Inspirational Woman: Aneisha Soobroyen, Co-Founder, Scrumbles

Aneisha SoobroyenAneisha Soobroyen grew up in South London with her mum, two sisters and dog Kai.

Aneisha Soobroyen read Natural Sciences at the University of Bath where she honed her scientific curiosity and met her husband to be, Jack.

On graduation, Aneisha started her career at Proctor & Gamble working in their pet food department. She spent most of her time on the road learning the trade and training pet stores on animal nutrition. Already an animal lover, it wasn’t long before she adopted her furry companion, Smudge to accompany her travels.

Her career progressed and saw her move to Unilever and then L’Oreal, working with leading hair care and beauty brands, along with the UK’s biggest retailers. A further step into an early stage start-up, Bear Nibbles was formative for Aneisha, who soon realised she wanted to create her own brand.

Shortly after, on adopting kitten Boo, her troublesome tum stirred Aneisha to revisit her canine & feline nutrition textbooks and ultimately became the kindling to Scrumbles. Scrumbles specialises in tummy taming dog and cat friendly food made with a blend of responsibly sourced natural ingredients.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I’m co-founder and CEO of Scrumbles, an ethical, gut friendly pet brand. A proud Londoner I grew up in South-London with my mum and two sisters. I’m a passionate pet parent to Smudge and Boo (dog and cat) and had developed an interest in nutrition during my first role out of university on the P&G grad scheme where I worked on the Iams & Eukanuba brands, nutritionally training specialist pet stores and selling the brand to shoppers. I went on to spend the next 9 years in FMCG spanning Unilever, L’Oréal and Bear Nibbles – I loved it! When our kitty Boo joined our life, her problematic tum brought me back to animal nutrition and ultimately sewed the seed for what would become Scrumbles. We launched the brand 2 years ago, and I currently work alongside my husband to market the brand to conscious, passionate pet parents.

What’s special about Scrumbles?

Scrumbles is designed to be kind to tummies and the planet. We consciously source and blend quality ingredients that support great digestive health, including added probiotics.  Beyond the bowl, we’re passionate about minimising our environmental pawprint and take measures, working closely throughout our supply chain to do better. We’re not perfect but we’re continually striving to improve and challenge the industry. As a B Corp we have a fantastic network of businesses to share learnings.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I’m a planner and incredibly competitive so always have an eye on the future and a spreadsheet with targets set to beat and guide me. My husband and I were both passionate about creating a business of our own and so I set out to learn as much as I could absorbing everything I could from both big and small businesses. I didn’t have a fixed plan as to what our business would be, but planning guided my decisions and got me to where I am today.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

It wasn’t until I joined Unilever that I learned what it meant to be a woman in a majority male industry. All of a sudden, I felt these invisible guardrails begin to constrain my career. My husband, who was a year later to start his career was being promoted ahead of me and career opportunities were less and less forthcoming despite me outperforming my peers. My instinct was to fight against them, but it was exhausting, unjust and at times overwhelming. I love a challenge and worked to spotlight the issues of diversity up the chain of command as well as becoming a sustainability champion for the business to inspire little changes that make a difference to my colleagues.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I’m incredibly proud of creating Scrumbles, and our journey to date. They say business is tough and I’ll admit I didn’t quite appreciate this until I took the leap. The first six months were horrifically stressful, and I would wake up with mini heart panics. It’s amazing to have distribution in retailers across the country including Wholefoods and Sainsburys but for me the best moment and biggest achievement was convincing those first 100 shoppers to try us. Whilst we still have a long way to go, that was a moment of validation for the brand. A lot of our first customers are still with us today and that’s the biggest achievement I could have wished for.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Tenacity! Starting my own company has been the hardest undertaking I’ve ever taken on, but hard work and persistence has created momentum that has yielded results. One of our buyers told me I’m the most persistent person she’s ever come across and it’s a badge I wear with honour.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

A good mentor can be very powerful. I’ve been lucky to work with some very talented people through my career, but for one reason or another I’ve not had the support of a consistent mentor and I’ve missed that. I have maintained relationships with most of the people I have directly managed in my career and continue to mentor them and be a sound board. It’s incredibly rewarding and I’m already thinking ahead to when I can help someone realise their business aspirations and share the learnings and challenges I faced.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

More women in leadership is crucial to tackling the gender imbalance. When raising funds for Scrumbles I aimed to have investment from an equal number of both men and women but finding female investors has been very challenging – it seems there are just very few out there. I think the easy fix to accelerate this in business would be to have funds created to invest behind women in business. For larger workplaces basic gender equality training is essential. Reflecting on my own career, I can’t say that any of the businesses had employee training in this area and think this should be compulsory.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

Network, network, network. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt whilst creating Scrumbles has been the power of network. Whether it be someone to ask advice about something new, to help reach a potential important stakeholder like a buyer, an investor etc, or simply amplify the impact of your communications. A strong and broad network is an invaluable asset.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

We still have a lot of work to do with Scrumbles, expanding our reach and distribution, growing our team and customers. Most importantly though I want to make a positive impact on the planet and the people around us. Be that through Scrumbles or independently.

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