Joanna Jensen, Childs Farm
Joanna Jensen is Founder and CEO of Childs Farm, which makes sensitive skincare products for babies and children and is the UK’s number 1 baby and child toiletry brand. She explains how she grew the business and what she has learnt along the way.
- What was the inspiration for your business?
I struggled from skin allergies as a child, and I also struggled to find products for my two daughters who both have sensitive skin. I tried natural and organic products but they were expensive and ineffective on cleaning skin and hair. I had some knowledge of homeopathic remedies from my childhood, so I thought of all the plants and ingredients that had been effective on my sensitive skin, and then looked to the modern world of chemistry to compliment my knowledge. I started with a few ‘home-made’ basic formulas, then progressed to work with a contract manufacturer who really understood what I was trying to achieve, and we created formulas together that revolutionised my daughters’ skin.
- How did you find your first customer?
As we lived in the country, I would attend rural trade shows to sell the products directly to the public. When I did get a listing in a shop - usually an independent retailer - I would physically drive boxes of product to their premises, often covering hundreds of miles a day to deliver them by hand. Childs Farm’s first national retail listing came in 2014 with Boots, and now it is the UK’s number 1 baby and child toiletry brand.
- How did you finance the growth of your business?
Initially through credit cards, selling jewellery, and letting out rooms in the house. Then in 2013, 2014 and 2017 by raising money, applying for Government funding schemes and sourcing shareholders.
- What has been the most difficult or challenging part of growing your business?
Cash in any growing business is always a challenge; and for a business like ours, it takes huge investment to be able to pull together enough stock to go into retailers at scale and ensure that you have warehoused stock for on-going orders. Then in 2017 and 2018, Childs Farm experienced the unexpected challenge of outstanding growth; we had a number of fantastic consumer Facebook reviews declaring our baby moisturiser a ‘miracle cream’. The press coverage was so great it meant we simply couldn’t produce enough stock for demand.
- What has been the impact of the pandemic on your business and how have you dealt with this?
The Covid-19 pandemic threw up issues with manufacturing and packaging. For example, our pumps are made in Northern Italy so when their factories closed, we had a bit of a panic, although luckily, we had a large stash of pumps. At the same time, we were also trying to launch our new adult skincare range, Farmologie. We had to overcome packaging quality problems and disruption to manufacturers in China during the peak of the pandemic. However since we launched in July, the feedback has been unbelievable.
On the flip side, our early investment into e-commerce and our distribution in the UK has paid dividends as our online sales have gone up 7000%.
- What do you wish you had known from the start about setting up and growing a business?
I wish I had really understood the reality that times flies when you have children and that you should enjoy and embrace every moment with them. If I had known this when I started, I would have brought in some business big guns to help run the business sooner.
- What mistakes did you make?
For the first couple of years, myself and a colleague called Olivia did everything and taught ourselves to use an accounting system. One day, one of us put an order through in the wrong way and sent a pallet of goods for Taiwan to a small flat in Sevenoaks. The next day, they received another pallet – the other one of us had made the same mistake too!
- What has been the secret of your success so far?
Self-belief is vital, as are grit, determination, Teflon skin, a little bit of madness, stubbornness and sheer bloody-mindedness. But these attributes can only help you so much. It is our brilliant products that have led to our success, and my brilliant team. Without them, we would have got nowhere.
- What advice would you give an entrepreneur just starting out about how to grow their business?
Knowing and understanding your competition is incredibly important to ensure that you can offer something differentiated and that consumers really want. It’s also important to believe in yourself, your product and your ability to succeed. I always remind myself of the Walt Disney quote, “If you can dream it, you can do it.
- What personal quality or characteristic has been most useful to you as an entrepreneur as you grow your business?