The bestselling author of some 40 books, Annabel Karmel has made a name for herself as an expert on children’s nutrition. Alex Galbinski chats to her about the secret ingredients she’s put into her latest book, offering advice on how to run a successful business.
She built her business empire from scratch from her kitchen table, and now Annabel Karmel wants to help other mothers with their start-ups.
Karmel, who began her working life as a classical musician before falling into creating healthy recipes after the death of her firstborn child, has released a new book, Mumpreneur, that hit the shelves last month. “There are so many mums out there wanting to reach for their career dreams and become their own boss, so I wanted to write the book to help them with their journey and to get the confidence to turn their start-up dreams into a reality,” explains Karmel.
“Starting a business gives mums a way forward, which embraces their need for independence.”
Split into sections such as ‘believe in your idea’, ‘develop and value your brand and tribe’ and ‘make the most of your networks’, the practical how-to guide shares Karmel’s story as well as offering advice and case studies from some of the most successful women in the UK, including Jacqueline Gold of Ann Summers, Nails Inc founder Thea Green and Chrissie Rucker MBE, who founded The White Company.
Karmel, who has sold more than four million copies of her books worldwide and has supermarket food ranges and snacks, weaning equipment and smartphone apps, initially had to fight to be published. “I was rejected by more than 15 publishing houses. Each rejection letter could have been enough for me to doubt the viability and worth of my idea, but I continued to believe in my pitch as I knew I had a well-researched product,” she recalls.
She had the last laugh, however, as her first book, The Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner, went on to become the second best-selling non-fiction hardback of all time.
In fact, turning failure into an advantage is a key area of her book. “Many established people and products rose to their pinnacle thanks to criticism, doubt and mistakes – not a smooth supportive journey to the top. It’s the bumps in the road that foster perseverance, ensuring that you constantly fine-tune your idea,” she explains. “The opposite of success isn’t failure, it is not trying. If you seldom fail, there is a good chance you’re playing it too safe.”
However, she acknowledges that combining being a mother with setting up a business is not going to be easy. “Juggling the dual demands of work with family life is no mean feat by any stretch of the imagination,” she says. “I remember completing my first recipe book in between the children’s naps, managing a busy toddler group and running a house. It’s difficult keeping all the balls in the air without dropping one occasionally.”
The best piece of advice she was given was by her good friend, the entrepreneur and former Dragon’s Den investor, James Caan. “He once told me, when pitching your idea to someone, don’t ask them what they like about it. Instead, ask them why they think it might fail. By analysing every aspect of your business, you’re checking its viability and credibility – it’s only going to help you in the long run and save you time and money.”
To someone considering going it alone, she advises: “Find a niche. Starting a business doesn’t mean inventing something new. Take a look around you in your everyday life; we are surrounded by products and services that could be made better. “My niche was providing nutritious and tasty recipes for babies and children – it’s from building credibility in this area that I’ve been able to expand.”
However, confidence in oneself and in one’s product is paramount. “I want mums to believe in themselves and to know they can do it. It’s never too late to start up your own business and with a little help and guidance, anything is possible,” Karmel adds. “[The author and early years development expert] Maria Robinson once said: ‘Nobody can go all the way back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.’”
•Mumpreneur by Annabel Karmel is published by Vermilion, priced £16.99