Being a retired mum, without any experience in running a business and still deciding to launch your own company, might be scary. Not for Jacqueline Barleycorn who decided to navigate the world of healthy breakfast options with the birth of The Great British Porridge Company. launched in January 2018. The secret of her success? “Believe in yourself and your brand. I put the success so far down to perseverance and staying focused. It’s been so good for me to learn new things, meet new people, I feel it’s kept me young as it’s too easy to age. I’ve never felt not good enough”.
Jacqueline, you are a late bloomer. How did it happen you managed to find your way in such an interesting new venture?
I guess it was the right time in my life. My children are grown up and my husband and I did all the wonderful retirement things like travelling, learning to sail, playing golf etc and then thought, now what? I loved the thought of creating a product, doing all the wonderful creative things that go with it like the branding, website, social media etc. I’ve also got a background in sales so I thought it would be a great new challenge for me. It seemed a great time too as so many new products were coming onto the market and doing well. I am passionate about eating healthily and I saw a gap for something quick, healthy and hot and all the other instant porridges available seemed to be either bland or full of sugar, so The Great British Porridge Co. was born.
It is said when you started you had no experience of running a business but in just a year you gained listings with Harvey Nichols, Selfridges, Fenwick and Wholefoods. What’s the secret of your success?
There is no secret, it really is just down to hard work and determination. I always make sure I maximise on any opportunity, it’s about talking to people and totally believing in yourself and your brand. I put the success so far down to perseverance and staying focused. I also have a great product, a great story and great branding.
As we know, not all porridges are created equal. Why is yours so different?
The 3 things I wanted it to be were: Instant, Healthy, Delicious. And luckily it is all of those, plus it’s vegan too!
Have you ever faced negative thoughts regarding giving up because of feeling too old to reach your goal or not good enough?
I have found it hard at times but I’ve never considered giving it up. It’s been so good for me to learn new things, meet new people, I feel it’s kept me young as it’s too easy to age. I’ve never felt not good enough as I believe in myself and I’m very proud of what I’ve achieved.
As a working mother, time management can be a difficult skill to master. How did you work it out?
I am very lucky to have a wonderfully understanding husband and family. They understand when I’m sending emails in the middle of Mark’s and Spencer. Luckily because of the internet, I can work pretty much anywhere at times to suit me, though that does usually mean I am doing work 7 days a week. I work from home mainly so I do need to be organised as it’s too easy to get distracted. I try to make sure we have healthy food in as it’s too easy to eat junk when you’re busy and then that affects how well I work. Also taking the dogs for a long walk first otherwise they spend all day wanting me to take them out. I also try to be free when my husband is and work when he’s busy. The nice thing is if I want ‘time off’ I can catch up in the evening. I certainly couldn’t have done it without the support of my family and at the end of the day, they will always come first.
Do you have any special rituals before an important meeting?
No, not that I know of. I guess I do rehearse possible scenarios and conversations in my head before. I do get nervous but try to ignore my nerves.
What would you suggest to a talented woman who wants to launch a new business later in life?
Do it! If it works out great, if it doesn’t at least you won’t spend your time saying ‘I really wish I’d have started that business’. There are definite advantages to doing it later in life as I have far more confidence in myself than I have ever had and on the other side if it fails it’s not the end of the world.