Starting your own business is no easy feat at the best of times, but throw in a global pandemic and things can get downright difficult.
This is the challenge London-based entrepreneur, inventor and mum, Sophia Procter undertook when she launched her business Munchy Play earlier this year.
Sophia had the idea for Munchy Play when her, now five-year-old, son was first starting to eat. Being a fussy eater Sophia wanted to find a solution that would bring and keep him at the dinner table time and again. Her prototype was a makeshift bowl with a train track attached, which managed to keep her son entertained until he had finished his meal.
Around the same time, Sophia was facing redundancy from a senior communications role. Knowing she was onto something with her Munchy Play prototype, Sophia invested her redundancy package into the business.
After three years in research and product development in her Wales-based factory, Sophia launched her business in the middle of lockdown earlier this year. Battling the difficulties of not only launching a brand-new product to the public, but doing so during a pandemic, while home-schooling her son , was certainly a life-changing experience.
Parenthood has been a key factor in the business’ success. Sophia’s son was not only the inspiration behind the brand, but many of the skills Sophia picked up as a parent have helped her be a better business owner.
Here, Sophia shares exactly how being a mum has benefitted her as a small business owner:
“Being a parent forces you to get out, whether it’s on the school run or going for a cycle. It’s important to have regular screen breaks and clear your mind. I do a lot of creative thinking when I’m outside of the office, so it certainly helps with productivity too. If it wasn’t for my son, I probably wouldn’t have the same incentive to get out as much.”
“Knowing your audience is crucial and as a parent, I know just how important parent hacks are. It’s sometimes the small things that can make your life less stressful, like understanding that children need non-slip plates or high sides to help them scoop up food. It’s these insights that have helped me develop a unique product that parents love.”
“Your efficiency levels are sky-high. What’s that saying? – ‘If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it’. Being a mum forces you to prioritise what’s important and accept that you can’t do everything. In turn, it makes you productive and driven. There’s also a careful juggling act of balancing your time – this means finding creative ways to work around your life as a parent. And somehow, despite having more things to do than ever, you find a way around it. When I returned to my work after maternity leave I did so on a part-time basis. I found myself cramming a five-day job into a three-day week and being ultra-efficient, looking back with the 5 am starts and a toddler in tow, I don’t know how I did it.”
“Empathy is a grossly undervalued skill, but probably one of the most important as an entrepreneur. Long gone are the days of enterprises being driven by the bottom line. Today’s conscious consumer values quality products with substance and as we’ve seen ’shopping small’. Our kids’ plates are made in Britain to the highest standard, something we know parents are willing to pay that bit more for.”
To help her develop online skills and grow the business, Sophia took part in the Amazon Small Business Accelerator, a programme set up earlier in the year by Amazon in partnership with Enterprise Nation, to help startups and small businesses navigate the impact of the pandemic. The Accelerator training gave her the tools she needed to launch products online.
“Amazon has been super supportive of my business and the Accelerator came just at the right time. It helped me to revise my advertising strategy and understand the techniques for selling online successfully,” says Sophia. “When you can’t get out and network, it’s really valuable to see how other small businesses tackle challenges and where they once started. Using the Accelerator it was reassuring to learn about other owners of industry-leading businesses, many going through the same challenges as myself.”
Despite only launching this year, Munchy Play has had a great start and their products have even made it into some celebrity homes including JB Gill and Joe Wicks. Sophia’s product range was even recognised by Theo Paphitis, winning his Small Business Saturday initiative in August, and just this week scooped an ‘Honorary Special Recognition Award’ from the Global Woman in Innovation Network.