Interview with a career change mum - Caroline Flowers
Today I interview Caroline Flowers who has started up Fig & Bloom, a London-based consultancy specialising in nutrition, cooking tutorials and recipe development aimed at improving long-term health and well-being.
1. What gave you the idea to start up your business?
I can’t actually make that claim unfortunately. My two business partners and I met when our children started reception together in 2014. I was nine months pregnant with my second daughter and wasn’t thinking much beyond surviving the next few months! Stephanie, a nutritional therapist, and Dorothy, a cook and caterer, immediately connected through their passion for helping people to eat more healthily; within a few months they had created the concept for Fig & Bloom – blending nutritional science with delicious, stunning recipes. I then got involved when my daughter was around 6 months old, when on maternity leave from my job in corporate finance. I jumped at the chance to help with their strategy and business planning and very quickly got as excited about the possibilities, both for the business and for me. I’ve only ever worked in corporate and management consulting roles but had harboured a quiet longing to be my own boss at some point, but not being terribly creative I’d struggled to come up with a good idea. Meeting Stephanie and Dorothy couldn’t have been more serendipitous – I could help them realise their concept by adding skills that they didn’t have such as organisation, finance and project management. I became a partner of the business in 2015, and we launched in January 2016. I finally bit the bullet and resigned from my ‘proper’ job in March 2016.
2. What did you do to prepare to start up your business?
Stephanie and Dorothy had already registered the company name and created a logo, but there was a huge amount of planning and discussion to define what the business was, how we were going to be different and what we were trying to achieve. We wrote a business plan, shareholder agreement, created a website and social media accounts, set up a bank account and kicked off the marketing. I also saw the need to build up strong networks to seek advice and support. Coming from a large corporate firm where experts on everything are on tap, I felt pretty exposed in some areas. I joined some virtual networks such as Blooming Founders for female entrepreneurs, the Noi Club, for female achievers, as well as a local mumrepreneur’s group Start-up Mums. These were amazingly helpful and supportive; answering my many rookie entrepreneur questions and providing friendships, collaborators and clients.
In terms of how I prepared myself personally, I weighed up the pros and cons for quite a while, but in the end it seemed such a logical decision for me to leave my old corporate life. I’d gone back full time for almost four years after my first daughter and had battled with a stressful job, long hours and frequent working overseas. The opportunity to build something from the ground up, work the hours that I wanted to, have no travel or commute and be able to spend more time with my kids was too convincing in the end.
3. Which aspects of your business did you need help with? Where did you get that help?
We did everything ourselves at the start, from graphic design, accounts, to website building. The only external support we’ve had so far is legal advice for terms and conditions and registering our trademark, redesigning our logo; copy editing our printed nutrition guides; and filing our end of year accounts. All support came from personal recommendations through our network contacts.
4. Describe what your business does and who you target it at / your ideal client
In a nutshell - we want to help make it easier for people to eat more nutritiously so they improve their long-term health and wellbeing. There is a lot of confusing information about what is or isn’t healthy, and our aim is to cut through this and be a trusted source for evidence-based nutrition information as well as offering inspiring, easy recipes that people want to eat. Our typical clients are women between 30 and 45 with an interest in health, nutrition and food but not currently getting the information they need from books or online. We offer a range of services to respond to their different needs including: private consultation and bespoke menu plan, if someone has specific health conditions or challenges that they want support with; food diary reviews where they’re looking for more of a steer in the right direction or help getting out of bad eating habits; and group workshops and events which combine nutrition talks and cookery demonstrations focused on different health themes such as pregnancy and postnatal, stress and gut health.
We’ve also published nutrition and recipe guides which we sell online and through third party retailers. A growing side of our business is providing corporate consultancy to food and drink brands, such as nutritional analysis and insights, food labelling, marketing and communications content and recipe development.
5. What is the most rewarding thing about having your own business?
The most rewarding moment was when we gained our first client. In fact, it’s still thrilling every time we have a new client or make a new sale! The fact that we created a thriving business from scratch with our own hands makes me incredibly proud – it’s like my third child! I’ve learnt so much about myself and what I am capable of.
I have a tendency to be a perfectionist and have had to rewire myself to believe it’s better to have something done and out there than wait until it’s 100% perfect before sharing it.
6. What has been the biggest challenge?
I have two girls aged 2 and 7 so it’s been a challenge to juggle things, and I often work long late nights and weekends to fit everything in. It can also be difficult to fit in networking events and client meetings as I need to be at pick-ups and I find I do miss the total dedication to work you get when you are out at an office all day. It can also be difficult to keep going at 100% enthusiasm and positivity all the time. The emotional ups and downs of being an entrepreneur came as a shock – one minute you feel invincible and able to achieve anything then the next you feel like you’ve made the biggest mistake of your life! Luckily as there are three of us we tend to have our moments of despair at different times so can be buoyed up by the others, but it must be really hard being a solopreneur when the doubts creep in.
7. If you could go back and give yourself some advice what would it be?
Don’t underestimate how long everything takes to do when you do it yourself, and don’t beat yourself up when you don’t hit your deadlines. I was used to advising clients going through mergers and acquisitions where things move at a hectic speed and your part of a team working round the clock, so I often set myself some unrealistic targets that just can’t be achieved in my current situation. I try to always stop and look back at what I have achieved, which is a lot, rather than give myself a hard time about the things I’ve not finished when I wanted to.
Also, as a business owner working from home you never switch off and there is always work to do, so you need to learn how to focus on business without neglecting your personal goals, and separate your work from your personal life. I’ve had a bereavement and health problems in the past year and that’s really made me reassess my priorities and look to get better balance in my life. I’ve got great intentions so we’ll see how that goes…
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