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When espoused entrepreneurs Michał and Ania Laskowski set upon a new venture to create a textile business, they had little experience in the business of textiles and printing but possessed vital expertise in e-commerce and an astute vision.

CottonBee founder, Ania, inspired the business when she observed there were no good resources for buying contemporary fabrics for her sewing hobby; overseas websites were the only option and ordering processes proved difficult. From this spark of an idea, Ania and today’s CEO Michał founded CottonBee in 2014. The vision was to sell ultra-short-run textiles – averaging just one metre in length – direct to consumers.

Five years on and CottonBee has transformed from a side hustle for these entrepreneurs to an established business that goes from strength-to-strength. Still engaged in small volume printing, the business today has 15 employees and has shipped over 28,000 orders to hobbyists and small businesses. From the outset it was obvious digital production was a must for the business as short run-lengths were essential. Recognising that their own knowledge of print was limited, Ania and Michał worked with local vendors to find a technology that would be simple to operate, whilst providing the vibrant fabric prints and fast turnarounds needed – at the right price.

“Mimaki was the first and only choice for us. We were a start-up business with a limited budget and didn’t need a huge amount of capacity to start with. However, we had strict criteria with regards to the print quality, turnaround times and we needed equipment that was easy to operate,” Michał explains. “The Mimaki Tx400 series was the only option at that time which delivered on all our requirements. Our only other alternative was a rebuild and we didn’t want the risk. We also felt Mimaki was a trustworthy brand and working with a company like that would mean continual investment in the technology and excellent customer service.”

A little later Mimaki launched its TP400 pigment inks and according to Michał “Everything improved, but especially dry and wet colour fastness and the vividness of colour. The quality compared very nicely even against large-scale industrial printers.” It was a welcome development for CottonBee’s remarkably tough customer-base, as Michał put it: “Consumers want a good price, good quality, good turnaround times: they’re super demanding. In fact, our single metre customers have the most exacting requirements!”

Having established the CottonBee business, Michał and Ania ramped up their approach after 18 months, expanding their target market to include small-scale businesses as well as consumers. Excelling in its niche, CottonBee continued to focus on small runs, attracting many small-scale ‘hobbyist’ businesses.