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The Lessons Learnt Launching a Business the Second Time Around

This month, I launched my second start-up. My first - Ella’s Kitchen, is named after my daughter, and is now the number one UK baby food brand. It was conceived simply to improve the lives of children through giving them a healthier relationship with food.

This time the brand is named after my son. It’s called Paddy’s Bathroom, offering natural and organic toiletries for babies, toddlers and young children, promising that getting clean will now be as much fun as it was to get dirty. With innovative packaging and a central-to-the-brand social mission, it’s just launched in Target stores in the US and will be in Tesco stores from March 1st in the UK and in other retailers soon after.

It’s all very exciting. And scary. Which is exactly how I felt just as Ella’s Kitchen was launching nine years ago. The familiarity of that feeling in my stomach got me thinking about the similarities and the differences in launching a business second time around. And I’ve realised that there’s plenty of both!
As Paddy’s is, after all literally, a brother brand you’d expect similarities.  Understanding where the gap in the market is, single-mindedly building a sustainable solution to fill that gap and focusing obsessively on the consumer; their lifestyle, habits and priorities were common processes to the conception of both businesses.

Indeed, the similarity of entering a category dominated by multinationals and with behemoth national retailers as core customers, created much déjà vu in developing Paddy’s strategic launch plans. It is no accident that I chose to create a second business to appeal to the same consumers (albeit for a different need) as the first. I want families to see that Paddy’s looks a bit like Ella’s, is founded by the same guy, and has the same ethical business values - and therefore they can trust it.

Both businesses have also been built on the belief that customers alone will define the success of any business; that cash flow, not profitability, is critical to allow fast growth; that the power of a start-up culture of bootstrapping is actually liberating; and that the best businesses concentrate on doing what they know, keeping the main thing, the main thing.

I thought every single problem was critical and sought to solve them all, on my own. But there are huge differences too. An obvious one has been in the use of media to launch awareness of the brand. For Ella’s, in 2006, I constructed a uniquely, innovative marketing strategy and collaboration with Nickelodeon, securing TV advertising spots in exchange for guaranteeing a share of pennies from every product sold. The social media revolution now however allows consumers to control the message, to spread it, to challenge and engage; and to truly democratise business. Paddy’s therefore has instead embraced technology and digital and social media as core to its conversation with potential consumers.

At the beginning with Ella’s I thought every single problem was critical and sought to solve them all, on my own, each as a priority! Experience has since taught me that there are problems and there are problems and now I see that you can just focus on solving the biggies.

I remained a one-man-band for too long after the Ella’s launch, trying to be a jack of all trades, whilst in reality being a master of none. Paddy’s starts with a passionate team of four who run the business and I trust the brand and business to them absolutely. This is perhaps my most empowering learning: that of the awesome power of a passionate team.

Ella's has always had a purpose led mission but it’s not always been worn as a badge on the front of every touch-point. Paddy’s is similarly built on a social purpose but this time we’re shouting about it from launch - right on the front and back of every pack. That purpose is to improve hygiene for more young children through both the use of our products and through our 'Drop Buy Drop' programme of providing safe, clean water to the poorest children in Rwanda. 'Drop Buy Drop' uses latest technology to link individual consumers with specific recipient villages and is built on a collaboration with Del Agua, a similarly minded social business and indirectly with the Government of Rwanda and highlights a final difference and learning: the use of long term partnerships that can truly amplify your actions and business impact.

Launching Paddy’s is a risk, a huge risk. I don’t know whether it will succeed, but what I do know is that when you have had the privilege to grow a respected business from an idea in your head, you have a responsibility to take that experience and passion and try to do it even better a second time around.

As Steve Jobs once said: "Here’s to the crazy ones."

Keep smiling,