A fast-growing maternity clothing brand has received a significant angel investment from several of the North-East’s most high-profile businesswomen.

Bibee was founded by Nicola Norris in 2011 and aims to provide stylish, functional and versatile fashion to women while pregnant and breast-feeding. The London-based fashion brand has been backed by no fewer than seven angel investors at Newcastle-based investment group Gabriel Investors.

Multi award-winning entrepreneur Sara Davies from Crafter’s Companion is a lead investor having taken the largest shareholding among the angels. Business adviser and former senior partner at Watson Burton LLP, Gillian Hall, will become non-executive chairman and a shareholder at Bibee alongside Sara.

The six-figure outlay will help accelerate Bibee’s growth by enabling the business to expand its product range to a full range of maternity wear, along with enhancing its online presence at bibeematernity.com.

Emerging entrepreneur Nicola established Bibee after she fell pregnant and struggled to find stylish maternity dresses. Frustrated with the options available on the high street, Nicola felt there was a gap in the market for luxurious pre and post birth maternity clothing that could be worn every day for work, rest and play.

Nicola said: “I wanted something more as the high street offered very little and online designer collections were beautiful, but impractical given the challenges of breast feeding. As my experience of motherhood grew, so did my realisation that there was an immediate need for a stylish maternity brand for mums that flattered and functioned.”

Despite having no fashion experience, Nicola set-up Bibee Maternity, which now designs, manufacturers and supplies its own range online and via boutique outlets across the UK.

As the company continued to expand, Nicola searched for support options in terms of funding and mentoring. She came across Gabriel Investors and felt its female angels offered exactly what she needed.

Nicola added: “As soon as I met the angels at Gabriel Investors, I knew they were the right fit for my business. As a group of women, I felt they immediately understood and connected with the needs of our market, which is vital.

“Furthermore, with Sara on board, they offered someone who is not only a new mother who can relate to the mind-set of our target customer, but has also successfully grown her own online business over the past decade.”

Sara Davies runs Durham-based craft supplies business Crafter’s Companion, which employs over 60 people across its County Durham headquarters and its US operation in California.

The company specialises in the manufacture and distribution of crafting tools that are sold online via its website, via TV shopping channels across the world and through independent retail shops in the UK and Europe.

Sara said: “Having become a mother fairly recently, I fell in love with Bibee’s dresses the minute I saw them and recognised very quickly that there is definitely a need for this type of range among expecting and new mothers.

“Nicola has done an amazing job in getting the business this far and her passion for her business is inspiring, which is something I could relate to given the journey I have been on with my business.

“With the funding in place to allow Nicola to make some investments, we hope Gillian and I can add some value from an expertise, support and mentoring perspective that will help collectively to take Bibee to the next level,” added Sara.

Bibee’s new website was recently launched following support from Saatchi & Saatchi Synergize, which is the South-African based digital arm of the renowned global marketing agency.

Gabriel Investors is a group of successful businesswomen who came together to support growing businesses by offering expertise and financial support in the shape of equity investments or loans. Watson Burton provided legal support to the investors to help secure the Bibee deal.

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