"It doesn't matter if we're not perfect, nothing's going to be perfect"

with Dominique Woolf

Show notes:

This week I’m in conversation with fellow ex-performer Dominique Woolf of Woolf’s Kitchen and author of Dominique’s Kitchen: Easy everyday Asian-inspired food.

A singer/songwriter in a previous life, Dominique shared how her experience as a performer, but also as a recruiter and in sales built the skill set she needed to create a successful business. Every part of your experience in some way will benefit your business, even if it isn’t immediately obvious how – we don’t necessarily know how the dots will join up.

Dominique is also known for her networking, having created an 800 woman strong networking community local to her and she’s really honest about the support we as business owners need from our peers and those further along in our industries. Her network gave her a designer, copywriter, sold out her two book launch events and gave her a safe space to test her products.

We had a really honest chat about “how she does it”, the laundry isn’t done, the house isn’t tidy, and yes her kids might be on screens more than she’d like, but Dominique has accepted that she’s not going to be a perfect mum, and I love that!

Links:

Website
Instagram 
LinkedIn

 

About Dominique Woolf:

Half-Thai mum of three, entrepreneur and TV winning chef. Dominique Woolf won the Channel 4 television show The Great Cookbook Challenge with Jamie Oliver in 2022.

The resulting book, Dominique’s Kitchen is a #1 Sunday Times Bestseller.

In a past life Dominique was singer-songwriter and recruitment consultant.

Dominique decided to change careers and focus on her first love – food – after realising just how much she enjoyed getting creative in the kitchen.

She trained at Leiths School of Food and Wine to immerse herself in the industry and hone her skills, then became a food writer, before starting her own business, The Woolf’s Kitchen, in the middle of lockdown 2020. Initially selling a range of sauces inspired by those her Thai auntie used to make, she has now expanded into chilli oils, pastes and nuts, too.

Dominique is passionate about sharing her love of big, bold flavours and Asian-inspired cuisine.

Dominique’s Links:

Website
Instagram (Dominique)
Instagram (Woolf’s Kitchen)
LinkedIn

Transcript:

Intro
Hello and welcome to Bump to Business Owner, thank you so much for tuning in today. This podcast is inspired by my mission to find out why more and more mums are leaving the employment world for the entrepreneur life. I’ll be talking to some of the people I believe to be the most inspiring women in business about their journey building their businesses alongside motherhood. I’ll be also sharing some of my own experiences of juggling my award winning virtual assistant agency Upsource, while raising my two young children. Right now they are two and four, and trust me, it can be chaos.

Caroline:

Hi, and welcome to today’s episode of Bump to Business Owner. I’m your host, Caroline Marshall, and today I am with mum of three, entrepreneur and TV winning chef, Dominique Woolf, who won the Channel Four television show the Great Cookbook Challenge with Jamie Oliver in 2022. The resulting book, Dominique’s Kitchen, is a number one Sunday Times bestseller. In a past life, Dominique was a singer, songwriter and recruitment consultant. Dominique decided to change careers and focus on her first love, food. After realising just how much she enjoyed getting creative in the kitchen, she trained at Leiths School of Food and Wine to immerse herself in the industry and hone her skills, then became a food writer before starting her own business, the Woolf’s Kitchen in the middle of lockdown 2020. Initially selling a range of sauces inspired by those her Thai auntie used to make, she has now expanded into chilli, oils, pastes, and nuts, too. Dominique is passionate about sharing her love of big, bold flavours and Asian inspired cuisine. Well, Dominique, welcome. What a CV you have.

Dominique:

Oh, my goodness. So good to be here. Nice to meet you.

Caroline:

Lovely to meet you. And you’ve literally got such an inspiring journey. And I know so many women who are interested in food and starting a food business or even getting onto a TV show, like, whether it’s Master Chef or are they going to do another Cookbook?

Dominique:

I don’t think they are doing another one, no. Which I found out the other day, which is sad, but I was very fortunate.

Caroline:

You can stay the only winner, then.

Dominique:

Yeah, I’m the only winner.

Caroline:

So I love hearing about the career path that led. So I briefly touched on the fact and also the fact you’re a singer in a past lap. I love that because I was as well. So I do think fantastic with coming from a creative background and wanting to then start a creative business. So tell us a little bit about your career path and how you think the performing arts may have benefited you into going into the path you’re on now.

Dominique:

Yeah, absolutely. Without a doubt they did. They sort of instill this sort of ability to promote yourself. And I think it’s really important to be able to shout out about what you do. Networking. I had to do lots of networking behind the scenes when I was doing singing. So just those interpersonal skills are so hugely important. And this is not being afraid to get up in front of people. Last year, I did lots of chef’s demo stages at sort of food festivals. Again, it all came flooding back to me. I felt like I was on stage, but instead of singing, I was cooking. Previously, I won’t say it’s necessarily more relevant than the singing, but I used to be a recruitment consultant and I worked in sales, and those skills are so valuable as an entrepreneur actually selling, whether it’s the Woolf’s kitchen, so selling all my products, I realised very quickly that it’s not about food, it’s a sales job, actually. When you start off, you’ve got to sell your product, so it’s really important. So having that background was very, very helpful. And then, obviously, as I say, the promotion, because you’re able to get PR, you’re able to sort of I think it just gives you a little bit of an advantage, to be honest.

Caroline:

No, I love that. And that’s so true about recruitment. And even with a service based business like my own, it’s the sales side of things. As soon as I decided, startups also had to sell it and whether I’m selling myself or the team, that’s really valuable. So it’s looking at where your skills have come from a past career. And I always think, as well, did you have to audition much as a singer? Because I always think that’s way harder as well, is when you know you’ve done one of the hardest things.

Dominique:

Oh, gosh, that is hard.

Caroline:

Easy.

Dominique:

Yeah, I guess I didn’t do many auditions, not really, because I was sort of doing my own thing, as it were. But you’re still having to drum up people to come on a Monday night to a gig in Old Street or something random, and it’s that kind of like, right, I’m just going to tell people about my book launch, or whatever it is. It’s just that constant sort of, as I say, that sort of self promotion and that sort of fearlessness when it comes to putting yourself out there, which you have to do as an entrepreneur and a food writer and all of this kind of stuff. So, definitely, I think when I went to go on the Great Cookbook Challenge, that was quite scary. But I’d done a pitch about a week or week before, called The Pitch, and I got to the semifinals, didn’t get through to the final, but I had to pitch in front of a live audience. The first time I’d done a live event since COVID so in a couple of years, and it was something like a 92nd pitch, and that was really daunting because it was 40 people in the room, three investors who weren’t going to invest. It wasn’t real Dragons Den, but they were there to sort of give some guidance. But that experience a week later, when I was on the Great Cookbook Challenge, it felt easier than doing that. So every single thing you do ends up having a benefit.

Caroline:

I think that’s such valuable thing to say is that, yeah, even if you didn’t get somewhere at a certain stage with something, going through the process, whether it’s an audition or a pitch or going through that process, will give you learning for later on. I can completely see how that would have been more nerve wracking than the Cookbook Challenge, at best. So tell us a bit how you decided to go into the food industry and go about going to Leiths and what kicked off that set for you?

Dominique:

So I was trying to make my way as a singer songwriter and realised that it wasn’t going to happen. I think there are very few people that really make it properly, whether as a singer or as a songwriter, to make a proper I wanted to be the best and it just wasn’t going to happen. And I was also at that age where I needed to start a family, basically. I was in my mid 30s, late 30s by this point, so I decided to give up music and, yeah, just concentrate on having a family. And I had three kids in quick succession, there’s about 16 months between each of the three, so I didn’t have a career to fall back on. And I was a stay at home mum for five years or whatever it was, and I will at least that. But that was until I just realised, what is it I want to do with my life? I think my youngest was about a year and a half when I just sort of sat there thinking, well, I know that being a stay at home mother, this isn’t going to be forever. I need a purpose beyond that, as great as it is, that isn’t me, all of me. And I knew music wasn’t an option. Recruitment had been too long ago. I didn’t want to do that, so I set about soul searching. So there was a whole process of, what do I want to do? And I realised that I loved food. I had always been this foodie. People had always thought I should do something in food. I loved more than anything, actually, was eating out. So I kind of just came around going, Hang on, I really want to do something in food. This is where my passion is. It’s similar in many ways to music, because it’s a passion for me, it’s a passion led career. And my Thai auntie at the time, she’d been making these wonderful sauces, she’d been cooking for us a lot. When I’d had my kids, when they were newborns, helping us out, and she’d made this wonderful sauce, and I just thought, Hang on, there could be something in this. I’ve never tasted anything like this tamarind sauce. I think I could bring this to market, I could be really passionate about this. At the same time, I also knew I wanted to do food writing. So there was an element. I think it was Deliciously Ella at that point, she’d started a food range and I was inspired by the fact that she was both an entrepreneur and a food writer, food blogger. So I thought, why don’t I go to cookery school? I knew that wasn’t going to help me with sauces because you don’t need to go to cookery school to have a food business. But I thought it might help with the other side of what I wanted to do, being a cook, being a food writer. So I found a couple of professional courses that they do and I did about six months of part time professional course there in 2019. And that was great. It was more classic food, but actually it instilled a discipline in me. I didn’t know what I wanted out of it, actually, but I knew I just wanted to immerse myself. And I think when you are looking to get into a particular area, whether it’s a career change, it’s about throwing yourself into it. You don’t necessarily know how the dots are going to join up, but it’s about going in that general direction. And I knew food was the direction, lease was the gold standard, let’s just do this. And that worked out really well. Later that year, I decided I need to make a start on the sauces. So I completed at Leiths, but I put the food writing semi on hold. I’d also done about a year of writing for another blog recipe. So, again, that was a great sort of way of honing my skills. I just thought, well, how can I be good at recipe writing? Well, let’s practice, because I think a lot of people maybe think about an idea, but don’t do anything about it. I wasn’t going to get paid for this monthly blog post, but it really couldn’t be where I am without it today, actually. So you just got to do everything you can, whatever it takes, whether it’s unpaid, whether in those first months, days, weeks, whatever it is, to really learn the ropes. I was doing an apprentice internship, essentially. So, yeah, then end of 2019, I started with the sauce business and started that process, which was a whole new process.

Caroline:

Again, that’s so good and that’s such a really valuable insight of like, you potentially knew you were going to start this business with the sauces, but you didn’t just jump into it and do that, you were like, right, well, I’m going to train at the best place, get experience in writing and then go from that. I think that’s a really important journey to share of. Like, sometimes you need to invest in yourself and invest in your education, even if it’s not directly related to it. Was it full on training at Leiths.

Dominique:

Oh, yes. I’m in North London and Leiths is in West London. So in traffic it’s a good hour, sometimes an hour and a half in rush hour. So I’m lucky, I’m very fortunate. I did have childcare. My mum was over every day, so she was able to look after the kids. I had to leave something like at quarter to five to get there for 6:30, and I’d get there early. If I left at five or afterwards, it would take me double the amount of time. So I had to leave fairly early, and it was about 40 minutes on the way home. So I was getting home at ten, half ten. It was really tiring. And it’s physically quite intense. I think it’s a three hour course. I think it was two or three times a week, I can’t remember exactly. Maybe it’s two times a week, and then the odd Saturday. And it was intense because then you would go home and do the practice. You didn’t just sort of pitch up, you would practice the dishes in advance. So it was a very full on time. But I’m so glad to have done it. As I say, it taught me the discipline of being in a kitchen. Also the attention to detail for writing a recipe, because, as I say, I knew I wanted to be in food. So I think it was brilliant. I think if I only wanted a food business, then perhaps it would have maybe not been as valuable, but I knew I wanted to do both things. So for me, it was part of that foundation learning with the food business. I probably started sooner than a lot of I mean, I’d thought about it for a while. I was talking about it for nine months and I’d introduced myself, oh, I’m looking at starting a food business. And eventually I thought, Well, I need to stop talking about it and do it. And I think there is that point where action needs to happen with the food business. I did a lot of research. I did actually, I went to lots of in person events, networking events, not Webinars workshops. At the time, we weren’t doing webinars, so I did a lot of that sort of background research before I sort of started. But then I gave myself a deadline because you could also be doing that for ages. So I sort of spent quite a lot of time doing the rounds of going to various Virgin startup workshop events on PR, on building a brand enterprise nation. I think Virgin I can’t remember whether it was free or certainly quite cheap. Enterprise nation events are all free, so there was not all free, but they’re reasonable and lots of free resources as well. So I went to lots of these events, networking and workshop related to learn about all the aspects of food and of becoming an entrepreneur. And then I just said, Right, I’ve got myself to this point, let’s just jump in and start before I’m completely ready, because otherwise it’s never going to happen.

Caroline:

Yeah, and that’s valuable as well, because I think I’ve seen it even with fellow people in my industry. They’re just doing all the courses, all the learning and you’ve got to do at some point. And yeah, I think that giving yourself a deadline is a great one. Can I ask, was your deadline in lockdown, though?

Dominique:

Well, not quite. So we were in 2019, so just before lockdown, and I think it was the September, my eldest started school and the two were in nursery, so I thought, right, I’m going to have a bit more three mornings or three days a week, let’s get three sauces together. I knew I had one definite, the tamarind, and I want a range of three. And I gave myself a deadline of December to get them to the farmers market. That was all it was. I did some DIY branding on Canva. I found a small manufacturer who I was with for about three years. In the end, I’ve only just sort of not been with them and I got them to the farmers market. So that was in just before lockdown and two dates, I sold 250 bottles of sauce, which is a lot of sauce, and the feedback was really strong, people loved it. So then that was sort of a little tick off. Again, I’d been to an event and I’d seen someone with a food business say, you need to test it in your local market, you need to get that real feedback. So I knew some things that should be done before jumping in, because if everyone had said this was rubbish or didn’t buy, you might have to rethink a little bit or they’d given you feedback. But my feedback was really positive. I was very fortunate that a local friend, although she’d moved away, she’d got back in touch and she was a design or is a designer, so she was doing my design and she put me in touch with her friend who was a copywriter. So we then worked on the branding and then that was to launch in April 2020. So we had everything kind of ready. I had the sauce, 1000 bottles of sauce in the warehouse and then lockdown happened. So there was a bit of a for a couple of months, didn’t know whether it would happen, put it to one side because we all had other things to think about. We didn’t know what was going to happen at that point. And I think we then launched in the June. But that funnily enough. That pause was really serendipitous because I realized as I looked at this sort of mock label on my shelf, I didn’t like it. I wasn’t as keen on the branding that I thought we were going to go with. So for me it gave an opportunity to rethink it because we were rushing it out and that’s fine because you can always redo it, but it just gave us a little more breathing space. I would still rush it out again. I’d still do that because I think if you don’t, sometimes you don’t seize that energy, that moment. But that extra two months gave us time to work on an improved label, which are the labels they still are today. And then I launched in lockdown in June 2020.

Caroline:

Fantastic. That’s amazing. That was a really good point. You touched on about a friend who did the design and then put you in touch with a copywriter. I had a similar thing and then I was just talking to another female founder about this who did similar as well. So it’s all about those asking for help and those connections you already have while you’re starting out. I think that’s so important. So tell us, how did your business and everything lead to you appearing on the Great Cookbook Challenge with Jamie Oliver in 2022? What was that process like?

Dominique:

Yeah, so, I mean, I’d always wanted to be on TV cooking, so I had it on my mood board. Funnily enough, a picture of me, I put it in a TV screen and put it on my mood board. So this was something I wanted to do from the beginning. There’s an element of not being able to engineer it, really, because you’ve still got to find out about the opportunity and apply for it. But I guess my senses were on alert. I had an Instagram page for the Woolf’s Kitchen, which wasn’t as good as many other people’s, to be honest, in terms of, well, I am more now a food content creator. But we were just putting images up with some sauce on it to promote the sauces, and I found out that I got a message saying that they were recruiting, essentially casting for the show and inviting me to apply. So if I hadn’t had an Instagram page, I’d never have heard about it. I then had to go through quite a rigorous casting process where it was done. It was still in Covid, I guess. So we were still sort of zooming. We did zoom. First of all, there was a call. I had to do a two minute video on why I wanted to do this, so submitted that, then got a call. So I had an interview on the phone, then got a Zoom interview, then got a Zoom Cook along interview, and then another interview and eventually got on. And I was very lucky. I mean, not everyone heard about this opportunity and it was the right time, I guess. And I had been talking about doing a cookbook. It was something in the back of my mind since I started the Woolf’s Kitchen, and only the week before, I thought I’d actually verbally said, God, I should be writing a cookbook, because it would really my USP in the business I’d been doing a lot of work, even hired a branding agency to help me. What’s? The USP. Oh, the USP is you. Okay, so how do we then make the most of this? And it’s about the fact that these are unique recipes that I create. So that was kind of the USP and I thought, well, if I do a cookbook that brings it all together, it shows that I am the creative sort of person behind all of this. And then this opportunity came know, and it was a fairly I think I heard about it end of August, I think it was September, the auditions, and I think it started filming end of October because it was a few weeks. Yeah, it was crazy. Whirlwind.

Caroline:

Wow. And how did you manage that? Do you mind me asking how you manage it with home life and stuff? So I imagine you like said it’s a full on schedule.

Dominique:

Yes.

Caroline:

Reshift everything?

Dominique:

Oh gosh, definitely. I mean the business is full on anyway when you have a small business and kids. And I was finding in lockdown, it was intense. I was sort of with the kids in the day and then I was resuming work until midnight and I’m not doing that at the moment, working till midnight if I can or not in the same way. I do it in a different way, actually, but that’s what I was doing for some time. And then this opportunity came in. Filming is a bit of a strange one because you don’t really know ahead what you’re especially for a knockout competition. So it was one day of filming and it happened to be over half term and my husband had decided to take the kids to Scotland where his family are because we didn’t know if I would be on call. And literally the day they were getting ready to get on the train that morning and the phone rang. So we were all leaving the house at the same time at about 830 in the morning. And so it was really lucky that he had taken them to Scotland then. It was a week till the next filming date and that was two days. So probably got my mum they were at school by this point, so I got my mum to come and help. That was two days and then it was another the second I think maybe it was four days, I can’t remember. But my mom and my husband pulled together and were able to look after the kids. It would be impossible if I didn’t have that, of course, when you’ve got the kids, but it was only I think the maximum was four days in a row.

Caroline:

Okay.

Dominique:

And then there was another week and then there was another four days. So I think it was only nine days of filming in total.

Caroline:

But I’m sure that in between you were obviously cooking.

Dominique:

I was at home, so actually in between I was preparing, practicing the recipe. So that was full on, of course, but I did have that help at home. Yeah, and it was intense, but over in a relatively short period of time.

Caroline:

And I love what you said about because I think you’re another person I’ve spoken to recently about trying to reduce working evenings. Because I think at one point I’d hear a lot of especially mothers, because obviously they’d be like, I’ve got my kids in the day and I’m just going to work on evening. Whereas I know I can get to a certain point and then I hit a wall. I’m tired, I need to go to bed. And sleep is really important. So how does that look now for you in practice? Do you work many evenings, things like that?

Dominique:

Yeah. So when I was writing the book, I went back to working at night. So, I mean, it was a really tight deadline, I had about six weeks to submit it and then a few more weeks to sort of do some changes, but I was literally cooking all day and then writing in the evenings and I went going to bed at midnight and I was getting a bit mad with it. So this time when I’ve had some latest deadlines, my brain is off. By the time the kids are down, they’re down a little bit later. Now they’re a bit old, not that much older, they’re six, seven and eight, but I’m not down till half eight at the latest and often I haven’t eaten with them. So then that’s dinner, 9-9:30. I must confess, I am a late. I go to bed late and I can’t help it, I need to improve that. So I will watch an hour of TV to wind down. And then what I do is I’ll go upstairs to get ready for bed, but I’ll be on my phone researching recipes. So I’m sort of doing work. But it’s different. It’s not as hardcore as sitting at my computer writing. But I am still not switching off till half eleven midnight because I’ve got my recipes. I often put them on a Google Drive, which I can access on my phone on a spreadsheet. It’s how I like to work. So I am still working, but slightly different. So I’ve had on my phone or I’m researching recipes, I’m kind of looking at ideas, flavour combinations, so that I’m doing that and that is a bit naughty. I need to stop doing that so that I can get to bed a bit earlier. So I’m always doing something work related, but not in the same capacity. I think sending emails and all that, I’m definitely not doing at night and I’m not writing copy and that kind of stuff because my brain is hard enough, so I’m trying not to do it. Things are taking a bit longer.

Caroline:

Yeah, sometimes that learning process, and I can imagine the first time with your first book deadline, you just got to get through it.

Dominique:

It was a very short yeah, exactly. Burnt out by that point, so I’m trying not to do that at the moment.

Caroline:

Would you change anything about your time on the show or time afterwards during doing the cookbook?

Dominique:

No, I mean, I pulled out all the stops to get the book delivered and you couldn’t have worked any harder than I did. Anyone could. I was making four or five, six recipes a day to create them, to write them up, so, no, I mean, I had to do it and I did it and the book’s been received well, so thank God. The recipes, they work and people enjoy them, so everything went well and you just learn for the next one. And I’m still learning, to be honest. Every time I do a project, I learn, oh, well, I could have done that bit better, probably, in terms of being managing time more effectively, but you cannot do it all, especially when you’ve got kids. I’ve got a business and I’ve got the food writing, that is a lot to do, so perhaps what I need to do is get more help streamline a bit more, which I have been doing, but it’s that trying to do that. And, for example, recently we went on holiday, first holiday abroad since Lockdown and I didn’t work, and I had been working previously, I have let The Woolf’s Kitchen, I need to put more energy into that because I’ve been working on food writing, but I thought, I’m on holiday, it’s sunny, I am having a break. So that was definitely an improvement to previous years.

Caroline:

And that’s how you get your new ideas come about, is by taking a break. You don’t get your best ideas sat working at your laptop, you get them when you’ve detached yourself a little bit. And if you’re doing writing and then building a business as well, it’s always going to be a juggling act on top of all the other things you’ve got going up in life, going on the TV show, did it really open up opportunities for your business, the Woolf’s Kitchen?

Dominique:

Yeah, absolutely it did. I think in reality, I wasn’t able to capitalise, though, as much as I could have done. It definitely has, without a doubt, because it then adds to that USP, it definitely makes it a lot stronger, a proposition and people are a lot more interested in it, but because there’s only me in the business, I wasn’t able to do that. If there had been someone else they could be selling for me, for example, and I had to pull back on making any sales calls because it just impossible to do that, whilst impossible, so if I’d had another person, then, yes, we could have really capitalised upon it. So I did what I could and it’s definitely added to that USP factor and definitely is going to help moving forward. I’ve no doubt that it’s going to be beneficial. My ideal scenario is that my personal brand, so the food writing side of things, that is on the increase. And I’ve got an agent, I’m working on things, I’m doing more writing, so that is going to hopefully increase my profile as a food writer, which in then is going to help the Woolf’s kitchen. So, yeah, it’s a work in progress, definitely, but it’s definitely a help.

Caroline:

Would you consider bringing someone on to help you with the Woolf’s Kitchen that ends in working kind of alongside you.

Dominique:

With yeah, and I’ve been looking at that. I’ve got someone who now helps. I’ve got a bookkeeper which I’ve had from the beginning. I’ve got a woman who helps me with my admin, she puts through orders, so that’s great. Just a few hours a week, but that helps. That really does help take away. I’ve got a sort of freelance, she’s a commercial director, she’s been a buyer for many years, so she’s doing kind of some of the top end stuff, like working out my margins and stuff that I just would take me so long to do. So I have started that, whether I get someone in to do sales, that’s further down the line, but definitely, I know I need help to make the business grow, but we’re in a good place at the moment. I’ve got a listing with Co op, which is going well, but there’s a lot more, it’s untapped right now because I haven’t had the time, so, yeah, lots to look forward to, but a lot of work ahead.

Caroline:

It’s really good sharing that and like, say you’ve had a bookkeeper for a long time, so when people don’t know where to start, it’s like there’s all these little things you can bring in place to help you, even if it’s just a couple of hours a week, you can spend more times. Are there any plans in your writing for a follow up book?

Dominique:

Yes, definitely there are plans and I’ll be able to announce more on that in a few months, but yeah, definitely exciting things happening. So I’m in a situation I couldn’t have dreamed of, so I’ve got so many opportunities, so very, very exciting times coming.

Caroline:

And you touched on this earlier about networking things, because what I love about you is your passion for networking. And we’re from a similar area in London, so you’re definitely known for it in our area, networking. How key has this been to your success, at least initially, with the business and getting it kicked off the ground, do you think?

Dominique:

Yeah, I mean, I would say networking is so important. I learned this, I remember my first job in recruitment over 20 years ago and they were saying how important networking was, and that’s always stuck with me, so I’ve always loved networking and when I had young kids, the idea of going into central London to network I just couldn’t do it. So I thought, Well, I’ll create networking group locally and it started off with a few mums in the local streets and then I thought, Well, I’ll put this on Facebook. So now there are nearly 800 people on the women on the Facebook group and it’s a creative and entrepreneurial women. Not that I’m averse to networking with men, because I do go to networking groups that are both, but there’s something a bit nurturing and it feels really supportive and it feels a lot more, especially when you’re getting out there for the first time. It feels safer and more comfortable, a space that we all understand each other. And a lot of the women in it are mums who are going back to work for the first time. So there’s a lot in common and honestly, dozens and dozens and dozens of collaborations have happened as a result of the group for other people. But from a personal perspective, it just feels like honestly, when I started the sauce business, the number of people from the group who came and supported me on the store, then they spread word of mouth and that honestly. Was fundamental because then people are going to buy your products in the local shops and then the shops are buying more product from you because you’ve sold out. Then that means you’re increasing your rate of sale. It gives you that confidence. So I could say, I’m stocked in a deli, I’m stocked in two delis, I’m stocked in ten delis. And all of that is because you start off in your local area with your local networking. When I had my book out again, I had a book launch where I invited people, it was a ticketed event where I did a demo, I did two sessions and I sold both out. And that’s because people in my network, whether they were women initially, the women’s group who invited their partners, their friends, then I put it out on various other groups. As I say, I’m on other local networking groups, which are mixed and honestly, it really starts the whole process off. And once you’ve got a bit of momentum, it really helps you, because I think that confidence and that self belief comes with having a few little successes and wins. I’d always say, start local, get your local networking, and then moving forward from mine, even going on LinkedIn, great networking. I go to events now as a food writer. Everyone I meet, it’s networking because I might do a collaboration with them or they might. When my books out, they were promoting my book for me, they were saying, oh, this is a great book, it’s because they’ve met you. And all of it is just so, so important for any industry you’re in. I think networking is really key.

Caroline:

Even in our online world, it still shows like the power of relationships. I think that’s really great to hear from a product business as well, because I think it could be very easy if you’re on the shy side of stuff. I’m just going to hide behind my products and it’s something yeah, you can you don’t need to build a personal brand or have a USP as a personal brand like yourself, but you’re still networking, invest that time in people and definitely help you.

Dominique:

Definitely. Because you need to. From a food business perspective, it’s so important to meet other food business owners, so you’re meeting people who are in the same position. You can share tips, contacts, you’re not necessarily competing, you could be most likely having a different product and even people I know who’ve got the same, similar product, we’re still friends and we’re still networking and it just helps to feel that you’re not alone, because being an entrepreneur can be a very isolating industry, isn’t it? You don’t have a team of people, you’re not in an office. So actually just I’m on a WhatsApp? Group for foodpreneurs and there’s, I don’t know, maybe 20 or 50 people. There’s probably 15 active people on there. But you share your wins, you share your grievances, you get support, it’s really, really important. So to network with your peers, to network with people who are ahead of the game, all of that really important.

Caroline:

Yeah, I love that because I network a lot with fellow VAs and VA business owners, VA agency owners. And yeah, I’ll share help with them and you get that help in return if you share back. It’s not about competing in that sort of sense. You can still provide support with each other. So that’s fantastic learning. I agree with that completely. So how does your there is no normal work week, I’m sure, but how do you tend to kind of plan your time? All your kids I guess they’re at school age now, so how do you manage things like holidays and things?

Dominique:

Yeah, holidays come around. It was Easter holidays 2 seconds ago and now it’s half term next week and I’m literally very confused. So it is a juggle. I mean, they go to school, which is brilliant, but that day half three is when they come home. That is not a long working day and I work from home majority of the time, unless I’ve got a meeting. Sometimes they’re home at half four after a club. But even then I can’t do any thinking when they’re home. So even though my mum might collect them and she’s here, I can’t do thinking. I potentially can do some recipe testing and ignore them, but actually having to think and do some creative copy, impossible. I can’t do it when they’re here, it’s a different zone, so it is a lot more condensed. It’s not ideal, but that is what it is. My husband is great because in the school holidays, he often takes them to Scotland for three or four days at half term, which is brilliant. In the summer, we have spent several weeks in Scotland at a time where we both sort of work up there, so there’s a bit more help. He’s very hands on and so I am was. Although he works long hours, I think two or three days, he’s in the loft, so there’s just another pair of hands around. But the juggle is it’s tricky, there’s no denying that when you’ve got young kids. I’m conscious that I’ve got an appointment later on today. Well, that’s my working day is finished in a minute, but you just have to sort of accept it and I think there could always be improvement as far as time management is concerned. I met someone the other day and her thing is, she’s a time management consultant and I’m like, right, I need to have a meeting with you. So there’s always ways of improving it, but that’s what we have to do for them, we just have to juggle and do the best that we can. Yeah.

Caroline:

And I love your point of what you’re saying. Like, when they’re home, you can’t do that. Because I think sometimes I don’t know whether some mums go into it. They become mums and think, oh, I’ll be able to do this while the kids are at home. Or there was a lot of that talk and I think Lockdown kind of made us all realize, no, it’s impossible to work and have your kids. That kind of thing. And I think that’s so important to share, that you shouldn’t be expected to do both childcare and work at the same time.

Dominique:

And it is hard and don’t get me wrong, I am still working, but I can’t be properly creative. So what I’ll do when they’re here is I’ll send some emails, I will be working, don’t get me wrong, but I can’t be something. Really? Yeah. I’m not in a zone, I’m 100% not in the zone, but I can sort of do a few things. But you’re not creative when they get back. So I am still definitely recipe testing. I couldn’t record any reels. You can’t do things like that. For what I do, obviously I should be doing recipe reels, so I definitely can’t do anything like that with them here and it’s just limited. And I think perhaps the idea that you can have it all is not true. Definitely. I’ll be honest, I put them on front of the screens more than I should because I don’t have a choice. If I’ve got to do some, send some, put through some orders, I mean, I do have someone helping me, but let’s say I have to do some admin or whatever it is that has to be done and I can’t give them the attention because that’s also unrealistic to think. I’ll be complete Earth mother and I’m going to be here being the perfect mother, and I should be, I should be there with them and they’re not watching any ideal scenario, that would be it. But I am also still working, so there is this complete balance and I think it’s just that acceptance that it doesn’t matter if we’re not perfect, nothing’s going to be perfect. We have to be accepting. And if you have to work and your kids are here, you may not be the most productive and they may not get as much attention, but you’re still doing what you can and that’s all we can do right now, I think.

Caroline:

And it’s fantastic. I just still believe it’s fantastic for them to see you work and having a mum who had to go into the hospital and be a nurse, it’s fantastic to that we can even have that luxury to do that. It doesn’t make it easy, but it is great that they can see us do that. And it kind of leads me on to I don’t know how you feel about this term. They’re like, how do you do it? Sort of term. Because I think a few years ago there was a pushback on it of like, well, we’re not asking, no one’s asking your husband this, Dominique. But when there is more of a maternal load in general across society, I think it might be an important conversation to have of saying, oh, I’m lucky because my husband is at home. Like, my husband works from home a lot, so it does get very involved and we collaborate on how care is going to look, kind of thing. But I was just going to say it’s important we share this as well. So if someone else is comparing their situation to ours, they can maybe be kinder to themselves if they don’t have their husband at exactly.

Dominique:

It’s not nothing is as simple as it seems. So with me, I’ve got my mum over most days, my husband the weekend is really engaged, so if I have to work and certainly when I was writing the first book, I would have to work all weekend and he would just take them out and I could do that. So that’s great. So it’s definitely having that support network. If I didn’t have that, that would be a different story. Or you pay for childcare, which is really expensive and it is so expensive, hundreds of pounds a week and for three kids it’s more expensive. So that would be really hard. So I’m very, very fortunate in that help that I get. I also have accepted that I’m not going to be a perfect mum at the moment and that they will entertain themselves and have a bit more screen time than I’d like. I’m trying not to let them have it from the second they walk in, but if I have a deadline, if I’ve got work to do, then that is what I have to do to get it done and I’m not going to beat myself up about it. It’s not perfect and it’s not ideal, but what else can I do? I’m trying my best to forge a career, to earn more money that then I can perhaps get that childcare that will then sort of watch them do their homework and all this kind of stuff. So it’s about not being so hard on yourself, I think, and being realistic with what we can achieve. I think we do, yeah. There is the element of having to make up that time. So I’m trying not to work too much at weekends if I can, but if I have to do it, there are times when you have to do it, but I think I get run down when I’m doing all of this. So it’s a constant, sort of, as I said earlier, this work in progress of working out, how can I juggle it and not being too hard on ourselves for not being perfect? Because certainly my laundry isn’t being done, my house isn’t as tidy as it could be because that’s impossible. I just have to go, well, that laundry is sitting there and I can put the loads on, but I’m not going to put that back. Put them away for a while.

Caroline:

Welcome to my house. Yeah, I’ll put it on, but it’s.

Dominique:

Not going it’s not going anywhere. And you have to be realistic about that because I think that some people are really tidy and really organized and they will be able to do that. So everyone’s different, but there’s not to be that definitely not to be competing with other people, because everyone’s got different circumstances. Yeah.

Caroline:

And I think you made a really good point about just forgiving yourself and always readdressing it because as the kids grow, as things with your business personal brand also grow, things just are going to look differently. And always readdressing so you don’t get burnt out and having goals, like trying not to work weekends. But if you have to, you have to.

Dominique:

Yeah, exactly. I mean, there’s an element, there is an element of to achieve what you need to achieve, you do have to pull out the stops. There is that okay? None of it is. There’s not clear cut, it’s not black and white. To achieve what I did with the Woolf’s kitchen in lockdown, which I got a good amount of stockists, I was working those hours and I wouldn’t have been able to achieve it had I not been, because the kids were here in the day. So I did have to do that. For me to get that book off the ground, to have achieved that, to have it ready for when the show was aired, I had to pull out those stops. I did have to be really tunnel vision. So it’s not all, oh, and I’m not going to work. So there are moments you absolutely have to go in full. And when I go in full, I go in full. I am completely immersed and I do have to ignore my husband, my kids, my business, even at points, to get the book done, I had to do it. That was the focus. It’s not always like that. You don’t always have periods in your life where you have to be so full on, but there are times when you have to be full on and you have to pull out the stops. So there is that to get people who achieve. I’m sure if you’ve interviewed multimillionaire entrepreneurs, there are times in their life when they have to do that and that is just what you have to do. But you don’t want to be doing that all the time.

Caroline:

Yeah, it’s so true. Like to say, oh, you can always achieve balance if you have goals. Sometimes you just have to make sacrifices. But, no, you can’t be living your life all the time.

Dominique:

Exactly.

Caroline:

I love that. Thank you so much for sharing that and being really honest about kind of how you manage it and how you do it. I think that’s just so helpful, because you clearly achieve great things, Dominique, so it’s really helpful to just, oh, thank you. Your perspective and how you do it. Can you share anything with us about what’s next for you or the Woolf’s Kitchen?

Dominique:

I’ve got some exciting things happening on the food writing front that’s going to be a new chapter, shall we say. So that’s great. That is going to give something to look forward to in a few months. In the meantime, on the food writing side, I’m going to be doing a lot more content because that is the currency at the moment. My aim is to be doing a few reels a week and getting more of the food content up, and I just have to look at it as that’s part of my marketing, part of my job. There is a different reframing I’ve had to do on that. I won’t lie, it’s not come easily. And then on the Woolf’s kitchen, I need to get stuck back into it, so I’m going to be spending a bit more time on the sales of it and really looking at how I can develop it. I’ve got that one major stockist, which is the co op, and by the end of the year, I’d love to have another one on board, another major stockist, because that will be significant for the business. There’s definitely plans I have and I hope that, again, as I said, once my food writing profile increases, which I’m hoping it will do with what’s happening in the next few months, that’s going to have a real knock on effect for the business. And I’ve switched manufacturers to a bigger one, so I’m in place to capitalise upon it. So, yes, definitely some good things coming up.

Caroline:

Amazing. I put that on your mood board and already there.

Dominique:

Exactly. Well, no.

Caroline:

Thank you so much, Dominic. So where can people find you online?

Dominique:

So I’m on Instagram, so I’ve got my personal one, which is Dominique Woolf, which is two o’s, the Woolf Kitchen, two o’s again, which is the business one. So definitely Dominique Woolf the main one. I do have a website, The Woolf’s Kitchen. At the moment, my products are on Amazon while I sort out my distribution. So, yeah, Instagram is the main place.

Caroline:

Wonderful. Well, again, thank you so much for sharing it. It’s been so helpful, especially for imagine lots of buzzing mums who want to start their food businesses. And, yes, see how you did it. So thank you so much, Dominique.

Dominique:

Oh, thank you for having me.


Outro:
You have been listening to Bump to Business Owner, the podcast for mums running businesses, aspiring to run businesses, or simply supporters of mums who go on this crazy business journey. I’m your host Caroline Marshall and I run a virtual assistant agency called Upsource. I started it in lockdown 2020, I’ve seen it through maternity leave and it is growing alongside my two growing boys. Thank you so much, please connect me at Bump to Business Owner, my name is Caroline Marshall.

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