Mia & Dom Skincare – from Kitchen Table to High Street

Jen Feltham is the founder of Mia & Dom; an organic skincare company that specialises in products for pregnancy, babies, and sensitive skin. Not only did Jen create and design this range of skincare, but it is still handmade by herself and her small team, using unique formulas enhanced by her training in herbalism and aromatherapy. Earlier this year, the IOEE matched Jen up with mentor Clare Moor, a Lead Project Manager at Lloyds Banking Group (LBG). This month we chatted to Jen and Clare to find out about how the experience has enriched them both professionally and personally, and how their mentoring relationship will evolve over the coming year.

Jen’s Story

Jen’s entrepreneurial journey couldn’t have begun more personally – as it was inspired by her children, Mia and Dom. After Dom was born, Jen couldn’t find a steroid-free product that worked on his eczema, and so she decided that she was going to try and make something herself. Jen says:

“Before this I worked in the corporate world as a Marketing Manager, but I had always had an interest in herbalism, and so I did a course where I learnt about 40 different herbs and their healing properties, and qualified as a medical herbalist on the side – as you do! I also trained as an aromatherapist and did various skincare courses, so by the time I set up Mia & Dom from my kitchen, I had a good amount of experience to help get me off the ground.”
Jen may have been armed with extensive training and knowledge, but she also has an infectious passion for the natural ingredients and skincare that she creates, fuelled by a confidence in knowing that she’s manufacturing and marketing products that really work. She says:

“A lot of products on the High Street are simply the same product manufactured by the same company, but packaged up with different labels. All of the products in my range are formulated by me, so I know that they’re completely unique, and that’s really important.”

After working from her kitchen since start-up, this year Jen decided to rent an office space and move the business out of her home, to both give her the space to grow the company and to help to create that work-life balance; something that she says can be more challenging to achieve when working for yourself:

“I love what I do, and whilst creating Mia & Dom has been amazing, losing the social aspect of the corporate world is hard – you turn on your computer and just say hello to the plants! Now I’m in an office where other people rent spaces too, so I see people around and about day-to-day, which also means that home is now properly ‘home’ again too. This is just one of the reasons why it makes such a difference having a mentor when you’re setting up on your own, as you don’t have that regular contact with a boss to check in with about your goals and progress.”

Three months ago, Jen was matched up with Clare Moor, whose role at Lloyds Banking Group means that the two women share a corporate background, and Jen says that this connection has helped them on their mentoring journey:

“Because Clare comes from a corporate background, we understand each other. She’s very professional, totally knows her stuff, and I really value her opinion. However, it extends far past the business side of things, as Clare is a real cheerleader for me too. She’s amazing at saying, ‘wow, you’ve done this, this, and this’. I’ll sit down with her and think, ‘nothing much has happened recently’, and then you start talking and she asks you questions and you realise, ‘actually, I’ve done loads!’ – it’s so nice to have someone who’s around or available to check in with, to encourage you and tell you that you’re doing great, especially when you’re working on your own for five days a week.”

Looking forward to the future, Jen is planning to grow and develop Mia & Dom by expanding not only into the British High Street, but also the international market, with several distributors in Europe already interested in taking on her products. With so much in the pipeline, Jen says that her mentoring relationship with Clare is naturally going to develop alongside it too:

“So far, the mentoring has been quite relaxed and informal – chatting in a coffee shop and talking through ideas – but we’ll be stepping it up a gear this year. It’s going to be a case of ‘last month’s goal was to get the range into six shops – where are you with that?’ – I’ll need that push. It can be difficult to stay motivated, so having that support is really important. I love what I do, but it can be hard, lonely and stressful. I’m far from having made it a success yet, and we are just at the beginning of our journey, so even if I look at my bank balance and go, ‘oh my God!’, then this is the time to hold my nerve. But I will, and I’m determined to make it work.”

Clare’s Story

Clare works as a Lead Project Manager at Lloyds Banking Group, and began her mentoring journey within the company, mentoring three people internally at LBG. However, she felt that the natural progression was to move into mentoring outside of the company, and Clare wanted to help and support a start-up business and put something back into the community. After contacting the IOEE’s Mentoring Manager, Paul Harper, Clare was matched up with Jen of Mia & Dom. Clare says:

“I just love speaking with Jen. She’s so gung-ho, so enthusiastic, and you always come away with a really warm glow in your heart. I remember the first time I met her in a coffee shop and she was so passionate as she was telling me everything, and I was just sitting there thinking, ‘wow’. Jen doesn’t let anything phase her. She’s very open-minded when it comes to suggestions and always overcomes challenges. Nothing’s a barrier with Jen – she’s incredibly determined.”

As a Project Manager, Clare has found that whilst her professional skills have enabled her to offer advice and knowledge and experience to Jen, that she also has to put the usual day-to-day skillset for her LBG role to one side and embrace a new way of offering support and guidance:
“As a Project Manager, I come up with solutions. There’s a problem, and I look at how to solve it. However, mentoring is something totally different for me. I have to remember that I’m not a business advisor. It’s not up to me to jump in and tell her my opinions and what I think she should be doing. I don’t have all the answers – if anything, it’s up to me to ask the questions. I ask, I probe, I challenge, I help her to weigh up options and come to her own conclusions, and help her to be confident in making the decisions for herself.”

Clare and Jen meet about once a month in person, but Clare says that another part of being a good mentor means always having those lines of communication open:

“You don’t know what’s going to happen with a new business, so even when we’re not meeting in person, Jen knows that she can always phone me or email me and say, ‘I’ve got this crazy idea and I need to talk it through!’ But it’s the face-to-face meetings that I look forward to so much, and as Jen’s now looking to see how many shops she can get Mia & Dom into, this is a really important time for us to be sitting down and setting goals. Of course, it’s a very exciting time too. I know it’s not easy for her, but Jen is a total inspiration to those people out there considering going for a career change – she’s putting herself out there, she’s grabbing this opportunity with both hands, she’s completely determined to make this work, and I absolutely know that she will.”

To find out more about Mia & Dom, you can visit the website: http://miadomskincare.com/

If you are interested in finding a mentor for your business, please don’t hesitate to contact IOEE’s Mentor Manager, Paul Harper, [email protected] or 07715 905638.