Childs Farm was provides eczema-soothing skincare for children
The British maker, the UK’s fastest seller in the category and second overall after Johnson & Johnson, is shifting one bottle of its £3.99 moisturiser every 15 seconds, primarily to young families but increasingly to single adults.
Its mission to “extend the choices and make caring for poorly skin much more natural” has put it on course for a £4.5 million turnover this year.
Chief executive and founder Joanna Jensen says part of the growth is down to “being an agile challenger brand in a category dominated by global pharmaceutical companies.
“We see this as an opportunity because we can do what we want within reason. We can be different and work differently.
“For instance I was told our colourful packaging would not work, but children think it’s fun, they engage with it so parents are on board too.
“We’re a small business, 13 of us in our office, easily contactable and accessible, and that’s really important in these times where trust is central for parents.
Our ranges won’t aggravate if someone has skin problems. They include, not exclude
“They can see our focus, that we’re not an adult brand with a junior one as an afterthought.
“Now is the right time to join Tesco, which has 27 per cent of our market so pretty core for us.”
Formulations, which Jensen developed and put through clinical trials over seven years, contain natural ingredients known to help sensitive and allergy-prone skin such as rich shea and cocoa butter, coconut, willowbark and argan oil.
Founder Joanna Jensen with her daughters Mimi and Bella
“Our ranges won’t aggravate if someone has skin problems. They include, not exclude. That really matters whatever your age, for families it means everyone can join in at bath time,” she explains.
The bright designs and ‘sensible’ price bracket “reflect what I am looking for as a parent and would be prepared to pay,” adds the mother of two daughters, Mimi,11, and Bella, eight.
Her big business idea came in 2010 when Jensen, who had had a career in banking overseas, noticed that while there were fabulous toiletries for grown-ups, the ones for kids “just looked unimaginative and medicinal,” she says.
“I had struggled to find anything for my two who had sensitive skin and flyaway hair, so I decided to make them myself.
Childs Farm are selling a bottle of moisturiser every 15 seconds
“When I first made them the feedback was they really made a difference, so I did independent trials and 98 per cent and more of parents said they did not cause any irritation and would recommend them. That gave me the reassurance I needed.
“Parents are more savvy now about what influences children’s skin, in the same way as they are when it comes to food.”
Specialist pharma MediChem in Kent makes the ranges which sell in over 3,700 UK stores including leading UK chains such as Boots – where 80 per cent of first time mums shop, and overseas in Europe and the United Arab Emirates.
Word of mouth recommendation has always been important for mums too, says Jensen, acknowledging “I was fortunate Childs Farm happened just as social media has given it extraordinary power.”
The skincare specialist is on course for a £4.5m turnover this year
She is majority shareholder in the company (named after where she was raised) with 25 other angel investors who so far have put in over £2 million, encouraged by the tax incentives offered by the EIS and SEIS entrepreneurs investment schemes.
“Without those Childs Farm would not exist,” says Jensen who thinks any moves to water them down would undermine UK innovation.
As an exporter she has felt the advantages from a weaker pound and as a smaller supplier to corporates is keen to see incentives offered to those who pay within 30 days.
Factoring has helped Child’s Farm get on top of cash flow, but finding a good partner has not been easy, she says.
“Check with other customers before you sign up to any agreement, and kick the tyres first,” she advises other businesses.
Strategic insights and more contacts were the chief benefits of taking Goldman Sachs’ small business programme recently and with Childs Farm’s UK strategy on course, overseas now beckons.
“It was important to get the UK right,” says Jensen, “now English-speaking countries – the US and Australia are a natural next step.”