Features

How this mum built a multimillion-dollar business from the family barn

- February 21, 2020 4 MIN READ

“I was always fascinated by healing – secretly I rather fancied myself as a white witch” laughs Joanna Jensen founder of kids’ skincare range Childs Farm. “The fact it became a career was a total accident; going from Investment Banking to herbs isn’t a natural path, but it became the one for me.”

Growing up in the UK, Jensen explains herbal remedies and plant-based care were always a part of her life. To hear her tell it, the English countryside was her medicine cabinet.

“As a family we would visit the homoeopath rather than the doctor,” she recalls. “Like many little ones, we would make rose petal fragrance, lavender bags and press flowers, but in addition, we were taught to use calendula to make tinctures, rosehips to make cough syrups.

“My mother and grandmother taught us how to make the most of what was in the hedgerows.  Sadly, these skills have been largely lost on a DIY basis, but more companies are reviving older remedies and bringing them back to life through mainstream cosmetics.”

Jensen’s career change came shortly after the birth of her second child. Having suffered herself from a trifecta of issues – asthma, hayfever and eczema  – Jensen says she was prepared for her children to be susceptible too.

“Mimi my eldest seemed to just have sensitive skin, but little Bella arrived in 2008 with allergies up the wazoo and the most terribly sensitive skin, which was red raw in places, and clearly caused her immense discomfort,” remembers Jensen.

“I scoured the shelves of every health food shop and chemists, but whilst I could find supposedly mild products for little ones’ skin, none of it was compatible for hers.  I knew which ingredients were causing issues, but I couldn’t find any products that didn’t contain them.”

They say necessity is the mother of invention. With her daughter’s health on the line, Jensen set about creating a solution to her child’s skin issues. When the lotion worked, she knew she was onto a product that could not only benefit her child but many more.

“I concluded that if they worked for me, why not extend and refine this for other parents who were pulling their hair out with skin sensitivity?”

Thus Childs Farm was born.

At the start, Jensen did everything herself from her ‘freezing cold barn’, drawing on expertise she learned while making shampoos for her horses. Jensen then worked with a manufacturer to create the formulas for her first six products, which she trialled on her daughters as well as on friends’ children to find out what worked and what didn’t.

“The change in Bella’s skin was incredible and the feedback I received was fantastic.”

With more and more consumers raising concerns about the chemicals being utilised in products, it’s unsurprising that today, Childs Farm is the second largest baby & child toiletries brand in the UK. Since launching in 2010 Jensen has expanded the brand globally to revolutionise children’s skin and haircare with its specially formulated products.

“More people are waking up to the reality of the situation and are making changes in all aspects of their lives, from food to skin.  In cosmetics, so many ingredients are by-products from the petrol industry – does that really sound like something you should be putting on your skin?! And what is the impact on the communities that make these products?” asks Jensen.

“At Childs Farm we know where every ingredient comes from, that each and every one is ethically sourced, and we make choices to ensure that we are as sustainable as we can be.  It’s not happening overnight – but we are working to make rapid changes that will ensure that we know we are doing our best.”

Jensen’s business has seen rapid growth since its inception a decade ago. She admits at times the growing pains have been challenging, from managing cashflow to the logistics of launching internationally – there were lessons aplenty on the journey.

“When you finally manage to get your products listed in a retailer, it’s not just the product they see on shelf that you have to produce – they have to know that you have more in the warehouse, and the ability to make more to supply demand.

“This means you burn cash at a rate which is quite frightening. And of course, you don’t want to tie up your cash in stock so you don’t have anything to pay the telephone bill with, so you are paying more for smaller quantities.  It’s a cycle that at times could be quite overwhelming, but if you believe in your product and yourself enough, you just keep on going.

“Of course you make mistakes; any challenger brand worth its salt will be pushing the boundaries to see what works and what doesn’t. But it’s how you deal with those mistakes that defines you, and it’s learning from them which is the key.  Take it on board, and don’t do it again! So often I see people who repeat the same mistakes because they don’t understand where they went wrong.  But also people who don’t have the risk appetite to really success; playing it safe doesn’t create growth. You need to push yourself out of your comfort zone and dream big!”

Indeed, passion is an essential ingredient in the Childs Farm story.

“Passion and belief are the core of any success. So often you see great ideas lost because there isn’t the drive behind the idea to make it become real.  To success in anything in life you need great passion to achieve.”