Living in London with 2 small children and an almost daily commute, an exhausted Anna knew she wanted a more flexible way of living. Her lightbulb moment came from a trip back to her native Poland and from there LioBites was born. Here she shares her journey...
This interview is part of our It's Never Too Late series, championing women regardless of age, to follow their big, bold ambitions.
Hi Anna can you introduce your wonderful business to us?
LioBites fruit crisps is a healthy snacking brand. We are a British brand conveying quality of the natural produce and the finest flavours of the European grown fruit. The ripest and sweetest fruits are picked in season, sliced and freeze-dried to preserve the vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants.
Great Taste Awards 2019 winner, low in calories and free from all major allergens and preservatives LioBites make a perfect healthy snack or breakfast topper. We sell on Ocado, Amazon, Yumbles.com our own website and WW-Weight Watchers reinvented as a part of the weight loss plan.
How old were you when you started your business and how long have you been running it for?
I had just turned 40 when I have decided that either I take a risk now or never. It was a milestone and a wakeup call. Life is too short, you need to take risks to achieve what you want. It has been 4 years since we registered the business and 3 years since we have launched. Time flies...
Had you owned your own business before?
When my I was pregnant with my 2nd daughter and my eldest was still a baby I decided not to return to work in London until the kids are older. With my husbands’ help we built a website and e-shop selling fashion hosiery- Itsocks. I was inspired by my fashion degree and comments about my fashionable tights from work colleagues. The business was small and run from home but gave me some mental challenge in between nappy changes. We folded the business in 2013 when my youngest daughter started pre-school. It was difficult to maintain a 1st page listing on Google after they changed their algorithms and I didn’t think the business was scalable for the future.
Anna what made you take the leap into starting your business?
As great as working in London can be, commuting is not, especially when you are a mum of 2. I was enjoying social and economic aspects of working in the office but to be frank I was absolutely exhausted. I took part time role in another company but didn’t feel fulfilled. Having project managed our house refurb I had gained confidence in my abilities and obtained Agile Project Management certification in Autumn 2016. The plan was to work in more manageable routine, flexibly. At this stage I didn’t know what business I am going to get involved in. Half term holidays in my native Poland sealed the deal when we managed to buy pre-packed bags of freeze-dried strawberries and banana in the local pharmacy chain. Since I remember my youngest daughter was notorious for picking all the strawberries from my Special K cereal so getting the whole bag of those scrumptious strawberries was amazing. The girls kept asking for more so we brought to the UK 2 trunkies full of samples and all the neighbours’ kids loved it too. UK did not sell pre-packed freeze-dried fruit in small bags suitable for kids lunch boxes and as a mum I thought that this is prefect healthy snack as I would eat them too. This was my lightbulb moment.
What did you find hard in the beginning?
The hardest part of setting up a supply chain is to get large accredited companies to take you seriously.
There is still a lot of prejudice against middle age female entrepreneurs. I was aiming high and on large scale so didn’t want to compromise on quality or health and safety accreditations. We got there at the end but you need a thick skin and a lot of positivity.
What surprised you most about starting your own business?
How much I still love it! Despite working for 3 years non-stop. Having days when I feel like quitting. I would not have changed it for working for someone else. The independence and self-satisfaction are key for me but also flexibility. I work on my own terms and feel challenged all the time.
Looking back, do you think you'd have done anything differently?
I try not to look back and have regrets. However if I was to do it all over again I would launch a smaller range of flavours. We used to have 6, we now have 4 SKUS. Broad range means a lot of investment and pressure to sell higher quantities.
That makes so much sense - I think it's easy to get caught up in all the excitement! What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about beauty and quality in all aspects of life. I love art, good food and cooking , fashion, interior design and music. I also love travelling and nature walks. Passion comes from within and sometimes I think I am over passionate about life. However passion also means drive, hence I am driven to achieve as much as I can in my lifetime.
What makes you feel good inside?
I discovered Yoga 14 years ago when pregnant with my daughter. Daily yoga and meditation keep me grounded. Recently I started to listen to uplifting music during the day and calm music in the evening. I love daily walks and good food. I cook from scratch and enjoy eating with my family but also entertaining friends. I am a naturally positive person and enjoy interacting with others. This is crucial when you run your own business, you have to be able to pick ourself up and keep going.
What is something that's made you proud in the last 12 months?
Business wise we have secured a listing with WW- Weight watchers. LioBites are perfect for portion control and healthy sweet snacking. Our success with WW has proven to the critics that LioBites are not just a kids snack as adults love it too.
On personal level my daughters handling home learning during the pandemic and being all able to get into routine and self-discipline. They are now 12 and 13 and I can’t believe how grown up they both are.
What advice would you give to someone who has been dreaming of starting their own business later in life, but has been holding back?
You only have one life and you need to do what makes you happy. If fear of failure is holding you back I would say that you can always come back to full time employment. However if you don’t try it, you will regret it later on. I consider my age as my biggest asset. I have wide range of skills I’ve gained while working over the last 20 years, emotional maturity and self-confidence. I could not have set up LioBites when I was 20 years old.
What are your goals for the next 12 months?
Stay healthy, happy and content. Continue to grow the business and secure some new stockists.
If you want to find out more about Anna & her yummy snacks you can find her here:
It's Never Too Late
Once thing we hear a lot from women over 40 is "I'd love to do x,y,z but it's just too late now". It's not. It never, ever is. We started this series as a way to encourage more women to follow their dreams and ambitions regardless of how many years they've been on the planet!
If you've got a story to tell you can contact us on Emma@womenwd.co.uk
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