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Derby couple who created £1m lockdown business celebrating first birthday, new place and sale of 100,000th gift box

Derby couple who created £1m lockdown business celebrating first birthday, new place and sale of 100,000th gift box

A PERSONALISED gift box company set up by a Derby couple when the Coronavirus pandemic was at its peak is celebrating its first birthday - and is closing in on the sale of its 100,000th box.


The past year has been a challenge for businesses but we’ve also seen the rise of the start-ups and companies diversifying to cope with the global pandemic. From your favourite pizza takeout in a make-at-home meal kit to cocktails in a can, small independent businesses are booming.

And Colleague Box, created by Spondon husband-and-wife Adam and Natalie Bamford, have capitalised on this with their venture turning over £1m in its first five months.

To mark the occasion, Colleague Box has launched a new range of gift boxes – including an escape room style puzzle box to enjoy at home, with two who-dun-it themes available and a choice of two craft beers/20cl Prosecco or two non-alcoholic soft drink cans, two bags of crisps, two packs of nuts, two treat bags of chocolate, two treat bags of sweets and two mini bags of popcorn.

They are also preparing to move into a bigger warehouse which will help accommodate its growing list of staff.

“The new place, on the Northedge Business Park, in Derby is a modern, new unit and we have been using the warehouse space there since December – in addition to our smaller warehouse at Sawley Park - to cope with demand for our boxes, particularly around Christmas,” said Natalie, who founded the award-winning Derby Days Out, an events listings website for parents and carers in 2015 and sold it three years later.

“There is much more office space there, which is just what we need, and we’re excited to move in there. We’ve installed new flooring which is the same colour as our logo and commissioned new signs for the place, too. It’s the perfect place for us to continue to grow the Colleague Box brand.

“It incredible to think that, 12 months ago, Colleague Box was just an idea we had so that employers could stay in touch with staff who were either furloughed or working remotely due to the first coronavirus lockdown.

“I, too, was furloughed and, together with Adam, we took the initial idea for Colleague Box and turned it into similar to what you see today, working initially from our kitchen table.”

There are now more than 40 different Colleague Boxes available to purchase on their website which are suitable for all occasions, from virtual quiz nights to awards ceremonies.

Keen sports fans, Natalie and Adam have sponsored Derbyshire County Cricket Club’s Billy Stanlake for the forthcoming season and recently became one of almost 87,000 UK food businesses to sign up to Too Good To Go; an app which lets companies sell surplus stock straight to consumers to help reduce waste.

They’re also continuing, too, to donate surplus stock to Derby charities including Derby City Mission, Doorways, Safe and Sound and Macmillan.

“The way in which people are using the Colleague Box is so innovative,” said Adam, “we love it when the phone rings and it’s a company that wants to do something completely custom. We also like to be completely flexible when it comes to contents and work with companies to create their own bespoke box, even sourcing them branded merchandise.

“There have been challenges; we’re a family and have had to endure months of homeschooling our children which has been a balancing act. However, we’re in a good place to push the business on post-pandemic and have collaborated with several local, small independent businesses – including, beauty business Divine Box – another Covid success story – and Mr Shaw; a Derby-based clothing company - to ensure that Colleague Box is constantly evolving.”

Colleague Box offer free UK shipping, and personalisation is also included with each gift box. 

Each box is ordered online and for bulk purchases, Colleague Box offer a quick turnaround. Packaged using sustainable and recyclable materials, the boxes arrive at the door within a few days.

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