Best friends and busy moms, Philippa Askham and Tanya Mitchell, launched their award-winning healthy baking mixes – Sweetpea Pantry – in 2014 and haven’t looked back. We get their invaluable advice on balancing work with family life.
Can you tell us a little bit about Sweetpea Pantry, what makes your products so special and where you are stocked?
Sweetpea Pantry helps busy parents get the goodness into their meals with baking mixes for biscuits, flapjacks, pancakes and pizza. With a focus on whole-grains, reduced or no refined sugars and ‘clean-label’ ingredients with nothing artificial, we want to show that making great tasting food can be healthy as well. We also give options for ‘free-from’ for all products, plus the pancakes and flapjacks are gluten-free. At the moment we can be found in Ocado, Marks and Spencers food halls, Selfridges, and the best health and specialty food stores.
What was your motivation for setting up your company, and did you face any challenges in launching it?
Sweetpea Pantry was born out of a desire to find more healthy options for easy home baking. We were both new parents and wanted to make snacks and meals for our children that not only tasted great but also had a goodness element. Everything else available on the shelves seemed to be sugar-led and full of highly processed ingredients.
celebrate every win because they will get you through the tough days, which you will most certainly have as well!
The biggest challenges were the fear of starting, that it wasn’t completely perfect and that you shouldn’t start until it is. However, with the support of some great mentors, who taught us that starting is the most important step and you can improve and perfect on the way as you listen to your customers and their needs, we took the plunge and haven’t looked back.
Finances are always a constant challenge as well, as growth can be expensive and if you have ambitious plans then you need financial support (and a realistic time-frame) to achieve them!
You both have children – two for Philippa and three for Tanya. Were you ever concerned about launching a business while also juggling parenthood, and what have the biggest hurdles and learning curves been?
Absolutely, yes! The juggle is constant but actually having children was the reason we began the company – it gave us time out of our more traditional careers (wine marketing and luxury hotel sales) and the desire for more flexible working hours. The reality is that we work harder than we ever have, and the business permeates our lives completely, but one of our biggest learning curves has been to embrace and enjoy that. We could always do with more time but you just have to make the most out of whatever time you get each day.
We have learnt more in the last couple of years with our own business than we did in our careers over the last 15 years! Gaining knowledge about all aspects of finance, manufacturing and business administration has been a massive learning curve – you have to understand all aspects of your business inside and out, even if it isn’t your original talent.
How do you balance business and family life?
The challenge has been learning to switch off at times – and we’ve found our balance by giving allocated time to the children and giving them 100 per cent, and the same for the business, rather than trying to do everything all the time and achieving nothing!
What would be your greatest advice for moms and dads also looking to become business owners?
Have realistic ideas about what you can achieve in your available time (everything takes longer than you think, especially when trying to achieve some balance) and celebrate every win because they will get you through the tough days, which you will most certainly have as well!