11 July 2021|Female Founder Spotlight, Latest Posts, Meet the Successful Founder
Helen is a mum, a qualified nutritionist and founder of Little Cooks Co. She is fascinated by the incredible power of food and its impact on health and wellbeing. Helen passionately believes that childhood is the most important time in life to get the right nourishment in order to grow and develop into healthy adults.
This passion led Helen to quit her job working in Cabinet Office and No.10 when her son was born, retrain for three years in nutrition and launch Little Cooks Co in 2017. Little Cooks Co supplies cooking kits each month to thousands of subscribers. The happy little boxes are sent directly to children to help them learn how to cook delicious and nutritious food with their families, and have lots of fun in the process. In Helen’s free time she loves spending time with her son on their allotment growing and picking their own food, as well as cooking up a storm together in the kitchen. We were delighted to catch up with Helen recently to learn more about her entrepreneurship journey.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
Nutrition has always been my passion, but for some reason I didn’t think about trying to make a career out of it until I hit my 30s! I was working in Cabinet Office and No.10 when I left to go on maternity leave to have my son in 2013. I absolutely loved my career in Government but the hours could be brutal and the stress intense. I had been in a role with very privileged access to information across the whole of Government’s work but my attention was always drawn to the health space (childhood obesity, hospital food, education). Having my son was transformative and gave me the courage to quit my job and retrain for 3 years in nutrition, and I haven’t looked back!
I started Little Cooks Co in my final year of nutrition college. It is a monthly cooking subscription for children. We send happy little boxes out each month containing all the dry organic ingredients to make healthy recipes. The kits are designed to provide as much nutrition as possible for children, and we highlight a nutrient in each kit to give children an early understanding that food and the body are inextricably linked, but in a fun, non-scary way! But just as important is the opportunity our kits give families to connect and make memories together in the kitchen, away from screens and distractions.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
Knowing how to feed ourselves is one of life’s most important skills. It’s as important as knowing how to read, write and talk – we can’t stay alive without food!
Our busy modern lives have developed many solutions for feeding ourselves without needing to cook – fast food, takeaways, ready meals – but there are problems with relying on these too much. Firstly, it is disempowering – if children never learn how to cook then they have no choice but to rely on them and, secondly, they are very rarely as healthy as a home cooked meal! When you cook a meal you know what goes into it and don’t have to worry about the long list of often unintelligible ingredients on the back of packets!
This is my passion. I want to help empower children by teaching them how to feed themselves in a way that helps rather than hinders their health. Understanding where food comes from, how to cook with it and why it’s important for their health. If today’s children understand these things then I believe there will be a sharp reduction in the rates of chronic diseases we are seeing today – obesity, type 2 diabetes, tooth decay, even mental health.
How did you achieve awareness?
With a lot of hard graft! I didn’t spend any money on marketing for the first 18 months so there was a LOT of hustling and being brave! One of the biggest drivers for growth in those early days was partnering with the wonderful Yeo Valley and their Yeokens programme. And we are still with them today!
What are the key successes?
We’ve won some fantastic awards (list below) – most recently we won Health Entrepreneur of the Year and found ourselves ranked 81 in JP Morgan’s report on female run businesses. But one of the things I’m most proud about is our partnership with Magic Breakfast and the impact that’s had. We donate the cost of a breakfast for every box we sell and we were able to help nearly 70k children receive a meal they might otherwise have gone without during 2020.
Recent Little Cooks Co award wins
· Health Entrepreneur of The Year for Helen Burgess at the Food & Drink Heroes Awards 2021
· Highly Commended at the Gift Of The Year Awards 2021
· Silver for Best Children’s Subscription Box at the Parent & Baby Awards 2020
· Entrepreneurial Spirit Award for Helen Burgess at the Great British Entrepreneur Awards 2020
· Silver at the Junior Magazine Design Awards 2020
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
COVID was probably our biggest challenge – we scaled incredibly quickly at a time when the supply chain had ground to a halt. The biggest learning of it all…being nice pays. We were at risk of not being able to fulfil orders through limited availability of baking ingredients. My supplier called me the week after lockdown and said they had made a decision to continue to supply us and one other business (out of 100s) because of the brilliant relationship we had formed with them.
What are your plans now/for the future?
We have some exciting plans in store. We are currently looking into launching savoury kits which has been on our roadmap for a while and the time feels right now!
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
Go for it! There’s no guarantee of success which is a scary step to take, but you will learn more about yourself and live life more fully than ever before!
Can you share you top tips for entrepreneurial success?
- Read the book Mindset by Carol Dweck – it’s game changing and helps you lean into fear rather than run away from it
- Talk to people and grow your network – nearly all of the pivotal opportunities for Little Cooks Co have come from the amazing people I’ve met since starting it
- Look into accelerators/mentoring – I joined the Natwest accelerator early on in my business journey and it was truly transformational in helping me understand the world of investment, build my network and professionalise the business…and it was totally free!
- Collaboration over competition – I have found this to be so powerful and it helps move you from a mindset of comparing yourself to others and keeping everything close to your chest, to not fearing what others are doing and being open to learning, improving and sharing your knowledge to help others
- Try not to be a perfectionist – I came from a career in Government where we risk assessed EVERYTHING! So it took a while for me to feel comfortable putting things out there that weren’t as perfect as I’d have liked. But now I absolutely love it – it makes being in business so dynamic and you never stop learning and improving. So just get your idea out there and respond to the feedback you get from it!
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most?
Jamie Oliver (@jamieoliver) has obviously had a huge influence on getting Government to take notice of the childhood obesity crisis and influence school meals.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (@hughfearnleywhittingstall) is also a legend in this space.
I love Lucinda Miller (@naturedockids) for her amazing expertise and advice on childhood nutrition.
I love Dr Chatterjee (@drchatterjee) and the amazingly positive influence he is having on society, and particularly in helping the NHS bring lifestyle and diet into their thinking.
I love Dr Mark Hyman (@drmarkhyman) for using his influence to try to revolutionise our broken food system
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
“Vulnerability is not winning or losing. It’s having the courage to show up when you can’t control the outcome” – Brene Brown
“Success is not final; failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston S. Churchill
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” — Gandhi
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom” – Victor Frankl
What are your social handles and website links so our readers can connect with you?
Instagram / Facebook / Twitter: @litlecooksco