Mother and Daughter duo, Marie and Sophie Lavabre-Barrow created and launched their own range of eco-cleaning and beauty products due to their family values of living an organic lifestyle. After just one year, KINN Living products are currently stocked by Harrods and Waitrose, have won the Gold winner of the Pure Beauty Awards new organic product of the year and have been featured in The Independent, Buzzfeed, Elle Magazine and Harpers Bazaar, to name a few. The youngest of the pair, Sophie left University in 2017 due to the rapid success and development of the brand. We caught up with her to discuss daily life as a young entrepreneur at one of the fastest growing eco-brands in the UK.
What was it that made you start KINN Living? Can you tell us a little bit about the company and what you provide?
I started KINN Living when I was still at University and I wasn’t entirely sure what else I wanted to do, other than I knew I wanted to work for myself. My Mum who is my business partner (discussed here) and I launched KINN Living due to our family values.
We had both been raised me to be conscious of what we eat and put on our skin, and organic has always been a part of life for us. My Great Uncle used to have an Aromatherapy company, so it was natural for me to want to create a company within the beauty and wellness industry.
But I also thought, if people are looking after what they eat, what they put on their skin, then why aren’t we looking after what we clean our homes with? That’s where the idea for an eco-friendly range of plant based and natural cleaning products came from. We spend so much time in our homes, we do our beauty regime in our homes and yet we don’t have a beauty regime for our homes… that’s why KINN’s moto is “Clean Beauty for you, your family and your home.“
KINN Living is a joint venture, with your Mum, how have you managed this relationship?
For us, it hasn’t been too difficult as we have always been very close. I used to work for her property development company, so I would say that the transition from boss/employee to co-founders was one we had to navigate carefully. However, I feel very lucky to be able to work with her. I think one thing that is important is to separate business from real life though, I still want time with just my Mum rather than my business partner.
Where do you see KINN Living in 10 years time?
I would love to see KINN Living as a staple product in the home, and I want to use our growing platform to make eco-friendly and organic a natural and affordable choice for the many and not just the few. I think it is so important that people have access to good quality products that aren’t filled with toxins and I would love to see this market grow and to be a leader within it!
With careful product development and a good price point as well as continuing to work with the wonderful bloggers and press, as well as making it as easily accessible as possible this would all be achievable. But I am aware that it’s going to take a lot of hard work!
One of the biggest things, entrepreneurs struggle with is getting people to find out about their product. Do you have any tips for spreading the word?
I would say that networking is key, and don’t be afraid to partner with other brands who compliment your own. Social media is a great way to get your name out there, and spending the time to learn and understand how to use Google AdWords/Analytics and Facebook Ads is definitely worth it. If you can, I would definitely encourage trying to work with a PR company or freelance PR for a few months, though it’s not 100% necessary with the wealth of access we have online via bloggers and social media.
Networking is key! Don’t be afraid to partner with other brands who compliment your own.
One of the biggest worries for young entrepreneurs is quitting their jobs and funding their new business. Was this something you experienced with KINN Living?
I was lucky in that we were able to put some money in privately and find a seed investor using the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS), however when the idea for KINN was first being bounced around by myself and my mother we had no way of funding the project and it took around a year to get to a point where we had funding and I was able to work on it full time (I was lucky that I was at University in London and so hadn’t moved out of home yet!)
I would certainly say to anyone looking at this route that there is no guarantee it will work, but if it does, then the risk is definitely worth it and if you can get your company registered for SEIS or EIS that should help you to find early stage funding. Network, network, network!
You studied Interior Design and English Literature at University. How did University prepare you for life as an entrepreneur?
I would say that English Literature certainly did not prepare me for life as an entrepreneur, however my second dream in life is to be a published author so to further my studies in Literature was wonderful. However my final year of uni is currently on hold as I left to focus on KINN.
My Interior Design course was taken at KLC School of Design and it was a brilliant place as they teach you how to manage yourself creatively, how to stick to projects and deadlines and understand the value of your time and what you are doing as well as where and how to reach out for help. As this course was very much focused on practical skills in the real world and how to run your own design practice, I would say that it helped me a great deal in terms of maturing and understanding what one needs to undertake in order to make your passion a success.
How was your first year as an entrepreneur?
It’s been very exciting and a total rollercoaster! It feels like so much has happened in the first year and we are now ahead of our own business plan (which I am now having to re-write). However it has also been a massive adjustment as I have had to really knuckle down and get on with things and as a result I have missed out on things like “work friends” and “after work drinks” I’m lucky that I have a good friendship circle around me, as well as my wonderful boyfriend, otherwise I would say the experience would have been a very isolating one, and there has been times when I’ve watched friends flat share and move out and I was still at home due to not earning enough to leave. (I also recognise I was very lucky to be able to live at home though!)
What support did you use as a young entrepreneur?
I wish that I had joined some members clubs sooner as they really do offer an interesting network of people to meet and socialise with from many walks of life and in many different stages of their career.
As a young entrepreneur it can be very isolating, especially when everyone else you know is jumping on the career ladder and starting their lives in a different way to you. The more you can get yourself out there, the better you will feel, and it’s definitely worth reaching out to groups.
As a young entrepreneur it can be very isolating, especially when everyone else you know is jumping on the career ladder and starting their lives in a different way to you.
One such group I have becoming a founding member of is The Fiena Group which brings together a really awesome bunch of women from different backgrounds and it’s really been a wonderful group to be a member off, from reaching out for help or reassurance you’re not crazy, to socialising and having fun.
Did you have a mentor or an established business person, to turn to for advice?
We do have a couple of mentors who come from very different backgrounds in terms of business, however both are/were entrepreneurs and it’s great to be able to turn to them and see there is a light at the end of the tunnel of this crazy journey and to be able bounce ideas off of and, very importantly, get some solid business advice from (whether that be how to structure a business plan, to how to write up meeting minutes)
What would your advice be to someone who is debating whether they should become an entrepreneur or continue in their current company role?
I would say that it’s a massive thing to give up your career, and that being an entrepreneur is nothing like how it looks on those wonderful “hustle/entrepreneur” instagram accounts. It can be very lonely and you have to really be comfortable with your own company.
Being an entrepreneur is nothing like how it looks on those wonderful “hustle/entrepreneur” instagram accounts!
However, if you have a passion you should certainly give it your best shot and see where it takes you, you will never regret trying. But don’t just chase the money, find a passion, find how you can translate that passion to the market and take it from there.
It is regularly debated that that young people should to be near London to develop their careers in their twenties. What are your thoughts on this?
I couldn’t imagine having studied anywhere else other than London, and the scope of opportunity there is incredible. It is super competitive, which I also think is a good thing, as you learn to take the setbacks along with the step ups. My family home is in the home counties and as such life has revolved around London or my families farms in the South of France (which is properly rural). I would personally always pick London, but that is just my experience.
What has been your proudest moment in your career?
Winning the Best New Organic Product at the Pure Beauty Awards, and getting an email from Waitrose asking to stock our products!
What has been your biggest challenge?
Having no formal business education. I would say my biggest challenge is learning how to funnel my creativity into a business model that works and is sustainable. I love coming up with ideas and ways to do things, but I struggle to write them down into a cohesive business plan. That’s why I think it is so important to find a business partner whose skills compliment your own and mentors who can help to point out the gaps in a constructive way.
Has there ever been a point where you struggled to keep motivated? What did you do to break through this?
Sometimes when I am sat at my desk all day having spoken to no one (aside from on email) or seen another living being it can be pretty daunting that this is, in essence, my life until I am able to scale up the company.
I actually find making sure I have things to do outside of work keeps me sane and socialising is incredibly important. Finally joining some members clubs so I could actually get out and work from somewhere other than my own desk at home really helped me to get past the feeling of isolation and how that can affect your motivation.
But I also practice visualizing what it is I want from life and how to achieve it. I have a mood board on my computer as well as hundreds of saved links to places in the world I would love to see, things I would love to do and when I feel like I need a little push I find a little browse through this folder helps me as well as discussing why I’m feeling a little demotivated with my Boyfriend or my Mum, sometimes it’s as simple as I need to get out of the house!
What advice would you give to a young female who is struggling to stay ambitious and motivated in their career?
Keep at it, and don’t go it alone, find people around you who support you and encourage you to keep at your dreams. I once heard a saying that “you are the average of the five people you keep company with” so make sure those around you are ambitious too. It may sound harsh, but you’re better off removing negative people from your life. One of the best things I did was get out there and join a group of like minded women who held many of the same values as I did.
One of the best things I did was get out there and join a group of like minded women who held many of the same values as I did.
If you could go back in time, and give yourself one piece of advice when you left school, what would you say?
It’s not the end of the world if you don’t want to go to university, if you don’t know what you want to do yet maybe it’s worthwhile starting a degree that interests you, or take a gap year and travel, get internships in areas that interest you, or volunteer for a charity you’re passionate about.
No one cares how old you are at university, so don’t panic about being a year or two older than the fresher’s. Take the time to grow as a person as you will never have the same level of freedom again… or least not for a very long time.