Five essential characteristics of entrepreneurs

Since leaving full time employment last year, I’ve heard so many fascinating stories from entrepreneurs, who have left behind professions for which they’ve trained for many years, and sacrificed everything in order to pursue their passion and become their own boss.

Amongst my new connections, I’ve met a former IT Director who now has a personal styling business; a high-powered financier who risked everything to launch his own hospitality service; and most recently a Chartered Surveyor who has launched her own children’s food brand.

The latter is Jayne Hynes, founder and managing director of Kiddyum.

When her children were very young, Jayne would batch cook and freeze healthy meals for them each week. I did the same when my kids were really young. I remember spending hours making soups and purees and freezing them in ice cube trays. I’m more into lazy cooking these days!

Jayne wondered why supermarkets didn’t stock nutritious, frozen meals for kids. It turned out that just wasn’t a thing yet!

Whereas most of us would just shrug our shoulders, Jayne decided to do something about it, leaving behind her career as a Chartered Surveyor and eventually giving her up letters (which essentially means that she’d have to sit a series of exams if she ever wanted to return to the profession – so a big step).

She had a vision to create a range of healthy frozen kids’ meals – not to sell in farmers’ markets or delis – she was going right to the top and wanted a deal with a national supermarket chain.

Kiddyum is the result of four intense years of recipe trials, taste testing, market research and many, many late nights.  She went through four different manufacturers in her quest to perfect both the taste and the packaging – which is truly recyclable. There are five frozen ready meals in the range so far, all made from natural ingredients with no added sugar and very low salt content.

Jayne’s passion and drive inspired me to do a bit of research into what makes a successful entrepreneur. Here are my five essential characteristics of entrepreneurs:

  1. Motivation: Jayne had a powerful and personal reason to start her business – her children’s well-being. Most entrepreneurs are not motivated by money, they want to change the world in their own way. With a really compelling motive, they are rewarded with the little successes that take them towards their ultimate goal, rather than a guaranteed salary at the end of the month.
  2. Belief: Jayne’s conviction in her product has been unwavering. She was told by manufacturers that her high standards for the product and the packaging were unrealistic, but she would not accept defeat. Rather than compromising, she found a new manufacturer.
  3. The ability to plan: Without a goal there’s nothing to aim for. Jayne would not rest until she had her range in a major Supermarket. She worked her way backwards from that end goal, planning each step with precision.
  4. Knowledge: Knowing your customer is essential. Jayne immersed herself in the world of kids’ meals during the research stage. She created a sort of ‘meals on wheels’ service for her network of friends and local mums – providing kids’ meals for free in exchange for feedback on her recipes. She absolutely knows what mums need from frozen meals, and what kids want to eat.
  5. Resilience: The only way failure is guaranteed is by giving up. Jayne had to abandon one of her much-loved recipes because of negative feedback from one of her focus groups. She took the criticism on the chin and moved onto the next recipe. This is the best quote I’ve seen on failure (I don’t know who originally said it):

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Jayne was up until 1.30am the night before our meeting, analyzing stock levels by the light of her iPhone while her husband slept beside her. I know she’s worked her guts out for Kiddyum and now that the range is stocked in Sainsburys she’s busier than ever. Launching her own food range has been very stressful and although she’s now able to take and collect the kids from school, she regularly works well into the night.

But it’s also enormous fun and she isn’t looking back – after all, she’s not going that way.

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