A mother-of-two who started making her own toiletries in her barn because her children had sensitive skin is now selling £12 million worth of products a year.
Joanna Jensen, 47, started Childs Farm from her home in Basingstoke in 2010 as she couldn’t find the right shampoo and conditioner for her daughters’ fine hair and sensitive skin.
At the start, she did everything herself from her ‘freezing cold barn’, drawing on expertise she learned while making shampoos for her horses.
Her business has been growing 100 per cent every year since she launched it, thanks to the affordable price tag – from £1.50 to £10.99 – and the amazing affect of her products on both children and adults with skin conditions.
Childs Farm has hit the headlines several times when adults have revealed how its £3.99 baby moisturiser has completely cured conditions such as eczema and psoriasis after medical treatments such as steroid creams have failed.
Her natural toiletries are now stocked in Boots and sold all over the world, and the retail sales value of her products was £12 million in 2017 alone, and this year, Joanna will be posting her first profit since launching, which she describes as ‘a seminal moment’.
‘In 2017, the business has grown by 175 per cent, which is amazing. Exceptional growth is defined as over 20 per cent growth in 3 consecutive years. We’ve now attained 100 per cent growth over seven consecutive years.’
Joanna Jensen, 47, started Childs Farm from her home in Basingstoke in 2010 and is now selling products to the value of £12 million a year
Before having children Joanna worked in investment banking but took time off to raise her daughters, Mimi and Bella, now eleven and nine.
After her younger daughter was born she focused on breeding horses as well as running her home as an upmarket B&B and wedding venue.
She found it impossible to comb her girls’ fine hair after washing if she didn’t use conditioner, but she couldn’t find one that didn’t contain parabens and chemicals that caused their sensitive skin to break out.
‘Bella was sensitive to everything. I couldn’t produce enough milk to breast feed, and she was allergic to every kind of formula, even prescription formula,’ she recalled.
Joanna started making her own products as her daughters Mimi and Bella, now eleven and nine, had sensitive skin as babies and she couldn’t find toiletries that didn’t cause flare ups
‘Her skin took the brunt of this, with terrible nappy rash and eczema on her face and her upper body.
The motivation behind Joanna’s success
‘I have never done anything without purpose, or without expecting to succeed,’ she explained.
‘This is not necessarily confidence or arrogance, but a strong belief that anything can be achieved if you put your mind to it. I have a sticker on my computer which quotes Walt Disney: “If you can dream it, you can do it”.
I think ask any business owner, and they will tell you that you just find the hours to fit things in. I did many all-nighters when things needed doing.
‘Looking back, if I had known the level of commitment I would have possibly thought twice. But I am very stubborn and determined; if I said I was going to do it, I would do it.’
Joanna already made her own natural shampoos and creams for her horses after learning techniques at a course on natural remedies and using a book called ‘A Modern Herbal’ by Mrs M Grieve, from which she taught herself to make everything from natural cough mixtures to compresses.
‘I was fairly sure about the ingredients I wanted to use, and had all that mixing done in the lab,’ she said.
‘The essential oils were very much part of the fun and games at home, and we mixed them in a ‘base’ of soap to work out which fragrances we liked.’
And even though the initial plan was to make products for her daughters, Joanna knew there was a gap in the market she could fill, and decided to turn her idea into a business.
To begin with, Joanna was doing everything herself; from ordering stock to getting listings and packing things up.
‘Then I managed to persuade Olivia Simms, a friend’s daughter, to come and work once she had left university as she could work a few days with me around working with her horses,’ she said.
‘Those few days though soon became full weeks, and many a day Olivia spent in our freezing cold barn packing orders.’
The mother-of-two made shampoo for her daughters after producing similar products for her horses
Joanna is passionate about using the best quality ingredients, but has managed to avoid passing on a high price to the customer.
My grandparents were successful antiques dealers and their mantra was “turnover, turnover, turnover”, which was ingrained in me from the early days,’ she said.
‘With kids’ toiletries you have to price to sell to parents according to their budget.
‘Our margins are tight, but our turnover counter balances this. We look at ourselves as top of mass, rather than luxury, because we are a quality product without a heavy price tag.’
When she started creating her products Joanna wanted them to be suitable for children with skin conditions, but she had no idea they would have a curative effect.
CHILDS FARM SUCCESS STORIES
Paige Sweeney, 23, spent more than two years with dermatologists trying to find a cure for the eczema afflicting her daughter Evie-Rae, now three, but nothing worked.
The toddler would wake up every night, scratching herself until she bled, Paige said.
Then, as a last resort, the Nottingham-based mother spotted the £3.99 Childs Farm Baby Moisturiser on the shelves at her local Boots and decided to give it a go – to her amazement Evie’s eczema quickly vanished.
Describing it as a ‘miracle cream’, Paige said: ‘Within a matter of days I could see her skin starting to clear up. I couldn’t believe it.’
Paige Sweeney, 23, from Nottingham spent more than two years with dermatologists trying to find a cure for her daughter Evie-Rae’s eczema (left). After using Childs Farm Baby Moisturiser the condition started to clear within days (right)
Nicole O’Dwyer, 21, from Tipperary, Ireland, suffered from chronic eczema on her hands since birth and tried countless products on prescription including steroid cream and emollient moisturisers.
Frequently having her hands in water and using hair products made her condition even worse, and she was in constant agony.
But in July Nicole’s dad Kieran suggested she should try £3.99 Childs Farm Baby Moisturiser, after he read about the product online.
Nicole started applying the cream regularly, and within two weeks her eczema had disappeared, leaving her able to carry out her job without any problems.
Hairdresser Nicola O’Dwyer, 21, from Tipperary, Ireland was advised to give up her job because her eczema was so bad (left). But after two weeks of using Childs Farm she was able to carry on without any problems (right)
Psoriasis sufferer Damien Broderick, 26, had to fetch a vacuum cleaner every time he removed an item of clothing in order to clean up flakes of skin that would fall off his body.
Damien from Dublin, previously used a steroid cream to treat the condition, however when the disease returned his GP advised him to look into alternative therapy, as another course of steroids may not have the same effect and could potentially do more harm than good.
Desperately looking for a solution, he looked into everything from Chinese medicine to acupuncture, but was advised to try Childs Farm products by a colleague.
Damien bought the brand’s Baby Moisturiser and Hair and Body Wash, and within days he started to see a visible difference in his skin.
Damien Broderick from Dublin had such bad psoriasis he would have to vacuum up the flakes of skin (left) but within days of using Childs Farm he could see a visible difference in his skin (right)
‘The healing effects of our products were a bi-product of the naturally derived ingredients that we use. When I saw the difference the products made to my daughters skin, and then friends with kids who suffered from atopic eczema reported the same thing back, it was a happy discovery,’ she said.
”A good friend stopped using a steroid cream on her eczema whilst we were trialing the range because of the difference the products had made to her skin. These were all happy consequences of thinking about the mix of our ingredients.
Adults and children have had eczema and psoriasis cured by Joanna’s £3.99 moisturiser
‘In April 2017, a lovely lady in Nottingham posted a picture on Facebook of her daughter’s hands, which were covered in eczema, before using Childs Farm Baby Moisturiser, and then after.
‘The images were really shocking, and this Facebook post was shared more than 36,000 times. When the story went viral, we saw a massive change in our business over night.
‘Since then, so many people – young and old – have shared their before and after pictures on our Facebook page; we are constantly amazed at the difference we’re seeing. It was an over whelming experience for us all.’
Joanna has also heard success stories from parents of young cancer patients who are going through chemo.
‘We heard from a couple of families who said that the fragrances didn’t make their little ones feel sick or ill, and really brightened their day,’ she explained.
Seeing a little girl in the bath, clearly in the middle of therapy, waving our bottles around, was an absolute tear-jerker.’
For anyone else thinking of starting a business from home, Joanna’s top tip is maintaining clear boundaries between work and personal life.
‘Define which is which, and make it clear to your children,’ she said. ‘Until earlier this year, the office was based in a barn next to my house. In the summer holidays, my youngest once ran into the office when in a massive dispute with her sister.
‘The whole drama was played out in front of everyone, with tears and snot flowing, and ending with Bella declaring her sister a “massive poo-pants” and storming out! I have pretty cool staff who all fell about laughing, but it wasn’t ideal as we had a buyer from a retailer in the office at the time.’