I've been trying to get hold of her, like forever, a few weeks ago she was at the Natural and Organic show in london and quickly apologised that she was all tied up and was too busy and couldn't do the interview. Running a startup can be like that, especially when you are the only employee in it and you're also raising two kids.
Fiona is someone I've been following since she won the £50,000 in Barclays take one small step competition in 2010 and have been so impressed with her progress, which was one of the reasons we named her in our YHP's Top 20 Young Entrepreneurs to watch out for 2012.
Yesterday, I finally got the chance to speak to to Fiona Wood about her company - Naturally Cool Kids, being a mum, challenges she faced when starting up and advices for other mums out there.
Please introduce yourself to the YHP readers?
I'm Fiona Wood creator of Naturally Cool Kids, a natural winter and summer skincare for children.
I am married to David and we have two children Rhys 17 and Finlay 5 years old. I live in Cleckheaton West Yorkshire and in the last 12 months have gone from stay at home mum to business woman.
How were you able to fund the business at the start?
I won the Barclays take one small step competition in 2010 which provided me with £50,000 to make my business idea a reality. I created the whole business from formulas to branding. I pride myself on it been a wholly made in the UK business that cares about the environment and the little people within it.
Tell us about your products?
I wanted to create a range that were free from nasties, I was fine with my everyday skincare products for my children, but when it came to coughs and colds in winter and sun cream for protection in the summer, I felt let down by the lack of great products that don’t just appeal to mum but that the children actually want to use. The innovative stick packaging is great for little people and is fun and parents have the piece of mind that they are safe and less likely to react as with using a chemical version.
What was the next step for you after creating the products?
I launched in March 2011 and John Lewis were the first stockist to take the range. We only had two meetings with them and they loved it and placed an order straight away, then along came lots of independents and Tesco Nutri Centre and Amazon. After a whirlwind year I thought how do we top that in year two, we celebrated our birthday three weeks ago the big 1 year, and yes we continue with plenty of health food shops and now pharmacies stocking us. We have worked with the UKTI and we are now exporting and selling in Sweden, Malta, Gibraltor, Poland and South Africa are sights are now set on Australia where the British Embassy have taken a look at the range.
What can we be expecting next from you and Naturally Cool Kids this year and years to come?
We are working hard to take on as many retailers as possible in the UK and also setting ourselves in other countries too. I would love to see everyone using Naturally Cool Kids and will work hard to achieve it. I am still juggling the business alone and doing the school run but it’s the best decision I have ever made and wouldn’t change it.
What would you suggest other stay at home mums go about starting a business?
I think a lot of mums have ideas but feel there is no way they could ever follow it through and that is such a shame. I would encourage anyone with a great idea to take the first step which is scary but every step after that becomes so much easier is to look at their competition visit consumer or trade shows, take photos of what you see, chat with people aske them what the industry is like or any tips they may have.
Is there a company in the industry that isn’t in direct competition that you can make friends with and ask advice and help from. Helen and Polly at Cuddle Dry were great with me I visited them at the trade shows and they gave me valuable advice about how to save money and the does and don’ts, we forget that people love helping others and by asking you can learn so much.
I would also suggest buying magazines about your idea and looking at websites and you tube at what other people are doing and how they have done it, there is a wealth of information only a click away.
The one thing I didn’t take on board which many people said was “just think how difficult it will be working for yourself and that you will put more hours in than any employed job” I didn’t believe anyone I thought it would fit in perfectly and I’d get round it. I have worked around it but it’s a damn site harder than I ever imagined it would be don’t get me wrong I wouldn’t change it for the world but be prepared for some long long days.
You also need maximum support from your partner as there are times when you really do need someone to fall back on be it the house work, shows to attend etc and they need to be able to just take over from you.
What were your main challenges starting up and how have you managed to get around them?
Time and lack of it, I need an extra couple of days in a week just to get even. It’s also difficult when you have meetings with manufacturers or retailers then its show time and you have to be out at different times of day and away for days at a time. It is hard as I am very maternal and don’t like leaving home. I do get around it by making sure we take the kids with us wherever possible or that I am not away for more than two evenings. I would say this is one of the hardest parts of running your own business.
Another challenge I would say is juggling the amount of work there is to do, as my company is only 12 months old I still do the majority of the work myself, this is everything from marketing and PR to building our customer base both with consumers and retailers and then also arranging the orders and having them shipped, I then have all the follow ups and exhibitions to arrange too, it can be very demanding at times and you do think at extreme times how will I get through this or I can’t cope anymore but that is such a normal feeling and it does pass and you get back on with it.
How is your work/life balance now?
I am one year in and we are starting to get a routine flowing a little better than it has been. I don’t think you can ever get the right balance but I try my best. If I need an afternoon off for home life then I work my way up to it and prepare to cause as little disruption to work as possible, if we have a few days away then I will make sure that I work for an hour or so when the kids are in bed or if my husband takes them to do an activity, just so that I don’t fall behind.
I am always there to take the youngest to school and pick up, I would never miss a school pantomime or anything like that as you never get those precious moments again. You have to also remember to embrace them while they are young and growing as it doesn’t last very long then they are off doing their own thing and you wonder where the time went.