I’m Joanna Jensen and I’m the Founder and Executive Chairman of the UK’s number 1 baby and child toiletries brand, Childs Farm.
I’ve had a number of careers, culminating in 10 years in the City before I had my girls. I suffered from skin sensitivity as a child and my second child, Bella was allergic to everything and had very poorly skin. I tried so many different brands, but nothing was suitable, and Bella often had very sore, red raw skin. Out of desperation I started creating my own homemade products using natural ingredients. It wasn’t my intention to create an inclusive brand for all skin types, but when I realised how Bella’s skin was helped, I felt it could work for others. A happy consequence of my holistic upbringing was knowing the ingredients I did – and didn’t want to use – which meant the whole range became suitable for all skin types, including dry, sensitive and even eczema prone skin. We then popped them in our fun, bright packaging, used fruity essential oil fragrances, and the products very quickly developed a very loyal fan base.
We launched Nationwide just six years ago, and I’m proud to say we’re now the UK parents’ favourite go to toiletry brand for kids – and our range now includes skin & hair care, washing and bathing and sun care products. We also sell in many countries around the world too, including Australia, the Middle East and China.
I’ve recently stood down as CEO and appointed Robert Bridge to take on that role for me, giving me more time on innovation and doing those things only a Founder can do. Right now, I’m focusing my energies on developing new ranges and working closely with my Marketing Director to make sure our brand and products stay true to our values as we grow and break into new markets.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
Lord no. Like most people, I did a lot of things and I just fell into my early career in the City. I’m very strong headed and strong willed, so like to be able to be in control so working for myself was really the only viable solution.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
Too many to mention, which is not unusual for any start up brand. As luck wouldn’t have it, the launch of Childs Farm coincided with the last financial downturn. My husband was made redundant from his job in the city, and so I had to think of creative ways to earn money. This included turning my home into a B&B and a wedding venue – even moving my two daughters out of their bedrooms during the weekends to offer them to guests.
Very few businesses are an overnight success story. In the early days I spent literally hours of my life on the road, attending trade shows, dropping off products to retailers and getting the brand out there. We lived off Pot Noodles and didn’t get paid, so there was a lot of make do and mend, selling of jewellery, and being cold in winter.
There’s a lot of perspiration as well as inspiration needed to build a company from scratch.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
My children, Mimi and Bella. I’m also hugely proud of the fact we’re the number 1 baby and children’s toiletry brand in the UK after only 6 years in retailers. We’re a David amongst many Goliaths, in a Category dominated by Global Pharmaceutical companies.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
Brilliant products: without them, we would have got nowhere. Self-belief is vital, as are grit, determination, Teflon skin, a little bit of madness, stubbornness, and sheer bloody mindedness. But these attributes can only help you so much. If the product you have isn’t sensational, you’ll fail before you started.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
It’s essential to keep you sane. It can be lonely as a Founder , so having someone with experience and objectivity is a godsend. I’ve worked with many mentor’s over the years, and benefitted from all of them – Simon Dunne, Peter Farquhar, Andrew Leek, Paul Cartmell to name a few. I’ve worked with a number of smaller brands giving them advice and am now ready to begin working as a formal Mentor for a couple of Universities for their PhD students, which is a real honour.
I would like to think I am a daily mentor to my fantastic leadership team who are a second family to me and a huge part of Childs Farm’s success story.
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?
Equal pay and more government support for childcare. So many women just can’t go to work as they can’t afford nursery fees. We should have state funded childcare again.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
Travel more. We didn’t realise how the pace of change would affect countries around the world, and I wish I’d seen more, done more, witnessed more. I did my fare share which I loved – including living in Hong Kong for three years.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
We’re about to launch a really exciting new range of sensitive skin care products which I have to nurture. As before, we are launching during a tough time for retailers. But I have every faith that people will love them as they’re so efficacious and there’s nothing quite like them on the market at the moment.
I want to make sure Childs Farm continues to bloom and grow both in the UK and abroad, and that our new brand launch is a huge success. I’m immensely ambitious for the brand and want us to lead the way in sustainable packaging, ingredients and innovation for sensitive skin care, and continue to punch above our weight so that everyone can be happy in their skin. As Walt Disney once said: “If you can dream it then you can do it” …..so I’ll continue to dream very, very, very big!
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