Startup Diaries: Winning the Mumpreneur of the Year Award

Fiona (centre) receiving her Mumpreneur of the Year AwardI have always dreamed of doing what I’m doing now. How strange that is to say. I don’t think many people get to say that in their lifetime, so I do appreciate where I am at this very moment. I’m a firm believer that you make your own luck and if you focus on what you want enough then, with hard work and determination, it will happen. I was brought up in a hard working, self employed family and had a great childhood, as Mum stayed at home to look after me and my two brothers while Dad was out working hard. I wanted my family to be like that when I had one. I have never had childcare and, with the help of my husband, we manage to make it work for us.

Naturally Cool Kids is a winter and summer skincare range that I developed when my youngest son Finlay was three years old. He was a really poorly baby and I lost count of the amount of time we spent at the doctors. It was at this point that I knew I was compromising the natural skincare routine that I felt strongly about using on Finlay, to help clear his airways and help him breathe more easily. 

I knew that I wanted to create a range that could give my son and others a natural alternative to chemical-laden products

but was unsure initially how to do that. It helped immensely that I am a trained alternative therapist, beautician and am also trained in manufacturing and development of skincare products. So after a lot of research, I developed the range that you see on shop shelves today and I am so proud of it!

I looked at the products from a child’s point of view and wanted to make them bright, fun and easy to use. I was fortunate enough to win the Barclays Take One Small Step competition in July 2010 which gave me finance to launch with a much stronger brand image and more products than I initially planned.

The Start Up website is simply fantastic and I had been reading stories on there and reading bios for quite some time.

When the awards opened for entry I thought I may as well have a go and see what the very experienced and professional judges thought of my business, which is just coming up to two years old.  It was a very in-depth judging process, more than I had expected, and I did doubt my chances, as I think anyone does when your whole life is being scrutinised!

When I found out I was a finalist for The Mumpreneur of the year award I was delighted to have got so far. The other two businesses in my category were fantastic and I’d read about them before, so I knew it definitely wasn’t going to be a walk in the park to win it.  I treated my mum to a couple of days in London as she escorted me to the Kensington Roof Top Gardens for lunch and the awards presentation (it’s true, there are real flamingos up there!).

During the dinner, I was marking off the winners as they were awarding them and I was in the third to last category so the nerves did start to kick in a bit. I was thinking maybe, just maybe, I could win this. I really wanted to make my Mum proud - the little girl in me was coming out. Well, when they read out the description of the winning business, I still didn’t click that it was me!  I was shaking and Mum had proud tears in her eyes, you’d have thought it was the Oscars!

When the awards came to an end they had one final award for the overall Business of the Year. I was more shocked than winning my award when I came in the top three businesses that the judges felt had the ability to go on to be a household name and have a really bright future. The lady that won it was amazing and I was thrilled for her, but that really does show that hard work does pay off.

It’s amazing what I learned that day. It gave me a real confidence boost, as I work alone in the business most of the time, so to be acknowledged and to hear what other professional, successful people think about you is completely inspiring.  I met some great people there who wanted to help me out and we have stayed in touch.

It made me realise I do need a strong team around me and that people will help - you just need to ask.

Where I have weaknesses (yes we all have them) I feel I can now address them with the right people in my life.

Winning the award has been great for PR. I’ve been approached by many different businesses and professionals wanting me to do talks and interviews which is great. Some people wonder why I do this when I should be working on things for the business, but the amount of people that get to hear your name and what Naturally Cool Kids is all about is worth so much, I couldn’t otherwise be able to talk to all these people at once.

I have secured my first keynote speaker position at the Franchise and Growing Your Own Business show in February at the Birmingham NEC, which will be fantastic, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a tad nervous. Awards really are a fantastic way to get new business and get people talking, I highly recommend them.

I have so many plans for the future, where do I begin? Obviously the key is to grow the business into as many outlets within the UK and Ireland, plus I have also started exporting, which is just in the early days, but more and more countries are enquiring and wanting to come on board, which is wonderful.

Just this week, I have signed with a pharmacy distributor and a new health food wholesalers too which will fulfil my aim for wider coverage. I am due to launch in to Boots in June 2013, which is very exciting, and a big step for a small company.

Awards will still high on my list of priorities, we have quite a few now for both the business and the products, so may this continue....!

I am looking at investment for the business as it is growing at such a rate that, for this business to reach its ultimate potential, investment will be a vital part of the growth plans.  

The plan from the beginning was to create a household name and I won’t stop until I have achieved that. We will be bringing some lovely new products out that I am sure will be just as successful.

Challenges along the way?

I think it’s the same for lots of small businesses: cash flow, keeping the wheel turning and pushing forward whilst juggling the budget. I see that as a challenge and it will tip the right way eventually.  Also working alone, I probably have done that for too long and should have had help sooner, as I cannot be everywhere and do everything, so I will definitely be addressing that this year.

I hope that, like so many other women before me, my story shows that if you feel strongly enough about your business and you enjoy what you do, you really can make it a success. 

And despite the stresses and the steep learning curve I’ve scaled, I know I wouldn’t choose to live my life any other way!

Fiona Wood is married and has two sons who suffered a number of ailments over the years including glue ear, prickly heat and eczema. She founded Naturally Cool Kids in July 2010 after years of being frustrated by the lack of affordable, natural skincare for kids.

NCK is a natural skincare company for children offering a niche range of winter and summer products which are made wholly in the UK and are free from chemicals. Naturally Cool Kids was voted by UK mums to win the Barclays Take One Small Step new business idea competition - a national campaign which aims to find people with outstanding business ideas and help to get them started. And as a result Fiona was able to develop six products which only contain natural and soothing ingredients. Just two and a half years after Fiona started the company she was named the Mumpreneur of the Year at the UK's 2012 Startups Awards.

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