Brief History

I grew up in a small village on top of a hill in an area of outstanding natural beauty. Not much went on here. Apart from; having lots of time to roam forests, watch deer & foxes at the end of my garden, sledge down valley hills in the winter and run through valleys of waist high golden grasses in the summer.

Anyone who has seen the film Stardust will know my Golden Valley, it is where the scenes at the Wall were filmed. It must have been quite nice because my family had not moved from the place in over 800 years and thanks to the romantic heart of a Duke for a humble farmers daughter, I am directly descended from Mary Tudor, Queen of France, the little sister of Henry VIII and daughter of the ancient Kings & Queens of England. From a different family branch and perhaps I get a little more excited about this, are my cousins Andrew Carnegie, (awesome entrepreneur) Abraham Lincoln (Amazing tenacity, stood up for others and believed in a better world) and Walt Whitman (American literary hero, who is also Abe’s cousin as well).

Before I get too carried away, this is where the illustrious, famous, rich & revered comparisons come to a screeching halt. I’ll more aptly describe myself as a ‘scrappy underdog’ from a humble family background raised by strong parents, a formidable British Army trained narcissist with a penchant for whisky and loose women and a gentle kind mother with more steel than an team of SAS operatives. Both I loved and both taught me values of grit, courage and how making the decision to stand up for what (or who) you believe in will often have life changing outcomes. Maybe they’re the reason I want to champion causes for vulnerable, voiceless and others who aren’t supposed change their stars and for that I am grateful.

A few things about me

I have been an entrepreneur all my life, starting at the age of ten with three paper rounds, a luxury car cleaning business at twelve and the village babysitting monopoly by fourteen. Then it all changed. I left home at sixteen, experienced homelessness, hostility and became a single parent at seventeen to a wonderful little boy. It was him and crucible events that has made me something of an expert at adapting to change and embracing opportunity when I see it.

Since then I have had many adventures, found love with a modern day hero, been blessed with wonderful children, studied architecture, built houses, converted buildings and created a property empire alongside a coffee shop brand and a construction company. Then as every good entrepreneur needs, a swift brutal lesson in complacency kicked me on my arse and a chill wind of unexpected force blew away everything of material value, literally overnight.

It took months to shake away disappointment, get back to my feet and see the change as massive opportunity. This time my new plan factored learning skills that would be reliable and not leave me quite so exposed, my days with business were over. The thought of having an employer take care of everything was fabulous. And remembering the inspiring midwives that had taken care of me when I had been young and alone, how they had helped me transition into my new life. I decided I too would become a midwife and make a difference to someone else.

So I began a midwifery degree at the Florence Nightingale School of Midwifery, part of Kings College London university. To get accepted on to this course was not easy, a kindly defeatist friend told me not to apply because of the tough selection, however this was probably the best thing they could have said to galvanise my application and a few months later I became one of 1% to be accepted onto the course and into this historic institution.

Being a student is uncomfortable at the best off times and on Midwifery degrees (especially the Kings one) the levels of discomfort rise steeply with a family to support. To help bolster the meagre student bursary I gravitated back to entrepreneurial activities selling handmade body care products to students, lecturers and London markets. Some folk thought they were great and a few shops started to request them.

I had started to make these products because of a new interest my studies had inspired. I had come across lots and lots of research linking synthetic endocrine disrupting chemicals with chronic illness and abnormal developments in embryos. But try as I might I could not find any choice in the supermarkets to keep people safe from these hazards. Through lack of choice and concern I trained at weekends and evenings and learnt how to make natural safe body care products.

Little by little, using my student bursary I began turning the products into a proper business and brand, choosing the name Barenaturals. There was really little money, in fact none at the best and none at the worst of times. I learnt to build websites, register trademarks, become adept at social marketing, accounting, legislation, sales and many other aspects of brand building. All the while going slowly insane with the weight of university life and clinical placements. However, when you have no choice, you dig deeper and discover you can do things that you thought you could never do.

It still early days for Barenaturals but feedback has been tremendous, we are an ethical environmentally conscious businesses and it is heart warming to see how many others feel like us and want to bring about positive change in the world. We provide a choice to people to choose world friendly products and although it is only a small thing, enough small things make big changes. In November 2014 the brand won a New Business of the Year award and a finalist in Green Business of the Year award up against tremendous competition. So I know we are headed in the right direction.

Since then I have qualified and became a registered Midwife and started working at the one of the busiest high risk hospitals in London. I do this whilst nurturing Barenaturals to grow strong. There are many reasons I choose to bootstrap rather than using other growth methods, one being I do not want to seek investment too early as this will put to much pressure on the brand (and me), so for now I need my resourcefulness to come up with ways to keep moving forward. Even if it is slowly, I want it to be like an oak tree… to grow slow and grow strong.

This blog intends to chronicle the ups and downs, to examine mistakes I make and hopefully inspire ideas for other eco-entrepreneurs. Also its for me to download my tangled thoughts now and then, which is a great way to clear space in my mind and hit refresh.

If you are here, thank you for reading so far. I welcome you along and any comments and shares will be very gratefully received.