Venturing out to start your dream business can be exciting and daunting at the same time. Every day is different and brings new challenges. So how do you ensure your business doesn’t run out of steam and is successful?
Henrietta Morrison, founder, executive chair and global brand director of Lily’s Kitchen first began her business 10-years ago from her kitchen table selling proper food for pets to a handful of independent pet shops. Today, the business is the largest premium natural pet brand in the UK and a growing international business, currently exporting to over 10 countries across Europe including France, Italy and Spain.
Learning many lessons along the way, she believes the following points are essential for building a successful business:
Inspiration and innovation
There is a saying that inspiration can strike in the most unlikely of places. It’s the lightbulb moment, how you interpret it and how you bring it to life in an exciting, new way that can separate your business from the rest.
For Lily’s Kitchen, it began with my (then) three-year-old border terrier, Lily, falling sick and refusing to eat. Desperate for results, I started cooking meals for her with fresh lamb, lentils, vegetables, botanical herbs and even fruits like blueberries. After ten days she made a full recovery and I was left wondering what had I been feeding her up to that point that made her so ill. I quickly realised there was an urgent need for proper food for pets in the market and that’s how Lily’s Kitchen was born.
Lily’s Kitchen broke norms within the pet food industry by using real, fresh ingredients like meat – something that wasn’t common 10 years ago – because we believe that pets are valuable members of the family and deserve to eat proper food full of goodness, just like humans. It was that mindset that inspired new and healthy occasion recipes like English Garden Party, Great British Breakfast, Sunday Lunch and Birthday Surprise, offering customers healthy meals for pets that also create special moments they can share with them.
Innovation is critical to be able to stand out from what has now become quite a crowded market – lots of pet food companies have launched since we started in 2008. We are always thinking of how we can make things better and more fun for our fellow pet parents.
Broaden talent diversity
Diverse companies often outperform non-diverse companies. Why? When people from different backgrounds come together, they bring different insights, perspectives and information. This mix results in new and innovating ideas, a more productive team, and ultimately a more profitable business.
We believe that talent isn’t assigned to a gender, culture or orientation, therefore the company strives to create opportunities for all and continually expands its recruitment to more diverse sources of talent. Over 40 per cent of our board of directors are women.
Being transparent with both your customers and employees helps build important brand trust and loyalty that is crucial for business growth.
At Lily’s Kitchen, the entire team receives regular updates on new business practices, successes and challenges to make sure they feel part of the business. We also use Feefo, a reviews platform that collects feedback from real people. It’s an independent way to leave honest, transparent reviews for a brand after buying something and is entirely optional. The information gathered helps others to know what they might expect from the company.
Business has moved far beyond just offering a product to consumers. It’s important to look at the bigger picture so you can create deep and meaningful connections with both your employees and customers who have the power to drive your business forward.
Create a happy work environment
Employee work-related stress can impact your business in a highly negative way, causing fatigue, loss of motivation and poor employee retention. It’s vital organisations listen to the needs of their employees and create supportive environments that allow them to thrive. The result will be higher performing employees and ultimately a higher performing company.
For obvious reasons, Lily’s Kitchen encourages employees to bring their dogs to work. They are an incredible source of inspiration, help reduce stress and increase productivity by encouraging employees to step away from their computer screens and go for energising walks. We even encourage team members to go on walking meetings and host brainstorms in nearby Hampstead Heath.
A flexi-time policy is also a great way to empower team members to manage their working hours in a productive way. Organisations need to understand that employees have many priorities outside of the office, including family, fitness and friends, and a flexible schedule gives team members the opportunity to get their work done to the best possible standard whilst maintaining a good work-life balance.
Have a purpose
A company’s purpose is the soul of a brand and is the foundation that the business was built on. It should motivate your employees, separate you from your competitors and connect your audience to your business.
Lily’s Kitchen creates proper food for pets and believes in using business as a force for good. We are proud to be a founding member of B Corp in the UK and consider the impact our decisions have on our workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. As part of this, Lily’s Kitchen empowers its employees to champion causes they’re passionate about. This includes offering team members paid volunteer days and encouraging staff to set up purpose-led annual goals such as establishing an office recycling program.