Small Business Spotlight: Gemma Griffin and Sally Fear, co-founders of Super Sprouts

Taking the spotlight this month in my Small Business Series are Gemma Griffin and Sally Fear, co-founders of Super Sprouts – a Bristol business on a mission to put the fun back into family mealtimes.

 Tell us a bit about Super Sprouts and what you do?

“With 1 in 3 children leaving primary school overweight or obese – leading to long-lasting health and social problems – we are on a mission to educate children about the importance of healthy eating, in a fun and engaging way.”

“We are a health education company, providing nutrition and well-being workshops to early years and primary school aged children.

“Our workshops are fun, interactive and engaging, with a focus on the rainbow of foods.

“The sessions aren’t just about telling kids to eat vegetables. They hear this all the time! Instead we help them to really understand why it’s important, in a way that they enjoy. So we sing songs, read stories, cook, and play games, all whilst learning what each colour of the rainbow does in our bodies, where the food comes from, and what the difference is between “sometimes foods” and “always foods”. We also introduce the children to some simple body awareness and mindfulness activities, as we believe these complement good nutrition in total health and well-being.

“The team is made up of qualified Nutritional Therapists, who all have a passion for healthy childhood development.”

What inspired you to set up the business?

“Studies show that the lessons learnt in a child’s formative years (under 5) can carry them through into adulthood. With the rates of obesity on the rise in the UK, there needs to be a shift in focus to early interventions for prevention, as obesity is notoriously difficult to treat once established.

“The aim of the business is to inspire children at one of the most crucial times in their development – to engage more with food, to know where their food comes from, to get excited about trying new foods, and most of all, to fuel a passion for wanting to live more healthy lives.”

What has been your highlight to date?

“Our biggest highlight is when we get feedback from parents and teachers. It always seems to come at a time when it’s most needed, and really motivates us to continue doing what we are doing.

“We’ve had parents tell us that their child still talks about the rainbow months after coming to one of our workshops, that they are now trying foods they never would have tried before, and even that entire families have changed their eating habits after just one hour-long session.

“Seeing how excited the children are, and how much they remember from the workshops, is so encouraging and really reinforces how important interventions into health like these are. It may not be every child or family, but it’s these little changes that mean so much to us.

“Another big highlight was that we were lucky enough to be part of Entrepreneurial Sparks business accelerator sprint programme. Although it was a lot of hard work (and at times took us completely out of our comfort zone), it was a big boost for the business as it gave us a real sense of direction and confidence that we would never have thought possible before. I would encourage anyone who is looking to start a new business, or who needs a push in the right direction, to apply.”

What has been your biggest challenge?

“Setting up the business was probably the biggest challenge we’ve had so far, and is still a big learning experience for us. We had this idea, we were very passionate about it, but we still had the logistics to consider and all the behind the scenes work to figure out along the way. Add families and personal commitments to that, and it can all start to become very overwhelming unless you have a great support network around you.

“Knowing who we are, and being confident in what we provide, has also been a big one. In the beginning, we were so concerned about getting our name out there that we started to dilute what we offered, and spread ourselves too thin. It took a while, but we had to learn how to say no, and how to be confident in creating a really strong product offering, before saying yes to anything else.”

What are your plans for the business in the next year?

“This year we will be continuing to give our workshops a big push in schools and nurseries. We are also aiming to run a pilot programme – a series of weekly workshops with the same children – so we can gauge how effective these early interventions into health are.

“We are also in the process of planning a holiday club nutrition and well-being workshop scheme for primary school children, and we’d also like to start an after-school cooking club later in the year.”

 Gemma Griffin & Sally Fear


Facebook: Super Sprouts


Small Business Spotlight: Corinne Thomas, Founder, Rare Beauty Co.

With ‘Blue Monday’ behind us, now is the time for making plans, setting goals and aiming high…

Every month  in 2018 I will be speaking to a small business innovator as part of my Small Business Series, featuring some of the most exciting start-ups in the South-West.

Taking the spotlight for January is Corinne Thomas, founder of Rare Beauty – the unique online marketplace for British-made natural beauty products, launching in Spring 2018.

Tell us a bit about Rare Beauty and what you do

“With millennials leading the call for sustainable beauty, yet three-quarters remaining confused about how ‘ethical’ many beauty brands really are[1], our mission is simple: to help people feel fabulous and disrupt the mass-market beauty industry by making truly ethical skincare choices.”

“As well as giving customers a gorgeous range of natural, British-made artisan products to choose from, we also offer a genuine business opportunity to small/start-up beauty brands in the UK who want a bigger online profile, but who do not want to compete with the thousands of natural products in more established online marketplaces.

“I am working with a team of people to help me launch later this year – all of whom are professionals in their field, and who offer the right skills & experience for this type of e-commerce venture.”

What inspired you to set up the business?

“A few years ago I received a book for Christmas about making your own skincare products, and realised how much rubbish I had been putting on my skin thanks to the so-called ‘beauty industry’, so I set about creating my own products for face and body. I then took a couple of courses on Herbal Medicine and really started to understand the power of plant-based health and a holistic approach to self-care.

“I was originally going to create my own skincare brand after receiving rave reviews from family and friends about the products I gave away as gifts (and still do), but I did not have the patience for batch-making high quality products on the scale that is needed! So I started to research the natural skincare market and realised that there were lots of brilliant skincare brands already out there just waiting to be found – the idea for Rare Beauty was born.

“As a sales and marketing professional, it felt like a natural fit as I can focus my energies on the business-side of beauty rather than covering my kitchen in cocoa butter!”

What are your plans for Rare Beauty in 2018?

“I will be launching the marketplace this year which is very exciting. We will start with around 10 brands with the view to introducing new products/brands every month thereafter. We have some exciting launch campaigns planned with our ‘Rare Beauty Residents’ – real women who will test every product for us on the website – and also some established lifestyle influencers to help us spread the word about our new independent beauty marketplace.

“After that – who knows? I am an ideas person so I have a ton of ideas of where to take the business and how to grow it, but right now I need to focus on the task in hand, which is creating a fabulous website and digital marketing strategy for capturing a proportion of the natural beauty market (which was worth £62 million in the UK last year).”

What are your business goals in the longer term?

“Running an ethical business is very important to me, partly due to my background in socially responsible business, but also because I know it makes perfect business sense to do so. If we become an established brand that has longer term growth potential, I will seek to register Rare Beauty Co as a B-Corp.

“I’d love to collaborate with a range of non-profit organisations to reach out to people who need to make ethical choices about skincare products due to health reasons (people who have had chemotherapy are advised to avoid parabens and petrochemicals for example) and also to raise awareness of important issues such as animal testing in the beauty industry. Oh, and possibly creating a Rare Beauty cruelty-free natural make-up range!”

 What are your top 3 tips for others thinking about starting their own business?

“Firstly, don’t do it alone. Even if you just use family/friends as sounding boards, it is so important to have people around you to support you on your journey and to give another perspective when decisions get too much alone. I felt so much better once I brought a small team together to help me with some of the areas of the business that are not in my skill-set.

“Secondly, do your research. The first thing I did was to create some customer research questionnaires, and test my ideas with the beauty brands I wanted to work with. It was all free, and helped me to shape the direction of the business and the areas to focus on (and what to leave behind).

“Thirdly, don’t sweat the small stuff. I am a big picture kind of person so this comes fairly easily to me, but I parked a lot of the detail in the early days and just focused on my vision and what I needed to do to get there. The finance course for small businesses can wait until I have made some actual profit and can then hire an accountant to do it for me!”


[1] Mintel Natural, Organic and Ethical Toiletries 2017

Small Business Spotlight: Kristal McNamara, Director, Flexology

The South-West is awash with small business innovation and creativity, and when out and about at meetings, networking events, or on the school run, I am constantly bumping into inspirational people with a story to tell.

Every month, I will be speaking to a small business innovator about what they do, what inspired them to set up their business, their highs and lows, and their future plans.

First up is Kristal McNamara, Director at Flexology –  an innovative Bristol based recruitment firm that is dedicated to improving flexible work opportunities across the region:

Tell me a bit about Flexology and what you do?

“The benefits of flexible working are compelling and there are now evidenced links to improved business and financial performance. Despite this, only 1 in 10 advertised roles are flexible, and a large and growing talent pool is being overlooked… we founded Flexology to bridge this gap.

“Both myself and my co-founder Shelley come from a business and financial background, having had personal experience of managing, recruiting, and developing large teams. This makes us better able to understand the challenges faced by hiring managers than traditional recruitment businesses. We believe that by being solely focused on flexible work, we can significantly increase opportunities for candidates in the South West, as well as deliver unexpected benefits to clients.”

What was the idea behind the business?

“We were both fortunate to be working in senior roles with flexibility (we worked 4 days a week), however we knew that others weren’t so lucky, and flexible working roles at a senior level were seriously lacking.

“The demand from employees for flexible working is on the rise, this isn’t just a women’s issue; millennials are making their way up the career ladder into more senior roles, and want a better work life balance; there is also more parity of childcare responsibilities, and we are seeing growing demand for flexibility for both parents. Also, with an aging population, we are seeing more employees needing time to care for older family members.

“However, a lot of companies are using the same approach to HR and recruitment that they always have. Businesses are missing out on the huge opportunity that flexible working offers – access to skills, improved diversity, improved retention, and better employee well-being to name just a few.”

What has been your business highlight to date?

“We still have to pinch ourselves to realise we have actually left the corporate world and are now running our own business! Our first client coming on board was obviously a massive boost – it was great to know we had a client who backed us and our mission.

“We were also really proud to be accepted into the Entrepreneurial Spark business acceleration programme. Since being in the programme, we have focused on our longer term strategy and goals, and have become part of a group of entrepreneurs who support, challenge and develop each other. We have learnt so much during this process, and will be graduating from the programme at the end of January as a much stronger and more developed business.”

What has been your biggest challenge?

“The hardest thing is always to make the time to focus ‘on’ the business rather than being ‘in’ it – hours pass quickly and the word ‘busy’ is overused! We have put in place a daily ‘huddle’ each morning to focus on the day’s priorities as a team, as well as weekly strategy meetings to focus on the bigger picture and review financials.”

What do you hope to achieve over the next few months?

“We have now been in operation for nearly a year and have had great support from our clients and candidates. Next steps are to continue to grow our business, and provide a great service to our clients and candidates. We’ll also be launching our events that support our candidates in the New Year – the first will focus on job share matching – imagine a fun night of job share speed dating to find your perfect job partner, then being able to apply for full time roles in the local market as a team! We’ll have some really exciting speakers involved too. We’d love people to get in touch if they want to come along, or if they are interested in registering with us for flexible roles.”