Founders Interviews: The Bam&Boo Trio

Francisco Camacho, Fernando Ribeiro and Nuno Catarino share their ongoing journey to a more sustainable future.

At Indico Capital Partners, we have just closed the second edition of the pre-seed program powered by Google for Startups. Bam&Boo was one of the 6 startups incubated at the Indico office for the past 6 months, which is now about to raise a €2M seed-round. Bam&Boo is a subscription-based sustainable personal and oral care brand for every day use, selling in over 60 countries.

We have spoken with co-founders Francisco Camacho, Fernando Ribeiro and Nuno Catarino who share their insight on growing a B2C marketplace in the sustainable ecosystem.

*This interview has been slightly edited and adapted for reading ease.

First, tell us a bit about your background and the path that lead you to found Bam&Boo.

FR: Marketing and business development sets my background. Mostly within FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) and by managing marketing plans 360º. From strategy, to new product development, opening new markets, managing P&L and lots of teamwork. And after about 20 years doing that, I decided together with my co-founders to put our own business vision into action.

NC: After working in multinational brands for several years in different sales and marketing roles, I decided to do a sabbatical and focus on building a project that gave me purpose, with the ambition to scale it and make a difference. After a couple of months of building, measuring, and learning, and with a fair amount of pivots, we started Bam&Boo.

FC: I majored in Business & Marketing in Lisbon, Portugal. After university, I went to the US to do an internship at Microsoft’s Worldwide Headquarters, in Redmond, WA. It was my first true global experience. I did most of my career in global household names like Microsoft, Bacardi and Nespresso within strategy, NPD, marketing and e-commerce. As I grew along my career, I got frustrated with the harm and waste that the vast majority brands create and the impact they have on the environment and our health. This was the spark that started Bam&Boo. We wanted to the well while doing good.

What is Bam&Boo’s ‘origin story’ — how it came to be, from idea until today?

FR: Bam&Boo is born from our will to create a purpose and conscious driven business aiming scale and profit. To do well by doing good. That’s how Bam&Boo started. First with a bamboo toothbrush, then with an oral care range and currently with a wider portfolio including other personal care categories like skin care, hair care, body care.

FC: To give you some background: this was 2016 and the world was finally waking up to the huge amounts of plastic waste ending up on the oceans, rivers and beaches and the impact it has on the environment. The EU had just passed a ban on single use plastic that would be implemented by 2020. We wanted to be part of this journey and have impact at global level. We started to think how we could do this in a simple way that could help consumers on their day to day life. We came up with the idea of selling bamboo toothbrushes online on a subscription model; at the time bamboo toothbrushes where not as widespread as they are today. We launched in 2017 and it worked! We quickly grew our oral care portfolio as our customers where asking for more sustainable products. By 2020 we where offering a full oral care range and also a few eco-friendly accessories. We started to look for investment to grow our business and in mid 2021 we where invested by Indico and a few business angels and joined the Indico Founders Program powered by Google for Startups.

And how is your product different from others in the market? What makes it unique?

FR: Bam&Boo is defined by a unique “triple-play” proposition. First, it’s sustainable: active footprint reduction and aiming for a positive impact. Secondly, it’s natural: committing to natural and efficient ingredients. And finally, it’s personal: we offer tailored solutions to each client and their household across beauty and care categories.

FC: We only use eco-friendly packaging, premium natural formulas and we deliver anytime and anywhere around the world. We use technology and data to maximize customer experience, loyalty and ultimately create a love brand. We leverage all the data gathered from our several data points to inform our strategy, our product development roadmap and the engagement we have with our very active and loyal community. Our community is at the core of everything we do, we co-create and co-develop everything with them. And we provide all this in a fast and seamless online experience.

If you could go back in time, is there anything you’d do differently in terms of business strategy?

FR: Starting to fundraise much earlier…

NC: Definitely fundraising much earlier!

FC: If we had raised cash in 2018, for example, we could be much bigger than we are know and in a better position to face all the challenges we are facing and will surely face ahead.

Can you share your best marketing and/or management tips?

FR: Everything begins and ends with the client. It’s from customer feedback that we can adjust and do better. It’s from their needs that we can find the right solutions, and thus the best market fit for our business.

NC: Hire people with different backgrounds — diversity fosters creativity and innovation.

FC: So many! First, network and listen a lot. There are people who have gone through what you are going through and are willing to help you. It avoids unnecessary pain. Secondly, adapt and learn quickly. Nothing is set in stone. It’s great to have convictions, but there’s no need to be stubborn and with that affect the business and the people around you.

Like Nuno said, recruit and nurture a great team. The team is the heart and brains of the business. Once you have them onboard, do everything you can to keep them engaged and motivated. Celebrate and give the team the freedom to be themselves.

In terms of marketing — create a brand not ‘just’ a business. Having great metrics is amazing but, in my view, it’s not enough. By creating a strong brand you are creating a living organism that embraces everything around your business. Have a clear purpose, clear and meaningful values and act in line with them at all levels. This will attract and keeps clients, suppliers, team members, investors and media. Crafting and honestly living a compelling story will help along the journey!

And finally, being and entrepreneur is a tough journey. You need to be well for your business to perform well. So, find balance between the huge challenges of entrepreneurship and a healthy family and personal life.

Can you talk a bit about your experience at the Indico Founders Program powered by Google for Startups?

NC: For Bam&Boo, I think it was a big shift in mindset. The Founders Program allowed us to understand better what we needed to achieve and how to achieve it quicker. Our mindset since day one on the program was ‘build, measure, learn’. This allowed us to become much more efficient tackling problems and fulfilling our vision. It’s been a true game changer for us as a company, as founders, and for the team. We are implementing a lot of things learned at the program that have allowed us to grow our metrics and grow a lot faster.

FC: I would add that Bam&Boo was born as an oral care subscription brand, and what the Founders Program gave us was focus and also the opening of possibilities. [During the program] we added a new vertical to our business — sustainable personal care — and that allowed us to grow from 30 to 50 MRR in just a few months. That came from being a lot more metrics-focused, more organised and also putting the right resources in the right place, to basically grow and grow quickly.

Lastly, what has been the most challenging part of growing a startup? And also, the most fun part?

FR: The most challenging was keeping speed and scale with lots of bumps on the way. The most fun is the chance to learn very fast and of seeing ideas being put into action.

NC: The most challenging part is to be in peace with the emotional rollercoaster that growing a startup implies. From the highs to the lows, it’s as important as it is challenging to always be the best mentor and the biggest supporter of your team. The most fun part is definitely being surrounded by amazing people that challenge me every day to build something great.

FC: The most challenging part for me is to raise money. It’s time consuming, you get a lot of ‘nos’ and it can sometimes be frustrating. But it’s also a very important learning process. The most fun part is to see your ‘baby’ grow, to evolve, to transform itself. It’s like watching your child grow! Fatherhood has been the most rewarding experience of my life; Bam&Boo is my other ‘child”, that gives me a few headaches, but mostly puts a smile on my face.

Interview by Matilde Castro.

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Leading early stage VC based in Lisbon, Portugal

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