Posted: Tue 27th Apr 2021
"I had no business sense at all" declares Fiona Thomas, reminiscing on her decision to launch Life's Little Recipes in 2016. "I wasn't sure where to start; I felt lost."
Like many entrepreneurs, Fiona had an idea but felt she lacked the courage and know-how to turn it into a reality. But when poor health forced her to re-evaluate her life, Fiona - with the help of close friends and family - decided that the time was right to pursue her dream.
Here's her story…
Fiona, tell me a bit about Life's Little Recipes…
"Having worked as both a cancer nurse and a psychotherapy counsellor, I've learnt the importance of communication. Staying connected and letting people know that we're thinking of them and that they're not alone is paramount - now more than ever.
"But it's not always easy to find the words to say how we're feeling. Life's Little Recipes are a way for people to reach out to others and spread love, good vibes - and a little fun too.
"My recipe bags are a small, feel-good gesture that you can send through the post to your loved ones. Each one contains a unique selection of small gifts, or 'ingredients', attached to a thoughtful sentiment written on a recipe card.
"I'd had the idea for a while but just wasn't sure where to start. I lacked the courage and business sense to move forward. And life was just so incredibly busy; there never seemed to be time to explore the idea properly.
"My husband, Steve, worked away a lot at the time and we were both juggling careers with raising our children. And then I became really unwell. Both my physical and mental health were massively compromised, so launching a new business just wasn't an option - or so I thought."
So what changed? How did you move past the insecurities and ill health?
"It was while I was unwell that my good friend Rachel asked if she could explore the idea on my behalf. Rachel, with her husband Calum, started a fabulous online sweetie company called Strawberry Laces, so she had knowledge of starting a business from scratch. She took me under her wing and used all of her expertise and experience to help launch Life's Little Recipes.
"Kindness changes lives and she certainly changed mine! I'd been so unwell and then suddenly, thanks to her, there was an opportunity to run my own business from home. I'm so incredibly grateful that she believed in me. I call her my fairy godmother!"
What a wonderful story. So she helped you launch Life's Little Recipes five years ago. What's been happening since then?
"I've been really fortunate. The business has gone from strength to strength. I now have over 30 'recipes' to choose from. I like to think there's something for everybody and every occasion, from birthdays to weddings, Valentine's Day to Christmas.
"I sell via my own website, as well as on eBay, Etsy and Amazon. I was actually a runner up at the Amazon UK Small Business Awards in 2019 - something I'm incredibly proud of.
"I still have so much to learn. That's why I joined Enterprise Nation. You have so many amazing resources. Since becoming a member I've taken part in some of your e-learning programmes and attended a number of Lunch and Learn webinars. I've learnt so many practical tips, like the importance of having a budget, and how to make one, and understanding how Brexit would affect small businesses.
"By attending your webinars I discovered and connected with a social media consultancy called Social Progress. They were truly fabulous; I'd recommend them to anyone. I still work with Becky now. She's recently launched her own digital marketing agency - Youbee Media - and I'm enjoying watching her business grow too.
"Your weekly newsletters are a must-read; it's great to have that gentle nudge every week, reminding me to log in and see what I've missed. I love to read your member stories too - they're always inspiring.
"I've also used the platform to connect with other business owners to discuss future collaborations; I actually have a big announcement coming soon, which is very exciting. I wish I could tell you more, but my lips are sealed… for now!
"Oh, and I loved Gifted, your virtual Christmas market. I bought lots of presents there. We were so busy last year that I missed my chance to take part so I do hope it'll take place again this year as I'd love to have a stall."
It's great to hear that you've been so busy. Do you feel that your recipes have helped people to connect during the pandemic?
"Yes, we have sold lots of bags over the last year. Honestly, it's been bittersweet; I've had such mixed emotions.
"The Little Caring Recipe has been our best seller, but with every one we sent there was a deep sadness, knowing that they were possibly going to bereaved people. The Little Friendship Recipe was the next best seller though, and with those came a much happier feeling, knowing that so many people were reaching out, sending their thoughts and comfort to each other.
"My husband was furloughed from his job at the time, but I kept him busy; he spent every day making bags. I also reached out to a couple of friends who were unable to work during lockdown - they helped too. It was lovely to think that Life's Little Recipes was able to 'give back' in that way.
"The pandemic was responsible for two new recipes too: The Little Hug Recipe and The Little Thinking of You Recipe."
It's clear that a lot of thought goes into each gift bag. Has that been the key to your success?
"I think so. Every recipe bag has been created by hand, with love and care. The best part about running this business is hearing the feedback from customers - and their loved ones. Just knowing that I've helped raise a smile makes it all worthwhile.
"I feel so lucky to have found something that I love to do. To anyone out there who, like me, has an idea but doesn't believe they've got what it takes to run a successful business: there are so many people - friends, experts, other small business owners - who are happy to share their experiences and help get you started. Don't be afraid to ask for help."
Inspired by Fiona's story? Sign up for free Enterprise Nation membership and get all the help you need to start and grow a business.