**Please remember to rate and review the podcast – it really helps others to find it.**

Ruth’s plan for the first year of business was to say yes to trying everything and see what worked. We talk about the awards she’s entered (and won!) and the long-term benefits she’s still experiencing from them. She also shares her story of sending products to Joe Wicks and what happened when he shared them on Instagram.

Listen in to hear Ruth share:

  • An introduction to her business and what she sells (1:19)
  • How having a child inspired her to start her business (1:44)
  • The importance of children understanding the World around them (5:14)
  • The (gungho!) first steps she took to get started (7:57)
  • Why just getting started can be a good thing – and a way to test your product idea (12:37)
  • How she got her first sales and the importance of involving your customers (13:45)
  • How and when she expanded her product range (16:50)
  • How (and why) she’s found a new printer, closer to home (19:08)
  • Some of the challenges around finding and working with suppliers in the UK (23:48)
  • How working with Chinese suppliers can be a positive experience and tips for getting it right (26:00)
  • How she manages the logistics around shipping and storing her products – and why it can be nice to do it yourself (28:29)
  • The awards the Little Black and White Book Project has won – and why she entered (32:37)
  • The (lasting) benefits of winning awards for your product (36:45)
  • What happened when Joe Wicks shared her products on Instagram (39:30)
  • Why she chooses to donate 25% of her profits (45:00)
  • What she loves about selling products (51:28)
  • Her top piece of advice for other product creators (54:16)

USEFUL RESOURCES:

Little Black and White Book Project website

Little Black and White Book Project on Twitter

Little Black and White Book Project on Facebook

Little Black and White Book Project on Instagram

Ruth Bradford on LinkedIn

LET’S CONNECT

Find me on Instagram

Work with me

Transcript

The importance of ‘ just going for it’ - with Ruth Bradford, the Little Black and White Book Project

INTRO (:

Welcome to the, bring your product ideas to life podcast, practical advice, and inspiration to help you create and sell your own physical products. Here's your host Vicki Weinberg.

Vicki Weinberg (:

Hi, as always. Thank you so much for choosing to listen today. Today, we're going to be talking to Ruth Bradford who runs the little black and white book company. Ruth creates animal to black and white illustrations for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers to help early visual and brain development, as well as foster an early love for wildlife arranging through books, interactive flashcards prints and accessories. This is a fantastic conversation Ruth and I touch on lots of different things, including how and why she entered awards as part of her strategy for the first year, how she was recognized by Joe Wicks back in June this year, and the impact that had on her sales. We also talk about her vision and her why for her business and how that plays a part in all that she does.

Vicki Weinberg (:

This is a really fantastic conversation. She had so much to share and I really hope you enjoy it. So hi Ruth. Thank you so much.

Ruth Bradford (:

Oh, thank you for having me.

Vicki Weinberg (:

No problem. So could we start please by telling us about your business and you sell.

Ruth Bradford (:

So yeah, so I sell high contrast and animal illustrations for babies, toddlers and preschoolers, and they take the form of board books and story books and interactive flashcards prints, muslins, and anything that's really useful for parents really, but all in black and white.

Vicki Weinberg (:

Fantastic. And so what, what inspired you to get started selling black and white products?

Ruth Bradford (:Well, sit back in:

mean, partly it could be that I was living in Singapore, but even when I look on the internet, it was just, they were just quite basic. And there was just nothing that really caught my attention and that I

would really enjoy sharing with him.

Ruth Bradford (:

I think so. And I'm a graphic designer I've been doing that for donkey's years since I graduated. And so I just thought, well, I could draw some of my own illustrations that we could share at home. And then I shared those in turn with some other new parents and the response was pretty amazing. And in my whole baby bubble, I could tell you start a business at that time with a newborn baby. And yeah, it just sort of spiraled from there really that there was a gap in the market for a high quality content of that kind, that wasn't no usual kind of kiddy stuff and that I could maybe animals that children at that age wouldn't normally have access to at all. And just hope to get them in their imaginations going in and help them fall in love with, with wildlife.

Vicki Weinberg (:

That's amazing. So what were the first products then that you started out with?

Ruth Bradford (:

the range started with three board books and one set of flashcards. And I will, I did one for Asia cause that was where we were living. And we'd seen a lot of the wildlife in, in person and then Australia, because my in laws lived down there and Africa, cause we'd been really lucky enough to go on Safari. So three places that in terms of wildlife, they kind of tick off all the big stuff everyone's heard of, but they're also places we'd visited and that were really special to us. And the flashcards were Asia as well. And would they, they wanted to do something that kind of, when you were frazzled parent and new, you think you should be talking to your baby because they respond to your voice and you want to Sue them or have something to say it's really hard when you're just totally frazzled to know what to do with them and say, the flashcards came about that.

Ruth Bradford (:

I didn't just want pictures to show them, which a lot of other flashcards do. I wanted something that you could read out on the back. So they fax them back. But then I also wanted them to last longer than the first few months. So by having the facts, it means that they're, they're really good for older children. So as they're learning their words and the names of the animals and things like that, and they actually have a little interaction, so you can get them thinking about similarities and differences between us and the natural world. And so they actually last from birth right up to this preschool and beyond, depending on children's interests so that although the board books came really naturally because it's just, we, I love reading. And I think books are really important from an early age.

Ruth Bradford (:

The flashcards were something that I got really excited about because they were just something different and a really easy tool that parents could take with them on the go cause they're super light and easy to transport. So they, that was the kind of core of the range.

Vicki Weinberg (:

Wow. Is that's what you started out. Even did the books have words as well or the board books, just pictures

Ruth Bradford (:

That has pictures. I have the name of the animal and in the front they have a map to show where the animals come from. Cause I'm also really passionate about making sure children understand what animals live together. A lot of children's books are beautiful, but they kind of put pandas with tigers and lions and it's like, they don't all live together and they don't live in a jungle. I just find like it's quite confusing for children because I have arguments all the time about West of lives. And it's like, it's because he's read and seen scene in a book and it's like, that's not factually correct. And I think I just wildly, he grew up knowing where things lived or what kind of habitat they lived in. So yeah, so all of my books will always group animals together from where they come from and the map in the front, again, as they get older while obviously not as a newborn baby, but, but it just means it touches on those different development stages as they ask questions about the world.

Ruth Bradford (:

And they can just imagine where they might come from and the weather's like there and all those kinds of things.

Vicki Weinberg (:

Yeah. And I imagine it was actually also quite good for parents because I think, you know, I'm not sure I know exactly where every single animal lives

Ruth Bradford (:

I actually did my, the story, but I did this year. I've had a few people parents will say, Oh, I can't even say some of the underworlds you've been looking them off and learning about them. And it's just brilliant. It's lovely that it's, it's surprising people and it's, it's nice to have design something. That's good for parents as well, because I think a lot of the kind of baby stuff is just mind numbing. And so it's nice that parents can look at it and go, this is, this is really nice to me to look at as well and that we share it together and it's not just passive.

Vicki Weinberg (:

Yeah. And also I think now a lot of parents may be put off by buying products. If, you know, if you get a sense that it might be a bit annoying or a bit, you know, it doesn't look nice because obviously we're the ones buying them, not the children. So yeah, I guess, yeah. You do have to appeal to the parents as well.

Ruth Bradford (:

Yeah. And, and also I think not to be too shallow about it, but the Instagram generation of, you know, people

want to be taking beautiful pictures of their Haynes. And so the crime particularly fits in so well with a beautiful nursery sentencing or, you know, I don't know a lovely outfit or whatever. Like people just love the aesthetic, I think. And I think black and white is such an easy one to, to team with anything really. And so yeah, helping parents feel soothed in their chaos is it's quite a nice feeling.

Vicki Weinberg (:

Yes. It's lovely to have something beautiful to look at while you're feeding or whatever you're doing. Yeah. So can we just go back to the, when you got started and talk through some of the practical steps, if that's okay. So let's talk about how did you go from sort of creating these products, sharing them with your friends, what were the practical steps you then took to actually create the books and the flashcards, and we can take them together or separately, however you feel makes more sense.

Ruth Bradford (:

So I'll just caveat everything by saying I'm a real feat first gung ho kind of person. So I I'm really bad at sort of thinking ahead. And especially when it comes to the creative stuff, I kind of just get so carried away and excited that I, I kind of jump in and, and it's good and bad. Like I think it doesn't hold me back over procrastinate, but equally I'm probably not a really good example of that. But anyway, that aside I, what did I do first? So I actually created just some little paper that had a hard cover and, but paper pages, and they were just from a website that lets you upload, you know, can create little photo books, that kind of thing.

Ruth Bradford (:

So I, I just use one of those. I think it might've been blurb or something like that. And I just did, so I had the illustrations and I did a little prototypes and those, and that's what we use and that's what I gifted to some friends and things like that. And then obviously they're not very good for little fingers and you can't prop them up or anything like that. And so I was really keen to do the board books cause they're just so good from newborn and they last and they're really durable. And so then it was a case of just trying to find a printer. And again, it's just sort of quite the first, you just have to do a lot of searching on Google and send some emails. I was really lucky that I found somebody in Hong Kong because at the time it was obviously local to me being in Singapore that it wasn't, you know, it's not a huge leap to Hong Kong and they hit all my eco credentials.

Ruth Bradford (:

I was one thing they print with soy ink and they use make sure these forestry certified paper stock and all of that kind of stuff and recycled board and everything kind of hit those sort of credentials that I was looking for. And it was just really easy from there cause they would, they were super helpful. I explained that I, I don't actually have a print background. I used to work in website and things like that. So they walked me through it or I sent the artwork, they would send me proofs. They sent me, I actually ordered some real kind of prototypes from that point. And so it was a few hundred dollars. So it wasn't a loss of money, a few hundred dollars for the actual kind of real board books.

Ruth Bradford (:

So I could see what they were like and see the scale and everything like that, the graphics and the text and the same with the flashcards. I'd seen some flashcards that I really wanted to, I thought the quality was great and they actually printed those as well. So it was, it was, I already knew that they could do the good quality flashcards I was looking for. So see, I just, don't under samples who was really, really happy with, with the samples that they sent and then ordered a print run. The only downside of doing something like books, is that in order to get them margins, you have to order quite large. And it was, yeah. So I think I ended up ordering a thousand of everything to start with, which is huge when you haven't actually had any sales whatsoever, but you know, it's just one of those things that you can't have to weigh up.

Ruth Bradford (:

Is it better to just go for it and how you can solve it? Or is it better to, to go from minimum quantities, but have like very little profit start with? And so I dunno, it was just very personal to our circumstances is that we could just go for it. And we just went from a thousand to beach just to see what had happened at that beginning point. And then I tried a Kickstarter campaign, which was a massive flop because it turns out kickstart is really hard and you have to put a lot of work before you launch, which I didn't quite appreciate, but it was, it wasn't a complete disaster because within 24 hours of that failing, I'd actually set up my website and had, was taking pre-orders.

Ruth Bradford (:

And most of the people, because they all knew me anyway, people have backed me on Techstars to just came and placed a pre-order. And then, so I had a little bit of cash coming in and I think it was about a four or five month wait to get the stock. So how do all these people who very kindly kind of placed orders, but for four or five months out from getting the products, but yeah, it's kind of how it all spiraled, I guess at the beginning it was just trying to respond as quickly as possible.

Vicki Weinberg (:

I definitely think there's something to be said for just jumping in and getting started because if you hadn't done that, you'd never would, you know, you never would know ever it would take off or not. So I do think, I do think that's actually a good thing. Obviously, like you say, you also need to make, you know, consider things, but I mean, yeah. I think I personally, I think that the getting started and doing something is the best way to test out whether you've got a viable product and taking pre-orders is, sounds like a fantastic idea. Because as you said, that gave you a little bit of money upfront to cover some of that order.

Ruth Bradford (:

Yeah. And I think a little bit of money coming in. Yeah. And it was proof of concept that people actually genuinely interested in it. I mean, it's nerve wracking because you think, Oh, well I hope they like it when they get it. But yeah, it was a proof of concept, a little bit of money coming in and something to talk about. So

to build up the social media side of things and start getting the brand out there. Yeah. I mean, for me it worked like being kind of gung-ho and just going for it, it worked, but that's, that's my personality business plans and planning is not okay.

Vicki Weinberg (:

Yeah. And I know if you're listening to this and that isn't your personality. That probably sounds terrifying. So yes, I'm not, I'm definitely not suggesting that everyone goes gung ho, but I do think there's something to be said for being brave and just taking that first step, at least. So coming back to those initial sales where they may need them, people that you knew in Singapore?

Ruth Bradford (:

No, actually not in Singapore. It's a few people in Singapore, but mainly back in the UK. Yeah. And actually we moved back to the UK before I got the stocks. So that complicated things a little bit further because I, I ended up, I think I still don't really know why I decided on this, but I split the stock. So part of it went to Singapore to friend's house. Most of it came to the UK and cause I, I felt that having some in Singapore, I hope to be a bit more established there before we left and I would maybe have some shops or something that would be taking them. And I didn't want to have to be sending stuff from the K that all kind of just didn't really work out at all.

Ruth Bradford (:got back to the UK in August,:Vicki Weinberg (:

Oh, that's good. And it sounds like you've already talking about them on Instagram before they're even ready. So I guess you were building more of awareness and more orders before the stock even arrived.

Ruth Bradford (:

Yes. Yeah. I think that's the key thing that if I was going to go back and do it again, I think I would put more effort into the whole kind of pre-launch. I was lucky that I got the pre-orders and I was lucky that I got a bit of a following, but I think the more work you can put in before you actually go live with the products is probably better. You know, the more you can involve people on that journey and fold them in the story and the product development and show them that the process, I think people really love that. Cause they're, they're very invested in you rather than just coming cold with a I've got this thing on. So you it's just a much nicer way of doing it. And so I did a bit of that. I hadn't appreciated just how much you probably need to do, to be honest.

Vicki Weinberg (:

Yeah. That absolutely makes sense. And also from a practical point of view, there can be quite a bit of a lead time as you found out between placing your water and actually having the product ready to fulfill. So you might as well be using that time to build awareness because it actually is, there's only so much else you can be doing during those weeks or months or however long it takes.

Ruth Bradford (:

Yeah. And you don't really want to sort of just disappear off the radar, especially if you have taken pre orders. Cause I think then people get nervous that you know, that you've taken the money and it might never materialize so that it's reassuring to your, your customer base and the people that follow you that yeah. There is stuff going on, you are working hard and it just, yeah. I'm all for transparency and sharing as much as possible bringing people along with you because I just think it just adds that kind of feel good facts about our brand.

Vicki Weinberg (:

Yeah, definitely. And it's nice. It's sort of yeah. Feel that there's a person behind the brand and kind of know a bit of the story. Definitely think that's important. So what stage did you then expand your product range?

Ruth Bradford (:Two more books in:Ruth Bradford (:

And then I also added flashcards for every book as well at that point. So there was yeah, set of flashcards that matched all of the books at that time. And then around that I was sort of adding little things like prints, you know, cause they're, they're very easy to do small runs. So I was trying to think of products that I could do a small run off quite cheaply just to bulk out the product range a little bit more and offer something that,

you know, it's a nice gift. Or if somebody is already got the books, you know, it's another reason to come back to me and buy rather than it always just being this one thing that once you got it, you got it. You just don't need anything else.

Ruth Bradford (:

And also I just love that side of creating and product development. So, so it's just nice to have that to do in the meantime, once waiting for new books. So, so the range is sort of slowly, organically grown as I've had ideas and gone, Oh, I can do that. And that's quite cost efficient and I can try it and Oh, and I would love to do that. And, and the range has probably grown apart from the books and the flashcards, everything else is,

is it's a lot easier to produce. It's a lot quicker and you can test it and just do small runs. So it's a nice way of kind of like I say, padding out the range.

Vicki Weinberg (:

That's fantastic. So are you now, so you're still using the same printer in Hong Kong, is that right for your books and flashcards or have you moved

Ruth Bradford (:

Well? So I've had a bit of a disaster with that. Sadly, that the last shipment that I had was just not very good at all. And they, all of the, it's such a tiny thing, but I CA I can never send anything out. And that's, I think it's perfect. And a lot of the spines about 60% of the books, all the spines had a little Nick in them or, and so I had to sort of write off most of that and now they are replacing them they're on their way now. So keeping everything across that the, the new ones are going to be perfect, but it's just left me with boxes and boxes of stocks that I can't sell. And so three, my storybook that I write this year, I started working with a Bristol printer called Doveton press.

Ruth Bradford (:

And Matt at Doveton is amazing. And he has gone out and found me a new board book printer because he says that no one in the UK does it, which is a real challenge, but he's managed to find someone in Europe for me. But the best thing is that he's managing the whole process through Doveton. So I now have a bit of a buffer of somebody who really knows their stuff and is happy to deal directly with the printer, with what I need. And I'm hoping, again, I'm going to end up doubling up on stock, which is, I just hope I can sell it, but I've had to order because I just I've run out of quite a lot of the best sellers. So I've had to order some stock through, through this new printer who's in Poland.

Ruth Bradford (:

And while it's waiting for these replacements to come from Hong Kong. So it's, it's a very peculiar situation, but I don't think many people would find themselves in and I'm going to end up with stock idols, but I'm hoping that going forward, this new printer being closer to home and working through with sort of third party who is incredibly knowledgeable and can manage that whole process me is just going to make things a lot smoother and a lot easier.

Vicki Weinberg (:

Oh, I'm so sorry you had that experience, but it's good that you found a solution.

Ruth Bradford (:

Yeah. And actually I'm because the books, the damaged books technically haven't cost me anything. Cause I hung them replaced. I've actually just been giving them away to charities and childcare providers. And I think this year has been a tough year. And so I just have a little application form on my website that people can apply and to say, if they would like to book donations or up to a hundred books, and they've been going off all around the country to hospitals and charities and childminders nurseries, anyone that can really make use for them and get kids interested in reading and books and things. So yeah, out of, out of a really bad thing where I've literally cried as I've eaten boxes and it's, it's a really lovely feeling to just be able to kind of flip that and go, actually, I'm just making those people smile now and it's clearing out my garage, which is quite

Vicki Weinberg (:

Oh, a lovely thing to do. I'm so pleased. You managed to find something positive out of it. Yeah, that's fantastic. I'm also didn't realize there were no boards, but printers in the UK and that's really surprised me. So that's something else that I've learned today. Cause you would assume that be in a paper based product, that there would be lots of suppliers. So that's really interest.

Ruth Bradford (:

Yeah. I mean, I think I'm not a hundred percent sure whether it's that they're just aren't tool to have the equipment or whether it's so expensive, you just wouldn't do it unless it was a really small, tiny, like private run thing. It's certainly not to commercial scale and the margins that I need to make it work that yeah, there isn't anyone doing it. And I think because out in China they've been doing it so long and all the big publishing companies use out there, they have got a corner on that market. And so if you want to be able to print books domestically, it is a huge challenge to find somebody that is closer to home, like not in the UK, but at least Europe and managing that whole kind of order process and you know, language barriers with China, you've got time differences.

Ruth Bradford (:

You've got shipping costs, which again, environmentally is not, not particularly in line with what I'm wanting to do with my business. So yeah, it's, it's been challenging, but I I've been very, very lucky to meet Matt he's just done a lot of the hard work for me cause I was just hitting dead end after dead end.

Vicki Weinberg (:

Yeah. Finding suppliers. Yeah. Can be tricky. And it's always good to have a recommendation as well that you know that this company, I guess, could you mention that you sell Muslins as well? So I'm assuming that's also a different supplier.

Ruth Bradford (:

Yeah. And that's, again, that's China. It's just really hard to find anyone in the UK. I sent off so many emails to manufacturers here and if they even bothered to reply, it was a no don't do that. It wasn't, they didn't even

want a conversation about it. Or, you know, you'd say, well, we don't do it, but we could, we could look into it or you know, let's have a chat about it, nothing. It's just, it's such a few other people have said about manufacturing in the UK. It's just really hard to get foot in the door and get anyone to talk to you because you're so small compared to the people that are dealing with. But unless you're lucky and you get an introduction to somebody who's really interested in small business, most people just, they won't even entertain.

Ruth Bradford (:

It's really frustrating. And so yes, go look to China again, because my experience there is that they kind of call it, do enough to help. They really want to help and that they really want to petite your products. It's just really challenging because it's such a long way away. Can't always visit, you know, you're trusting what they're telling you. You're trusting what's on their websites. And yet it's really hard to do your due diligence. So it's, it's a really tricky position to be in. And I feel for anybody trying to put like develop a product in the UK because it's, it just hasn't, there are lots of hurdles and you can get past them. There's a lot of benefits. But for me, I think the type of products I want to produce, sadly, it's just really hard to do that here.

Ruth Bradford (:

Again, I'm really keen to try and find some deep place at times the, the Muslins, cause I'd really love to branch out into more kind of soft furnishing type products or, you know, like pram toys or baby gym toys or something, you know, or even just more styles of Muslin. Cause at the moment I've just got one and it'd be really nice to open that up a bit more. But I think supply chain wise at the moment is just not feasible with working with China. So yes, it's been a really good experience so far. Like I'm really happy with the product, but it's, it's just the logistics and the thought of it all being so far away and uncontrollable is, is quite tough.

Vicki Weinberg (:

Yeah. But I'm glad to hear, you've had mostly positive experience sourcing from China likes. I know that's something that people can be a bit nervous about, but the reality is, as you found, there were some products that just either aren't manufactured here or as you say, it's just so hard to get a foot in the door, but you know, as a small business, small order that you, you know, you don't really have a choice, but to go elsewhere. So yeah, I'm really pleased to hear that. Overall, your experience sourcing there has been positive. Mine has been T I, I saw some of my products in China and yeah, you do hear the bad stories, but I think as long as you're diligent that, you know, overall I've had very positive experiences and as you said, very friendly service, you know, people really want to help.

Vicki Weinberg (:

So I think it's just about doing your research and finding the right supplier.

Ruth Bradford (:

Yeah, definitely. And I think, yeah, I don't want anyone to be scared about looking outside the UK and you

know, there's benefits to both of, you know, like I think quality should always be at the top of the list, you know, that made in Britain stampebest doesn't necessarily mean it's the, best, I think there's lots of technology out there. There's lots of amazing manufacturers and in India, certainly for soft finishing and fabrics and things is incredible. You know, the, the sort of leaps and bounds that other countries are making right now are really interesting and say, yeah, I think as long as people can try and do their research and if at all possible obviously visit, but I know that's, that's pretty difficult. I haven't been able to visit the places that make my products, but yeah.

Ruth Bradford (:

Trying to do as much research as possible, talk to people, try and find out if anyone, you know, has, has used a manufacturer before and know a lot of people keep that close to their chest. Cause it takes a lot of work to find them. But if, if you can get a recommendation, I think that's always a good place to start, but yeah, definitely don't be put off. It's just, it's just working through that stuff right. At the beginning, in order to feel confident that you found the right partner

Vicki Weinberg (:

Hopefully once you've Got the right person, then it's a long-term relationship and you know, a lot of the hard work's done. So how do you manage, I'm just quite curious. I haven't, you have different products and different suppliers. How do you manage the logistics? How does that work? Do you use a third-party supplier? Do you ship everything yourself? How are you handling that day to day?

Ruth Bradford (:

Okay. Yeah, it's taking over a bit. I think as the product range has grown, it's definitely got a bit, a bit more difficult. I'm sat in my last at moment where all my stock that I have at home and it's just, yeah, it's piled up around me and I am packing everything myself, which I love, although I realize it's a complete and utter waste of my time really, because I could be spending doing other things, but I'm just not quite there yet in order to get somebody to come and do that or outsource it. So very soon I'm about to start some storage. So it's all going to go into storage and I'll just pick and choose the small pieces that I need for packing orders each week.

Ruth Bradford (:

But I'm hoping by maybe early next year that I'll have found some sort of fulfillment oxygen. And whether that is a third party kind of warehousing solution, or whether that's somebody who can come in once or twice a week for me, my preferred option would be to have somebody who can come and do it, but that obviously comes with a lot setup costs and I need space for them and all of that kind of thing. And obviously you have to find that person who's the right fit. He's willing to come and just pack a few parcels for me at the moment. It's not unmanageable because you know, it's just a steady flow of hoarders, but I'm, I am growing at a good rate and I'm really keen to be able to maximize that and maximize my time.

Ruth Bradford (:

So yeah, at the moment it's just a huge juggling act around family and home life and, and actually having it at home is helpful because you can go, I've got 10 minutes. I can go and, you know, pack a few orders now or, you know, late at night, something comes in and you really want to add it to the next day's dispatch. You can

just go, I'll just go and do it. You know, haven't got to worry about managing customer conversations too much because everything's manageable in my space. But yeah, it's not, it's not a long-term solution. It's not going to think it can last much longer cause I'm just running out of space to put things.

Vicki Weinberg (:

But you're right though. It's good. It's good , especially when you first get started. I mean, yes, you can change it evolve, but actually it's quite good to be hands-on festival because you know how things should be done. You, you managing it yourself, you've got complete control over it. Yeah. I think it's, it's definitely a good way to get started.

Ruth Bradford (:

Yeah. And there was something really lovely about seeing someone's order come in, especially if they've written a gift note that I hand write those guests notes and I pack it all up, knowing that it's, somebody's chasing that for really lovely reason or even if it's just for themselves. But you know, just to know that there's, that stranger has chosen my products, I'm putting together in a little parcel for them and try to imagine, you know, how they'll feel when they open it. It's, they're trying to make it, you know, it was packaged as one as possible and things like that. There was to have that, even if it's just for a short time at the beginning of your business, I think that will kind of, I didn't, I was spacing cooking. They called it nose to tail when they edit what you call it in business. But you know, that whole kind of start to finish process of putting your business out there to actually sending an order through the post is, is really special because somebody voted with their money and they've gone.

Ruth Bradford (:

I really like what you do and I'm willing to give you my money for it. And that's like, that is amazing. And to, to experience that three fulfilling the orders yourself that well, yeah. I don't know for me, I just really enjoy that part of it. And I'll, I'll be sad when I have to find the let go. Yeah,

Vicki Weinberg (:

Yeah, no, I'm good. I only this year stopped to filling my own orders and I still kind of miss one thing. I used to write a handwritten note in every order that I sent out. Like a little thank you card. And I still miss being able to do that because obviously once someone else starts doing that for you, some of these little things have to stop and yeah, I do definitely miss being able to do that because you do feel a little bit more detached at that point and obviously you have to grow, it has to happen. It's practical, but yeah, I think it's nice to be able to have that personal touch. Isn't it?

Ruth Bradford (:

Yeah, definitely.

Vicki Weinberg (:

So let's talk a little bit about your very many award wins and some of the successes you've had in the last few years, because yeah. I've seen it all and I'd love to talk a little bit about that. So yeah. So should we start, I'll start with an easy one. So can you tell us that some of the awards that you've received in the last couple of years?

Ruth Bradford (:ttled in Bristol. So that was:Ruth Bradford (:

And I had the biggest wobble ever, and I kind of came home from of my first events and fell apart and was already called husband blessing, gave me a big old pep talk. And we decided that that year, the best thing for me was just to try everything. So just literally say no to nothing and just see what worked. And the worst thing was, I didn't have to go back. We didn't have to deal with anything. It was, it was just try it, see how it felt and see what would happen. And so the awards were really big part of that because I was like, I've got nothing to lose. I'm totally unproven in the market. And no one's really heard of me say, let's see if I can get a bit of validation and based my kind of credentials a little bit.

Ruth Bradford (:

And so I just, yeah, I just kind of found a little bit of budget and just went for it and entered everything that I could see that might be helpful. And so that included, I did the made for mums awards and the junior design awards. And I got silver at both of those, which was amazing because I think Osbourn and Penguin Random House with, or first and third in that. So to be placed amongst giants and the publishing world was incredible. And then when I had, do you have understand, let me find it. So I was one of the small business, Saturday, small business, 100 businesses that year as well. And I went to the house of Lords, which is pretty nice for their reception.

Ruth Bradford (:

I got to go to 10 Downing street with Enterprise Nation, which is a business organization. I joined, they take

people along to chat to the business minister about things that could help small businesses. So actually got to go inside and sit in a meeting room and have my say, which is incredible. I was one of the SPS winners with Theo Faphitis on Twitter and then got to meet him and get my certificate in person at his event. And then probably the biggest one that year was the Female Start Up for the air again with Enterprise Nation and that involved having to stand on stage and pitch to the audience and the judges, which was really nerve wracking. And if you told me at the beginning of the year, that's what I'd be doing. I would have run an absolute mile to the opposite direction.

Ruth Bradford (:I've really done much since:Ruth Bradford (:

I think that first year when I was just starting out was a really good time to do it, just to build my confidence up, build some credibility for the brand and the products and, and I just really didn't have anything to lose. So it, yeah, it really worked for me and I would, I would, I would advocate it anyone, you know, if they've got a new product and they, they just want some feedback, it's a really good way of getting it.

Vicki Weinberg (:

That's fantastic. And would you say that, did the award wins help with raising awareness of the product and the brand or was it more that you have the credibility? Cause obviously you can put the logo on your website and things or both. Yeah.

Ruth Bradford (:

Both. Yeah, definitely both. I mean, I still get a lot of traffic from made for mums to the website because they leave all that content up, you know, they always have all the past winners. And so it's, even if you just get shortlisted, anything that allows, you know, those backlinks and just to have your name out there on the, on the ins web. Yeah. And being able to just put the badges on the products or on any social media posts and just have something to talk about. And I've been invited back to, to speak about things and, you know, with the female start up of the year, I've had a lot of kind of PR in the back of that in terms of being invited to speak for things and, and being involved in their, their event that they do each year. So it's, it does open doors and it, it just gives you an in, I think it's just like, it's just something to talk about without, you know, you don't have to be really bragging about it, but it's just, people will go, Oh, weren't you that one?

Ruth Bradford (:

Or can you win that? Or didn't I see, you know, or yeah, it's opened up a loss of compensations for me. So it's been hugely beneficial.

Vicki Weinberg (:

Fantastic. Yeah, definitely. It sounds like something worth trying if you have a new product and you just want to get some awareness out there and possibly a bit of feedback as well.

Ruth Bradford (:

Yeah. I mean, there was always a cost involved in some form whether it's to enter or whether it's to be able to display the badge or whatever it is, but she usually fairly small. And I think if you, if you're smart about it, I mean, I've only ever entered one category and one product. So, you know, it doesn't have to be a huge barrier to entering. It's just being a bit tactical with it and, and thinking about which categories you might have a good chance in,

Vicki Weinberg (:

And I guess which awards are going to be the best fit as well. Cause I guess they're made for mum's awards for you as an ideal one, because I'm sure that mums look at our website all the time to get ideas for new products. So that seems like a really smart choice.

Ruth Bradford (:

Yeah. And it's judged by moms, you know, and there's nothing better than say, like parents have actually approved this. I think as a parent myself, I love anything that people go, yeah. Parents have tried and tested this and they, they say, yes, it's not just, somebody's sat detached going. I like the look of it. It's, you know, really kind of been tried and tested with real children and real parents.

Vicki Weinberg (:

Yeah. And that does give it real credibility. And so speaking, well, this is a bit of a tenuous link, but speaking about being tried by real parents and real children do you want to talk a little bit about how Joe Wickshis shared your products over the summer? Because I saw that on his Instagram and I would love to know how that came about and the result of that.

Ruth Bradford (:

Yes. That I'm really bad with the whole influence thing and gifting and finding celebs to like share and all that kind of stuff. So I, I don't do any of that and I probably should. So this is a bit of a one-off the, I was doing his PE lessons every day through lockdown and it was just really helping me mentally and physically to feel a lot better. And he's such a nice guy and I listened to some podcasts of his and things and interviews and the

way he talks about being a businessman is really refreshing. And he's so positive about everything. And he

sort of gives himself a little pep talks, like, come on, Joe, you can do it. And he talks about just plugging away, relentlessly at what he does.

Ruth Bradford (:

And everyone thinks that he's just this amazing overnight success story that he always says, no, I'm an eight year overnight success story because he's been doing it for a really long time. He's just generated thousands of hours of content. And so I've just got a lot of respect for how he preaches all of that and his relentless energy really. And I know that his wife loves animals or they, they love animals and the family and his kids is the perfect age for my products. And so I just really sent a gift pack to his registered office. I don't even know if you'd get just, I found his office on his website, bundled up a gift pack, regular letter about how much I've been loving his PE lessons.

Ruth Bradford (:

And that I was really grateful and, you know, respected him as a business person. It really helped me as a small business as well, and really kind of resonated with me some of the things you've said. So he's probably a bit of a cause she left her, but it was all from the heart and it was all very genuine. And I, I had no expectations at all. It was more kind of a repaying kindness with the slight hope inside me that he had, if he said it would be insane, but, but it certainly wasn't the main way innovation. And then, yeah, it wasn't like all of a sudden, like two or three weeks after I'd sent it. So then he got a notification on Instagram that he, he was doing the story and boxing like unwrapping them all and showing them and talking about them.

Ruth Bradford (:

And it all went a bit bonkers for 24 hours. I just could see that the orders coming in and he actually sent me a really nice voice message on Instagram as well, and about how much he loved them and that his little girl was trying to pronounce some of them. And it was really funny and he was learning as well. It was, yeah, it was really lovely moment of just like, wow, okay, there's this guy who's doing all this amazing stuff. Also

really likes what I'm doing. And then, yeah, I like the 24th. Cause the Instagram stories is only live for 24 hours, but that was the real kind of, wow. Am I Instagram following went up by about a thousand, which is sort of like watching it go, but the whole of that week, really?

Ruth Bradford (:

Yeah. The oldest were pretty high compared to normal and most of my Amazon stock sold out as well. And so that month was a real bumper month for me. It gave the business such a boost and just lifted my spirits so much. And then I think also gave me some mentioned to carry on the next couple of months where, you

know, there's stuff to talk about. And I had such a spring in my step that it just, it made like other stuff a little bit easier for me during quite a tough time with like the lockdown and everything like that. So yeah, a bit of a one-off but amazing.

Vicki Weinberg (:

Oh, that's fantastic. What a lovely story and see, like you, I've never done any of this sending things to influencers says because I just, you know, not sure how to feel about it. Not saying there's anything wrong with doing that. I know lots of people have success, but I really love the fact that you did it as a genuine thank you as a, you know, you know, you did it not, you know, not thinking that he's going to share just to say, thank you for all that he'd done for you. And I think that's a really lovely story and I think it just, yeah, I mean, there's a nice message.

Ruth Bradford (:

I think, I mean the influence stuff, I mainly just don't know who anyone is. I'm such a Nana that I just, I'm just not up with all the kind of current TV programs and you know, why people are famous and like the people with the big accounts and Instagram, I'm just like, I have no idea who they are. And I find it really difficult to start a conversation with them or contact them when I'm like genuinely just have no idea who you are. So, so it was, this was an easy one because like I already knew who he was and you know what he's doing and, and had that respect for him. So yeah, I mean it is, I do think it is a really good way of getting eyeballs on your business, but it's a whole job in itself, you know, to work out who the best people to, to kind of approach.

Vicki Weinberg (:

I think so too. I'm I'm the same. I can't tell you who's got children. How old their children are. I just, yeah. Yeah. So out of the loop now, no children myself, but yeah, I really do like that story. Cause I think he did something genuinely lovely and yeah. And I'm really pleased that you got that, you know, you've got a boost in your sales and as you say, it was such a tough time, wasn't it over? Cause wasn't it around may, June time I'm in, but I think all of us then who run well, everyone, wherever you are on a business or not, I think all of us around that time were really flagging after months of been a home. And yeah, that must have been such a lovely beast.

Ruth Bradford (:

Yeah. It was perfect timing. Really. I'm glad I plucked up the courage to do it

Vicki Weinberg (:

Well done. I think, yeah, you, you, you were really brave and Wells that I'm set and I'm so pleased that you can give some recognition for it, even though I know that set and it wasn't your intention. I'm so pleased that happened for you. So while we're on the subject of, of lovely things, I know that you donate 25% of your profits. That's something I read about you. And I would just love if you could just tell us a little bit more about that and about your business values and why you're choosing to do that.

Ruth Bradford (:

Yeah. Whether I come to, regret That as a, as a big percentage, but ultimately it really pushes me to be as successful as possible. So, you know, I'm not, I'm not super greedy. I don't want, well, it'd be lovely to have

millions, but that's not the end game. You know, this isn't about making money for me. This is about building a business that I love and that I see myself running for. As long as I can possibly run it, this isn't a quick kind of build it and sell it job. And my husband and I have always spoken about businesses that could give back and, and, you know, even if all businesses in the world gave like 1% of their profits away or four, not 5%, you know, if every single one did it, what difference that would make, if it all went into this kind of column, a pot that could help everybody.

Ruth Bradford (:

And so I've always had, we've always had this thing about, you know, people and planet can both profit at the same time. And, and you know, they, they both would spare each other ons to do better and better and better. And so it kind of came up that, and I think probably a little bit of arrogance within that. I wants to put a stake in the ground and go, I don't want to just give 5% away. I want to get a huge, I want to make everyone go. Wow. So I sort of went all in at 25%, which at the moment it's, it's manageable, but I think , I think this year we didn't need to sort out maybe some sort of funds that the money could go into, so that could work a bit harder.

Ruth Bradford (:

So it's more than just the donation of one of the nation that it's my longterm dream is to have a fund that people can apply to for conservation projects and things like that. So I, I think I've already seen start splitting it between a donation and going into that fund to try and build this money that people could apply to. So yeah, I think it's just for me, I just think in this day and age, businesses can do so much good and they don't have to be completely like separate from each other, you know, charities and business. They should, they can go hand in hand and it can be about profit. It's not a dirty word. It's, you know, it's kind of the more businesses can profit, more pliant can profit and we should all be thinking more sustainably friendly.

Ruth Bradford (:

And the choices we make, some of them should be no-brainers, you know, but packaging and about single use plastics and you know, all of my products, I try to make them they're designed to last. They're not just one hit wonders. You know, all of that comes into my philosophy as a business owner is that I want to have the best impact on the planet. And I know often the best impact is to just reduce and take away. But I, you know, I want what I'm putting out there to have a positive impact will help children think differently as they grow up about wildlife and nature. And I want them to think that, you know, you can be a very successful business person and give a considerable amount back to whatever it is that you care about and, and sort of set a bit of a precedent for that.

Ruth Bradford (:

And that's all very lofty. I, but, but that's what drives me on is that the more money I can make for myself, the more money I can give away at the same time.

Vicki Weinberg (:

That's fantastic. And it's, yeah, it's amazing that it's even that. And it's also good that you're so clear on wh you are, who your business is, what you're about and what your goals are because yeah, it's tight, you know, you canreally tell by talking to you that you're not doing it as a gimmick or as a marketing device. It's because it's something that you care passionately about and it's powerful, you know, inspires you want surfing. That's fantastic.

Ruth Bradford (:

And I, I didn't actually talk about it all that much. It's more of a kind of, it's just printed on the back of the products and it's just sort of, Oh, and by the way, I'm hoping that there'll be a turning point where, like I say, I've kind of built up maybe that that funds or, you know, where it does become a more integral part of the conversation at the moment. I'm much more focused on people just understanding that we're trying to be as sustainable, as sustainable as possible, and that our products are genuinely built to last that they're not just, you know, for those early months, cause we all have so much baby clutter in those early days and you have no idea what's good and bad as a parent, you just get all this stuff and people give you all these amazing gifts, but it's a lot of stuff.

Ruth Bradford (:

And so if my products can cut through that a little bit and the few things that last three or four years, even that's amazing to me, and then they get passed on, you know, if they, if they're still in South honorable condition, but the outs, it's all part of the bigger picture as a business that I'm just trying to create that message to positivity. And that it's not, it doesn't have to be demons. Not all companies are out to just strip the earth of everything. And you know, that it's not all about that, that one person at the top or anything like that, but it's, you know, it's about people and the planet. And that hopefully when I get to the stage where I can bring anybody on board, it will be very much the right people and that they believe in it in the same things that I do, but also that I can help them and that they can be a part of something that they care about.

Ruth Bradford (:

And it's not just an employee with a job.

Vicki Weinberg (:

I think that's fantastic. And just really to get that, you'll say clever on your why and why, you know, why you're doing this and it, and as you were talking, I was actually thinking that I have a very similar goal in terms of sustainability and creating products that last a long time. And I'm not sure that I ever really talk about it. So that's something to write down.

Ruth Bradford (:

Yeah. It's a good conversation piece. I think people would definitely seeking it out more and more and it's, it's people love to feel good about their pitch, so they might be buying it anyway. But if you can just add that little

cherry on top, it makes some time that's lovely. And I'm going to tell the person I bought that for all about that because it makes my guest more thoughtful or, you know, it's just that feel-good factor. Everyone loves that when you buy something, you just want that extra little kind of yeah.

Vicki Weinberg (:

Yeah. And I think that's a really good reminder to talk a bit more about yourself and, and the reason behind your business and why you're doing what you're doing and what your goals are. Because, you know, especially as a small business, it can't just be about the products because there are lots of products out there. I think people have to really resonate with you and your messaging as well. So that's a fantastic reminder. So we just have a few more questions before we close. If that's okay with you, I would love to know what you, I mean, and you've given us lots of things already, but if you could summarize what you love about your business and particularly about sort of having a products business as opposed to anything else, that'd be fantastic

Ruth Bradford (:

For me. It's all about the creativity. So I studied graphic design at university. I worked in advertising for years. I've always done a creative job, say to have a business that has that creative outlet is the best thing for me personally, just my wellbeing and what I enjoy doing. I'm very lucky that I can design all my products myself pretty much, you know, or take them to a stage. At least it's good to pass over. So I do all of the illustrations, all of the design setup, all of that kind of stuff. And so that's what I love really is that, you know, I try and I I've now gift myself at least half an hour in my workdays to, to finish the day on something creative.

Ruth Bradford (:

So whether that's doing some new illustrations or little new products up or anything like that, because I used to feel guilty for that because it was like taking away from finances and spreadsheets and all the logistic stuff that I was trying to ignore. But now actually that, that is the core of my business. My business is a creative business. And if I, if I let that die, it's, it's just, that takes away the whole reason for doing this really for me, CS, it's really just all about the creativity, having that creative outlet and trying to bring people along that journey with me.

Vicki Weinberg (:

Yeah. And absolutely you should do the things that you enjoy doing as well. I think that that's, yeah, that is really important that if you love the creative side, that you do make the time to do that because you know, when you start your own business, one of that's, one of the benefits is you can, Oh, wait, you have to do some things you don't enjoy, but you should be doing a lot of things you did enjoy as well.

Ruth Bradford (:

Yeah. And that's the thing that I'll try and keep as much as possible as I, as I grow is that the people that I bring on board or the things I outsource, it's going to be all the things I'm not very good at. The one thing I

hopefully am good at is the creative side and the product development. And I think something so lovely about the real product that you can hold and that you can share that and that people will vote. Like I said earlier, or vote with their money that they go, right. I actually want to own this as an item. And I think that's what sort of sets product businesses and maybe services businesses apart is that yeah, they're buying into you, but they're also buying into what you're creating. And if you can physically create something that makes somebody else smile or makes their world a little bit better, that's really lovely.

Ruth Bradford (:

I think, and channeling that creativity into, into a real life product that, that you can hold in your hands is, is quite special.

Vicki Weinberg (:

It really is. So One final question, if that's okay. And this is the question I ask everyone, which is what would be your number one piece of advice to other product creators or aspiring?

Ruth Bradford (:

Great. It's really hard because the more I talk about my journey, the more I realize I've got all these little bits that I want people to like take on board. But I think the biggest learning for me has been this, there are no rules that contrary to what all these people who probably make millions of pounds a year telling you out of consulting, or, you know, that people set the business up around telling other people how to make millions of and all that kind of stuff. But ultimately as long as you're following the Lea or advice and tax rules, everything else is up for grabs. So there's no reason why you should be running your business as a carbon copy of someone else's, you know, like do this your own way.

Ruth Bradford (:

If you want to grow slate, gray, slow. If you want to grow, you know, be a massive overnight success, put your effort into that, whatever it is, just remember that like everyone will have advice, pick and choose what works for you and what applies to you and what your, what you resonate with, like, and discard the rest, you know, shut out all of these voices, stay in your own lane and just, yeah. Strip it down to micro tasks to start somewhere because you can't learn anything if you don't start. So just have a game. Try not to be scared, easier said than done, but I think really breaking it down into tiny little micro tasks that just push you forward little by little and forgetting about the rules and just doing it your own way.

Ruth Bradford (:

Like I said, I see for going, Hey, we'll jump in feet first that won't work for everybody. But that works for me. I, you know, I think I forgot a business plan somewhere, but it certainly wasn't the first thing that I wrote. So yeah, I think it's just straight the rule book out. Don't worry about it. Just, just have a game and see what happens is that like super old cliche about fail fast, fail cheap, but it's so true. Just you won't know, unless you try and put yourself out there and just, however, however you can do that. So breaking it down into really

small tasks or, you know, giving yourself many challenges or finding a great support group, you know, whatever that is, that's going to propel you forward.

Ruth Bradford (:

Just take these little steps because now I'm like three years on and I look back and like talking to you and like I never realized I'd have so much to say, you know, and it creeps up on you that all of a sudden you've got all this knowledge to share. And, you know, there are these people who are huge mega successes that they're so far out of reach. And actually what needs to hear from a people who are a few steps ahead of you each time, because you can go, Oh, well, I could be there by next year. And you only really get that from just starting and trying and talking to other people and having a go.

Vicki Weinberg (:

Thank you. Thank you so much for sharing that. And I'm absolutely with you and yeah, that, that's kind of the whole basis of the show as well is to, is to interview people a few years into their business journeys. Because as say you learn so much in those first few years and you have so much to share. And I think it's also a bit more relevant to people who are just starting out because it's not quite as daunting when someone's, you know, two, three, four, five years ahead. There's a pace to someone who's been doing it for 20 years. And the world is probably very different when they got started. So thank you so much for saying that and thank you for sharing your advice as well. And for everything you shared today, it's been fantastic. We shared such a lot. We've probably gone over time.

Vicki Weinberg (:

Thank you.

Ruth Bradford (:

I told you once I get going, which I never thought I would,

Vicki Weinberg (:

but it's been fantastic. Well, thank you so much, Ruth really appreciate it.

Ruth Bradford (:

Oh no. Thank you for having me. It's been really great to sort of share my ups and downs really.

Vicki Weinberg (:

Oh, you're welcome. As always. Thank you so much for listening to this episode. I really hope that you enjoys it and that you also took something away from it too. I absolutely love to know what resonates with you and what you actually can take away and action from listen to episode. So please, please do get in touch. If you'd like to it's vicky@tinychipmunk.com or find me on Instagram at Vicki Weinberg product creation. Cause that's where I just social channel. I most often am at again. Thank you so much. If you have

got the time to rate and review the show, I would really appreciate it. That's if you're listening Apple podcasts, it's just a few clicks next couple of seconds and it would really help me out.

Vicki Weinberg (:

So thank you so much. And I'm really looking forward to speaking with you again next week.