The energy they exude is like the warmth from the sun, I can’t help but bask in it.
Sometimes I don’t even need to see them to feel it, it can be a simple phonecall that leaves me feeling revived.
I had such a call today.
I’ve never met Jo Chidley, but I hope to soon.
She’s the flounder of North Lanarkshire based Beauty Kitchen. Yes, you read that right – the flounder “because no one is perfect and I wanted everyone to know that.”
She currently has eight employees but by the end of the year will have 20. She’s also working on an investment deal with a very exciting entity – and I ain’t jinxing it by telling you who.
“Oh it’s manic, the business is just growing at such a fast rate and every second counts!” she laughed
The former head of HR for Avon Cosmetics set up her own natural beauty products business because she spotted a gap for transparently natural ingredients.
“Beauty Kitchen is for disillusioned beauty junkies like me – it’s a mindset,” she said.
She’s gleeful when she describes how many people told her it wouldn’t work – the formulation chemist and a certain business advisor told her she didn’t have a viable business idea.
“I think that’s when you know you’ve got an opportunity, when people put blockers and challenges in your way. That’s when you know you’re onto something,” she said defiantly.
She’s gone onto prove the naysayers wrong, of course, starting with winning the Scottish EDGE award in December 2014. She found a great retail partner in Holland & Barrett and has recently been accepted onto the ScaleUp Scotland programme with Entrepreneurial Scotland.
The hardest part has been putting in the infrastructure and processes.
“When you start, you do everything yourself, which is hard, but it’s also easy, because if you want it done, you have to find a way and do it,” she said. “When you want to scale you need to make sure you’ve got the right procedures in place or it would just be anarchy. I mean I like a bit of anarchy, but not too much.”
This year the company is launching 24 new products and expanding into five new countries, but she is determined the focus will be on ethical trading.
“We’re a B Corp certified company, it’s like fairtrade for business, and we’re the only high street beauty brand to have it,” she explained. She’s delighted that Holland & Barrett have expressed an interest in also achieving the certification.
“We’re a small independent potentially influencing a big corporate entity, for me that’s a big prize,” she said.
“You know, you stand at a farmers’ market stall in the middle of winter, just doing the do, not necessarily thinking of the bigger picture – but actually, you’re getting there and I do pinch myself a lot.”
Jo is a big fan of the Entrepreneurial Spark mantra, “fail fast and fail cheaply” – she extends it to her staff and tries to give them the space to grow. She also mentions her background as the daughter of a shipyard worker and a factory worker – she takes her responsibilities seriously.
“We changed our articles of association so that we’re also looking after the environment and the community, that’s where you can make a bigger difference through the power of business,” she said.
“It sounds a little bit cultish – and is it? – but actually the world is changing and we’ve all got a responsibility, whether we like it or not, to do something about it. I’m in a position of privilege and I should recognise that.”
Can you see why I felt inspired after speaking to Jo?!
It’s easy to be cynical – generally – but particularly when people talk about ethical business practice. In Jo’s case it feels real. It also fits the zeitgeist.