With more than 80% of women experiencing nausea during pregnancy, Myrtle & Maude, co-founders Julia d’Albert-Pusey and Matty Johnson are on a mission to help women conquer morning sickness.
Myrtle & Maude offers a plant-based product range for queasy pregnancy tummies, including organic herbal tea, acupressure wristbands and vitamin B6 peppermint bonbons.
Julia was first inspired to develop an anti-morning sickness brand when working on a luxury mega-yacht, where she would regularly help sea-sick passengers with natural remedies.
The brand was also inspired by their families’ passion for natural, organic ingredients, using values handed down by their grandmothers Myrtle & Maude, who gave the brand its name.
Julia and Matty have seen sales rocket by 700% in the past 12 months alone, with turnover expected to exceed £250,000 by 2019-20.
Business Advice caught up with Julia to find out more about how it all started – and what happens next.
What is your business?
The business is named after our grandmothers, who both lived ‘the good life’ by growing their own produce in allotments and foraging for natural ingredients in the countryside.
We’ve inherited their traditions and knowledge, so the product range employs the uplifting, soothing and settling powers of plants and herbs to combat the trials and tribulations of pregnancy.
By only using the highest quality natural and organic ingredients, we’re harnessing nature’s power to uplift, relax and nurture women during the journey of pregnancy.
Where did the concept come from?
Both Matty and I grew up intimately connected to the natural world around us. Fresh produce from the allotment always decked my family table, and my mother, a retired nurse, always found natural remedies to cure our ailments. On the other side of our partnership, Matty’s grandparents lived off their farmland in Ireland.
I first had the idea when working on luxury yachts as a stewardess in the South of France. With so many sea-sick guests to help, I was inspired to create acupressure wrist brands for nausea, which I sold through Amazon. As pregnant women started to buy the products and give us fantastic feedback, I saw a gap in the market – so Myrtle & Maude was born!
How did you fund your business?
We initially used savings to get the business up and running, and then we took out a startup business loan to support our growth.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced when launching?
Our first challenge was to find budget and hit the minimum manufacturing volumes (MOQs), then we had to find the right suppliers and make sure they could deliver high quality produce on time.
Getting in front of the right buyers was also tough, and then we found that the product proposition needed to be refined to suit retailers. We launched with one product and soon found that retailers weren’t sure where to place it on the shop floor, so we hatched a plan to review the business and expand the product range.
We’re now ready to launch a mother and baby skin care range and will add to our tea range to give the brand an even stronger proposition.
What’s your biggest achievement to date?
It’s so satisfying to see Myrtle & Maude as a stable business that is generating strong revenue and growing month by month. We can see that it has great potential for the future.
What marketing strategies have you used?
This is a tough question because, as a small start-up, our budgets have been dominated by product development so far.
We’ll continue to strengthen the brand proposition before we execute a full marketing strategy. Brand recognition and awareness will be absolutely key in the next twelve months.
Amazon has also been a fantastic platform to help us spread the word about the brand.
In five years’ time, I’ll be…
Selling in John Lewis, backed by an investor and offering a larger product range which caters for everybody who wants natural remedies, not just pregnant women.
Who are your business heroes and why?
No one in particular, but I’ve always loved risk-takers and pioneers who refuse to settle for the status quo.
We admire anyone who started from scratch to become successful. Anyone who started from nothing and changed their life for the better is an inspiration.
That’s what we’re trying to do – taking risks and making sacrifices to achieve our goals. Nothing is guaranteed, but I think we have enough belief and determination to succeed.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Always test the waters before you jump in: try the product on Amazon to see how it sells, pay attention to customer reviews, use that initial period to make incremental improvements to your product range. Once you’re confident that the idea has legs and any issues have been ironed out, you can invest in a full product launch.
You should also remember that talk is cheap. When outsourcing services or taking on consultants, don’t believe everything they say. People can talk a good game but not produce the goods and waste both your time and money. The only person you can truly rely on is yourself – so be confident and back yourself to make the right decisions!
What’s your favourite way to spend downtime?
It’s hard to get the balance right between business and pleasure when you’re trying to get a start-up off the ground, however we are both learning to take time out, otherwise you risk burning out.
We now make a conscious effort to see friends, make homemade pizza, go for walks and hit the gym.
Last series you binge watched?
At the moment it has to be Ozark.
What three things can’t you live without?
What app do you use the most?
It has to be the Amazon Seller Central app, which is a great way to keep track of sales.
Instagram is also a really useful way to grow our following and engage with new fans of the brand.
What song is always on your playlist?
Hard to say as it changes all the time – but at the moment our top Shazams are:
- Tash Santana – Jungle
- Lenard Cohen – Everybody Knows
- The Who – Eminence Front
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