We have been best friends since the age of 5, followed each other around the world from Sydney, to New York and then London, and so some 30 (ahem) years later in 2014, it seemed fitting to launch a business together.
Like many women, having children was the catalyst to start our business as we both wanted more flexibility, options and work life balance. So, we took the opportunity to think about the setting up a business together in an area we felt passionate about, knew we would have pride in, and could try and make a difference in our own small way.
As busy parents who didn’t always have time to bake from scratch, we couldn’t believe there wasn’t an alternative to the sugar loaded baking mixes. We wanted to make it easier for parents to bake healthier meals and snacks at home – quickly and without too much mess. And thus, Sweetpea Pantry was born!
Sweetpea Pantry makes nutritious baking mixes for biscuits, cakes, and pancakes, using quality wholegrain ingredients and no refined sugars. We’ve taken the idea literally from the kitchen table (our first order we measured into bags by the teaspoon!) and turned it into a multi-award winning business. Our mixes are now sold in many retailers and major supermarkets – Ocado, Marks & Spencer and we just launched into Sainsbury’s – yay! Our products are now baked by families all over the UK.
We’ve faced so many challenges along the way – from managing cash flow, to juggling growth, to making sure that the business doesn’t negatively affect our life and family time. For us, the most important thing we have learnt is to not take the highs and lows too personally, and to celebrate the wins, however small. Having two of us involved in the business definitely helps us to cope with the challenges, as one can always prop the other up when needed!
We have so many exciting plans for Sweetpea Pantry. We would love to be a household name that parents can turn to, and we have lots of new products in the works – for example, we have just started working on an ‘on-the-go’ snacking range as we don’t think there are enough healthy options for older children that taste great, but aren’t full of sugar and salt.
We were selected by Jacqueline as a WOW winner early-on in our business adventure, back in 2014. It gave us such a huge boost, especially as in the early stages we were so racked with doubt about leaving the secure jobs we had. The support from Jacqueline and the other WOW winners is one of those highs that keeps you going, and reading about the other winners’ journey’s is really inspiring.
For us, being a female entrepreneur means freedom, flexibility, and adventure. It means supporting and collaborating with other brands and women in business. Our advice for other entrepreneurs would be to talk to and listen to as many people who have been there as possible (even the most established people are more than happy to give you their time, they have all been there!) Model on their positive results and learn from their mistakes – you’ll still make your own, but may avoid some common pitfalls. Also, don’t work in isolation. We all need a support network in a big way as this is one tough ride. Join groups, aim for recognition and awards that connect you with people in the industry (like WOW!) and don’t be afraid to ask others for help!
Philippa Askham and Tanya Mitchell x