31 July 2017
How did you get your idea/concept for your business?
There are a lot of new businesses that refer to creating recipes around the kitchen table, and that is very much true for Piccolo. As head of Slow Food for six years, a campaigning organisation for good, nutritious food, and working with the NCT (National Childbirth Trust), the UK’s largest parenting charity, I heard from parents across the country just what they would love to see in a baby food brand. With their input, and years developing family food education programmes based on what parents shared with me what they wanted to understand more about nutrition, with my co-founders we created Piccolo.
What is unique about your business?
Piccolo is made with 100% natural organic ingredients and inspired by Mediterranean family recipes with ingredients sourced from independent family farms. As the only baby food brand to work in partnership with the National Childbirth Trust, the UK’s largest parenting organisation Piccolo is in a truly unique position committing 10% of its profits to food education. Piccolo’s passion and understanding of good food and education is second to none.
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
As a baby food brand with a huge social DNA, we are firstly having to capture mum and dads’ attention around of course fantastic flavours and nutritional excellence. We have an unrivalled quality in our sourcing and style of flavours across our range that parents themselves are chowing down on our pouches if there are any left-overs. Our unique taste matches the story behind our ingredients — authenticity rings true in a flavour profile. We fit in very well with today’s parental needs not just at the product level, but at the heart level – Piccolo is a purpose driven brand deriving from a firmly held belief around giving back to the community and a social mission.
What is the single most important decision you made that contributed to your success?
There are many incredible females within the industry who have been so generous with their time sharing lessons learned. With just a few of us, we help each other. I was also fortunate to begin my journey into the grocery trade with some of the most gracious female buyers in the sector who were understanding I was on a steep learning curve. I was a little slow in the beginning on the jargon of the industry. No one took advantage of that — our first listings were across Waitrose, Ocado, Planet Organic and Whole Foods Market – four lady buyers who really know the baby category and helped us succeed on shelf from the get-go.
If you could time travel back to day one of your company, and have 15min with your former self, what would you say?
I would say to start the career-baby juggle a bit earlier! A toddler can take more out of you than even starting a company. I don’t know what I would have done if my in laws and my parents weren’t so involved in childcare. Having a child is so wonderful; I wish I had focused on it a bit sooner so I won’t have two new sets of skills to learn at the same time, parenting and running a start up!
What are some of the biggest lessons that has impacted the way you work?
I would like to bring lessons learned to the grocery and FMCG sector from my work experience with the United Nations and Slow Food, both international organisations with a strong prevalence of racial diversity and gender balance. I believe there is a need for improvement on greater racial and gender diversity in the food and grocery industry. I also think more businesses in my sector should consider becoming a social enterprise, and not just seeking a goal that is solely about turning a profit and commercial objectives.
Do you have any tips on how to manage work life balance. Do you have any hobbies that help you switch off?
I don’t have time for hobbies anymore really. The worst is the presumption from those less informed and ill advised is the misperception that women founders won’t put in the same crazy hours if child juggling than men founders, which is not the case. Most juggling entrepreneur mothers I know drop most hobbies when embarking on new two pathways. Founder mums we know what we are getting into! I spend every minute I have really either on Piccolo or with my very active toddler.
What is the best advice you received, and that you still follow?
Where there is a will, there is a way. Persistence is half the battle.
If you had one piece of great advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
What business owner or entrepreneur do you admire most?
I would have to say Prue Leith who is my mentor, and investor in Piccolo, and also helped me set up Piccolo’s sister charity the Food Education Foundation.