and related products was created by student entrepreneurs James Boon and Tim Mendelssohn.

James, 23, a current architecture student and Tim, who graduated this year in international management and modern languages, have seen their company grow since it was founded by James in April.

Now in his second year of study, James, who was named one of Google’s ‘Zeitgeist Young Minds’, set up ElephantBranded after working and travelling in Africa and Asia, where he was shocked by the lack of basic school equipment.

ElephantBranded sells ethically made, recycled bags and related products. For each product it sells, it donates a school bag and kit to a child in Africa or Asia. The social responsibility enterprise pays fair, competitive wages to the people who make its bags out of locally sourced, recycled materials. It also gives people the opportunity to learn valuable skills that give them a sustainable, effective way to get out of poverty.

The ElephantBranded bags were sold at London's Spitalfields Market in June, as part of Bath's student trader competition. The Bath team triumphed against five teams from other universities.

In addition to this quick success, the business is also appearing in the BBC3 series ‘Be you own boss’, presented by Innocent Drinks co-founder Richard Reed and will be aired at the beginning of October.

Commenting on their company’s distribution deal with John Lewis, Tim said: “The Spitalfields competition and subsequent support from the University gave us a real, tangible idea as to how our products could sell in a retail environment. It helped us to realise that with a bit of hard work and tough negotiation, supplying John Lewis could actually happen.

“As a result, we worked incredibly hard for a few months and it did! It is all rather surreal but serves to show that a lot is possible in a short space of time. The challenge now is to keep momentum going in the build up to Christmas and to develop a strong, effective relationship with one of the UK's most reputable retailers.”

Student’s Union Enterprise Manager, Siobain Hone, said: “I am really happy to see ElephantBranded doing so well. James and Tim have taken full advantage of the Student’s Union’s training and all credit must go to them for their hard work in securing this deal with John Lewis.

“To have such a prestigious business such as John Lewis distributing ElephantBranded products, shows just how far James and Tim have come since selling their bags at our National Student shop event held at Spitalfields market this summer.”

Having founded ElephantBranded as students of the University of Bath, James and Tim have received support from the SETsquared partnership. Bath, along with the Universities of Bristol, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey is part of the SETsquared partnership which collaborates in enterprise activities, promoting entrepreneurship and supporting new businesses.

For more information about ElephantBranded, visit their website and facebook page or follow them on Twitter at

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