Creating a sensation: The meteoric rise of Childs Farm
We talk to Joanna Jensen, Founder of Childs Farm, about growing a £17m business within a decade, fostering consumer trust and embracing sustainability through B Corp certification.
Can you tell us a bit about Childs Farm and what advice you would give to others starting out with pioneering products?
Childs Farm is a range of personal care products for babies and children that I created for my own girls. When Bella was born in 2008, she arrived with Atopic Eczema, and I couldn’t find any shampoo or wash that didn’t irritate her very delicate skin. I, therefore, created my own natural-origin products which not only did a great job of cleaning and not irritating her delicate skin but also smelt fabulous.
I did as much research as I could to make sure I wasn’t trying to reinvent the wheel by bringing out a range which was already strong in the market. I also ensured that I registered my Intellectual Property (IP) so that no one could then copy my designs and layouts. If you don’t own it, you can’t protect it.
What has been the most challenging part of growing your business and how did you overcome these challenges?
Cash. Always cash. When you are growing an SME, the balance between investment and cash in the bank is a precarious one. You want to ensure you have stock to sell, but not have too much capital tied up. You want a strong marketing voice, but not at the expense of the payroll. It’s like playing musical chairs, bumps, and statues all at the same time whilst juggling balls on a vibrating trampoline!
Having very robust financials is essential – knowing what your 13- and 26-week cash flow looks like means there is no room for surprises. Any marketing should have an ROI (return on investment) attached to it, and you must know your consumer to ensure that you are not wasting money on targeting the wrong audience.
Turnover went from £305,000 in 2011 to £17m in 2021. What was behind this rapid growth in just 10 years?
Our growth was a direct result of our products being proven effective on sensitive and eczema-prone skin. Parents of young children – and indeed adults – who used the products, couldn’t wait to tell others about their success because they understood how difficult it is to find products that make a difference to poorly skin and wanted to share this with fellow sufferers. Before 2018, Facebook worked organically so a post could go viral naturally.
We had two marvellous posts shared by a mother about her daughter, and a thirty-year-old woman about how our baby moisturiser had ‘cured’ their skin and we couldn’t make it fast enough for 2 years; after one post, we sold £1.5m of the baby moisturiser in a week! We went from nowhere to being the number 1 brand for babies and children in the UK within 3 years, a position we have managed to maintain.
You work with a number of charities including the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA), the Parallel Club and Surfers Against Sewage. Can you tell us about these and the benefits of giving back through these partnerships?
Horses have always played an important part in my life, and as a family, we have always supported RDA. When I started Childs Farm, it made enormous sense that we give 10% of our profit – our ‘tithe’ – to a charity we resonated with, and RDA has always given so much joy to the disabled through horses that it was a no-brainer. Through RDA I met Natasha Baker OBE, one of the UK’s top Para Dressage riders. Together we bought her current ride, Keystone Dawn Chorus, for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, where she got 2 silver and one gold medal. Natasha introduced me to the British Paralympics Association (BPA) and The Parallel Club which is a group of Philanthropists and smaller companies who support each Paralympic four-year Cycle with an annual donation, and in return, I am endlessly inspired by the ambition, perseverance and determination of our athletes, they are incredible.
I became a founder member of the Parallel Club 5 years ago and have recently been appointed as Chair of this wonderful group. People don’t realise that the BPA is 100% dependent on donations to train our athletes and get them to the games; even now we are short for Paris which is now less than a year away. It’s a great bit of flag-waving for a collective who are phenomenal achievers in a myriad of disciplines that make us one of the most successful Para Nations in the world.
Childs Farm is a market leader, in sustainability as well as sales, and it has recently become a certified B Corp. What changes if any have you seen from a business perspective since receiving the accreditation?
Sadly, consumer awareness of B Corp is not as high as anyone would like, but for many working for SMEs, it’s the holy grail for an employer. With the highest standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability, a certified B Corp has measured the company’s entire social and environmental performance and proven it to be outstanding. With 1,500 certified B Corps in the UK now, it’s a movement that’s growing – but needs a louder voice.
It is also becoming increasingly important to the consumer – you only have to look at the reviews on Childs Farm to see that the fact that our packaging is sustainable and ‘ingredients are certified is incredibly important to our customers. B Corp allows them the reassurance that we are not a company that is ‘greenwashing’.
What are your future growth plans for Childs Farm?
It’s all about international and taking that strength of trust we have with our UK parents and replicating this around the world. We have had fantastic growth in pockets of Europe this year, and next year is all about growing those and accelerating growth in the US.