Rosa Bloom was a well-established and successful cult-brand when we first started working together. I had fan-girled Rosa after seeing a piece of PR about her and we started chatting and became friends. Even though I didn’t have any experience of the fashion industry at that time, the conversations that we were having about the potential of the brand soon lead to a period of coaching that is now in its third year.
Our work together has covered several areas but has principally been about protecting the integrity of her business and working out how to grow it in a way that is sustainable, culturally appropriate in the manufacturing region (South East Asia) and meaningful. Rosa is an astute entrepreneur with a clear aesthetic and an ethical supply chain. I have really enjoyed collaborating with her and helping to protect a beautiful thing.
Pippa and I met five years ago when she was selling home-made nut-butter on Maltby St market. She approached me after a talk I was giving and we started working together. My experience of coaching Pippa was that she knew exactly where she wanted to get to and just needed information from me about how businesses and retailers functioned. I strongly encouraged her to re-brand and I also take credit for navigating her away from some people and organisations that were looking to come aboard for the ride. I helped her with the usual things like her business plan and fundraising in that first year. Much of my work was just giving her backup as she developed herself and her brand. After about a year I was delighted and proud to watch her exceed my commercial successes and graduate to greater things and a mentor with a track record of building a company not just a brand.
Pippa and I are still close: I lend her the ear of a protective friend who has been around the block and I learn from her continued success in return. Pip & Nut is a business with a great work culture, a young female founder and a product now stocked in over 5000 stores. That is something everyone involved with the project should feel proud of.
S Hawkins is a very British clothing brand that produces hand-made, unisex clothing in a workwear tradition. My work with Sophie, the founder was extremely enjoyable as I really appreciate her aesthetic but it was also nuanced with no clearly defined brief.
Over a series of conversations Sophie and I looked at her own motivation and the brand’s origin story. Together we then tried to puzzle out how S Hawkins can fit in to the UK fashion industry as it is today and how it can be commercially viable going forward. Our aim was to understand how to make the business sustainable but the process also helped Sophie to make key decisions about how to develop the business in a way that is compatible with her own creative process and her core values around ethical supply chain and social responsibility.
I first got to know Bonnie Chung, founder of Miso Tasty when she worked for me at Grasshopper. We learned on the job together back then, and Bonnie did sales work for me alongside a supper club that she was running in Redchurch Street. When she decided to set up her own brand selling miso paste, a product that she is absolutely passionate about, I was able to give her informal help in the form of contacts and set-up advice but she had a clear idea of what was needed by then, because of her experience at Grasshopper.
I introduced her to her first investor, who remains a significant stake-holder in the business as it grows, and I continue to be a friend to both Bonnie and the business as a whole. Miso Tasty has grown as a brand and is stocked at Tesco, Waitrose, Morrisons, Ocado and Wholefoods. Bonnie has won numerous awards, endorsement from Jamie Oliver, and is the author of the Miso Tasty cookbook.
Black Bee started life as Barnes & Webb, a hive-rental company installing bee colonies on the roofs of inner London buildings. Its founders Paul and Chris approached me because, although they were doing something they loved and had had some success, their business model didn’t feel scalable. We worked together to pivot the business, creating a retail model with a new name and identity. We analysed the honey market and located a clear opportunity for their own brand of single-source , unpasteurised range of honey in major retailers.
I worked closely with them on their business plan and walked them through a successful round of fund raising. Paul and Chris secured early sales on schedule and their honey is now stocked in farm shops and delis nationwide as well as Ocado, WholeFoods and Planet Organic. They have just closed a second round of fundraising to support imminent supermarket listings and new product development. Having successfully achieved all of our work objectives together I continue to offer occasional project-based support and am now also an investor.
I met Danielle in an exercise class and she gave me some of her product to try. I was really impressed with what she had done and kept in touch. A couple of years later we started working together when the brand was faced with growing pains. We took a step back and spent time looking at where she wanted to get to, what her personal motivations were and what the changing market could support.
At a time when many brands make compromises on quality to bring costs down Danielle decided to retain the integrity of the product and has gone on to develop sales in independent stores and supermarkets. I really enjoyed the challenge of working this through with her and helping her to plan for the future and grow.
Working with Joshua and Sena, founders of Morts & More was joyful. Together they had created a well-loved brand and profitable business with no roadmap or guidance and came to me to pause, to sense-check the decisions they had made with someone who had some experience and to plan the next stage of their growth
We talked a lot about their motivation, about operations, about making their supply chain and route to market sustainable. We worked on making small alterations to their branding and marketing and argued a bit about that (they won). The main success of the work that we did together was to clarify their purpose and help them to feel strong when faced with growing competition. Joshua and Sena have retained full control of their business and the loyalty of their customers is testament to the strong identity and creative flair of the founders.
Lily Hirasawa is a founder with a passion for true sustainability and tradition in food. Like Miso Tasty’s Bonnie Chung she had spent a long time in Asia learning about traditional production techniques and had created a range of fermented kimchi that was extremely impressive. We worked together to understand where her products would fit in the UK market and how we could communicate the health benefits of kimchi without sounding worthy.
In partnership with Kingdom & Sparrow we developed a name, strap line and visual identity that fitted the product and the founder. Yumchi is off to a flying start and is sold in all branches of Planet Organic and many other independent stores.
Susan, Founder of Pep & Lekker came and spoke to me after I gave a now rather notorious talk at the Bread & Jam festival about the pitfalls of hiring mentors to help with food startups. Undeterred she went on to ask me to work with her to plan her next steps having made a strong start launching her range of vegan, nutritionally dense soups.
We talked a lot about routes to market, customer buying behaviour and the simple mechanics of how the food industry works. I helped her to find the right creative partner to embark on some critical identity development and am delighted to watch the business grow.
Snackzilla is a new project that I have worked on since its inception and am really excited about. Its founder, Marieke Syed set out to produce a cookie that children love to eat that is healthy (meeting the government’s guidelines on kids’ snacking). It was a big ask but Marieke is a compelling entrepreneur and the trajectory of the project reminds me of the early days of Pip & Nut.
Just like with Pippa, I work closely with Marieke to help her understand how the industry works behind the scenes, plan her next steps and keep the project out of trouble.
In partnership with a creative agency I worked with Marieke on the brand creation and also helped her establish manufacturing. I am now a shareholder in Snackzilla and am very excited about the future for this standout new business.
Rose lives near me on the South coast and emailed me for help at a time when I had just had a baby and was very curious and immersed in the world of design for kids. Having built up an impressive nursery art portfolio and Instagram following she was experiencing a plateau in the growth of the business and wanted to understand what options she had.
I recommended re-branding the business and worked with her to create a name and visual identity that were more engaging. We also talked about buying schedules, how to market new work and routes to market so that she could make a more concrete plan for the growth of the business. I am very fond of Rose and really love the identity that we made.
Bee Berrie, founder of Bee’s Bakery started out supplying home-made bespoke biscuits to upmarket events for clients such as Topshop and Vogue and after her iconic and much-copied ‘sweary-dodgers’ went viral she became an internationally-published author, blogger and champion of plant-based baking.
The first time I met her we sat in a cafe on the King’s Road and I gave her loads of advice about her route to market which she very politely ignored. Her business went on to grow in a very natural way, and I was delighted to be proved wrong. Since then we have regularly talked through issues that she has come up against, such as diversification, specialisation and making a sustainable business model. Happily I have been able to occasionally give her some advice that she could actually use and find helpful.
NB: When I sent this to Bee to proof-read she changed the last line to ‘you consistently give me essential and game-changing advice that I find un-ignorable’