Carolyn Creswell Huggies MumInspired Grants Program Interview

Carolyn Creswell Huggies MumInspired Grants Program Interview

Carolyn Creswell Huggies MumInspired Grants Program Interview

The Huggies MumInspired research report revealed that 70% of Australian women have considered starting their own business post becoming a mother. With so many entrepreneurial Aussie mums out there, Huggies Australia have launched the Huggies MumInspired Grants Program, encouraging women to submit their child related business ideas, with four mums to be awarded a grant of $20,000 to make their idea into a reality.

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Interview with Carolyn Creswell

Carolyn Creswell is the founder and managing director of Carman's Fine Foods and mother of four. At the age of 18, with just $1,000 in savings Carolyn began hand-making her delicious muesli and selling to local delis. Today, Carman's is now stocked at Coles, Woolworths, Franklins, Qantas and Virgin airlines and is exported to over 26 countries.

Question: What are your tips for mothers who want to start their own business?

Carolyn Creswell: Don't be overwhelmed by the idea of starting your own business. A first step would be to enter the Huggies MumInspired grant program to potentially get a $20,000 kick start! Three tips below to get you started...

1. Give your idea the 'person off the street test"
As you start to think about writing your business plan, just take a moment to try and have an objective opinion about your idea or product.
Ask yourself – 'would any random person off the street think this is a good idea? Would they buy this product?"
Don't let it overwhelm you. There are so many great ideas from mums – big and small – but do let those questions guide you.
It will help you write a great business plan for a product you truly believe will help other mums.

2. Trust your intuition
As you are completing your MumInspired entry, don't second guess yourself or question if your idea is too small. At the end of the day, rely on your instincts. Us mums are naturally great at this! We have them for a reason, and if a bad feeling sets in, then listen to it.

3. Step it out
Try not to be overwhelmed of writing a business plan to enter your idea.
While you need a long-term plan, help yourself with daily or even weekly task lists to help you complete your business plan.
It will help you stay focused and on the path to achieving the ultimate goal a little bit at a time.

Question: Can you talk about the importance of a business plan?

Carolyn Creswell: A business plan is the first step to making your idea a reality. Let the business plan assist you in really -nutting out' and getting clarity on your idea. To avoid feeling overwhelmed, think about ways that you can start out small, to test the concept. It doesn't need to be a large company to begin with. When I first began making muesli, I was chopping up the nuts by hand, roasting the muesli in a small oven, scooping it into hand-tied bags and selling it to a few local delis and cafes. Running a business a marathon, not a sprint, so think about small steps to get you started and just never give up!

Question: What should be considered when writing a business plan?

Carolyn Creswell: I think most importantly, make sure you do your research. Start to read the trade publications of the market you want to enter and spend time on google! Also, there is a lot of really great information on the Huggies MumInspired website which can help you write your business plan.

Question: How do you go about juggling motherhood and your business?

Carolyn Creswell: For me, it's all about being in the moment. When I'm working at Carman's I am 110% focussed on the job at hand; I work with a lot of mums and we all give it our best while we're there so that we can get out the door at 5pm (or earlier if we're doing the school run). When I'm home with my four children and husband Peter, I am 110% focussed on my family. The Blackberry is set aside and Peter and I begin preparing dinner, helping Will with his homework, teaching Lily the alphabet, encouraging Oliver to count and feeding Grace our new born. Each night we all sit around the dinner table and talk about our day, then we go for long walks after dinner – I make sure when I'm home my family has my complete attention.

Question: Where did the idea for Carman's Muesli originally come from?

Carolyn Creswell: I was working for a small muesli business when I was told they were putting the business on the market for sale. I grabbed the opportunity with a co-worker and we bought the tiny business together. Carman's was an amalgamation of the first three letters of our names, CARolyn and MANya. I knew even back then, that the muesli was a unique blend of natural, wholesome ingredients that were good for you and tasted great – and that is was a recipe for success.... The only other thing the business needed was a whole lot of hard work and determination!

Question: What's three pieces of advice you'd give someone wanting to begin their own business?

Carolyn Creswell: Go for it
Go for it
Go for it

Question: How can entrants to Huggies MumInspired Grants Program make their child related business ideas stand out?

Carolyn Creswell: Often it's the most simple concept that will win people over. Don't worry about it being the most grand idea but something that you really can see being brought to market. Don't be scared to -sell yourself' – make sure you highlight your achievements and why you know your product/service will work.

Question: Can you talk about one of the major challenges you have overcome?

Carolyn Creswell: Huggies actually undertook research with 1,000 mums to find out what the biggest barriers are when considering starting their own business. The biggest barrier was a limited access to finance, but interestingly 40% stated that it was a fear of failure. Believe in yourself and you can achieve anything, manage the risk my making calculated financial investments and growing slowly one step at a a time. If you're passionate and hard-working you will be unstoppable!

Accept that there will be hiccups along the way but don't give up. A few years ago my range was deleted from a major supermarket chain. It was so devastating at the time but I did everything in my power to get it listed again including empowering my customers to rally the supermarket to bring Carman's back. It took 18 months but each product was finally reinstated on the shelves – persistence is key!

Question: You mentor other young entrepreneurs; can you talk about why you choose to do this?

Carolyn Creswell: My time is quite precious but I try and make room to help people when they need it by speaking on my hands-free phone when I am driving to and from work. I will never forget the people who helped me when I was starting out so I try and do the same.

Huggies MumInspired Grant is a unique program that not only gives the recipients the finances to kick off their business but also access to some really helpful mentors and I'm looking forward to helping the winners in the initial stages of setting up their business.

Question: How have you seen your business grow since it began?

Carolyn Creswell: Significantly, I never imagined the business would be this big! I started out with just $1,000 in the bank and an unstoppable desire to succeed. Once I nearly ran out of petrol in my car, with a client in the passenger seat and no money in my wallet to pay. Things have changed a lot since then, not overnight, but over 18 years.

A really important piece of advice that I try to give mums wanting to start their own business is that success doesn't just fall into your lap. When I first approached Coles to stock Carman's they initially declined but I didn't take no for an answer. I asked them what I needed to do to make this work and they gave me advice about getting a barcode and changing a few elements of the packaging to suit their needs. I knew that if I could just get that listing, Coles shoppers would love my healthy muesli, so I went away for six months and did everything they asked, and I think they saw that I was willing to do whatever it took. Six months later, I'm was given a trial in 20 Coles stores and getting that first cheque from them was one of the best days I've had since I started Carman's all those years ago.

Today, Carman's is now sold nationally in Coles, Woolworth's and in the major supermarket chains of 26 countries around the world. Sometimes I need to pinch myself as I can't believe that my little muesli business has come so far!

Interview by Brooke Hunter