Sophie Barrow joined the Fiena Club back in 2017 as a Founding Member and has since gone on to found Kinn Living with her mum - in a venture that saw her become listed in Forbes 30 under 30 and become stocked in some of the UK's biggest supermarkets. We caught up with Sophie to chat about business and the pandemic - and how it's all gone!
How has life and business been since the pandemic started?
The pandemic was certainly a very interesting time for everyone! But overall my life didn’t change that much as I was working from home anyway, but in terms of business we really found that the shift to online became easier in the short term but as more and more brands began to pivot to a more online approach cutting through the noice has certainly become more difficult. But one thing I noticed is that the consumer is a lot more aware than at the start of the pandemic, all of our educational material and research blog posts have been read more and more people were willing and open to engaging in conversation around the wider aspects of eco friendly cleaning. It was interesting that a lot of people shifted to natural cleaning during this time as I really thought that there would be a dramatic uptake of harsh chemicals products, but really people were keen to try out natural cleaning and were excited by the fact they wouldn’t be polluting their lungs with harsh chemicals when using them.
What are you focusing on at the moment on the business front?
In September we will be launching our latest product range which I am so excited for. It has been a very long time coming and we were held up massively last year by the pandemic and so many factory closures, even though we make all of our stuff in the UK there were still knock on effects to the supply chain that we felt.
What obstacles have you had to overcome in the last 24 months?
Our factory closed with no warning and this left us with an ever diminishing stock and ever growing customer base, this came to a head in December when we pretty much ran out of everything! We also lost Waitrose, out of the blue they told us they didn’t want us anymore, it was all rather quick and bizarre and they refused to discuss any metrics with us… there is so much more gossip here haha, and within a few months half of our income would have been gone, luckily we did secure another account and expanded into Spain, France, Germany and Italy online.
What do you think is the biggest challenge to overcome as a female entrepreneur?
In recent years I have found that the challenge of being feminine in the entrepreneur space is actually quite hard, so many resources encourage you to essentially lean into your masculinity and I don’t think that it really does us any good in the long or short term. In terms of finding funding this has been a funny experience, we eventually found the right fit for us, but I will never forget being referred to as “a little women’s cosmetic company” and one older man laughing that “he didn’t know where the washing machine is, his wife does all of the laundry”. But on the whole most of the men we have met in the industry have been true gentlemen and been interested only in business, funnily enough I found that the women we met were less polite which was surprising! I think it is quite funny that despite so many women claiming to support women, when push comes to shove many do not.
What’s your advice to founders overcoming the pandemic ?
We have all survive a once in a lifetime event (hopefully), global chaos which has pushed everyone to their limits and made it so difficult for many to focus on their mental health, families, relationships and business on top of it, so give yourself a pat on the back. You are still here, still standing and you’ve had a crash course in managing the bad times!
I would recommend that you really take a moment to pause and evaluate your life, are you doing the things that serve you and your future goals, or are you still in survival mode? Take some time for your mental wellbeing and try to incorporate this into your daily (or at least weekly) schedule, but trust me, out of this chaos there is certainly opportunity to be found, don’t be afraid to search for it!
You’ve hit incredible milestones with Kinn Living - whats the biggest / favourite one?
Thank you! For me my favourite milestone is just coming up with our latest launch in September, it’s something I have wanted to do for such a long time and I am so so excited that we finally get to launch it. Which is your favourite product and why? I loved the neroli laundry liquid, i find it so relaxing and I could honestly just lay on a heap of laundry products all day after I’ve washed them!
On the personal side of things, what’s been keeping you busy? What’s your daily routine at the moment?
Work has mostly been keeping me busy, I’ve also recently begun an online yoga teacher training course which I am enjoying very much and I try to exercise daily! We have a lovely little Japanese Spitz and I walk him twice a day which is so wonderful as it means I get to go out into nature which i find to be so revitalising!
Any upcoming projects / new launches you can share with us?
There are a couple of exciting new projects on the horizon, one of which is a wellness company focusing on aromatherapy. I’ve been working on this with my fiance and we will be launching in the next couple of months! (Yevee Life). Aside from this at KINN we are launching our concentrated refills in September and I am beyond excited for this next step in KINN’s life and to help reduce plastic packaging and waste!