Kirsty Henshaw, Dragons’ Den star and founder of Kirsty’s healthy, free-from ready meals, reveals how she ‘risked it all’ for her son’s allergies.
Kirsty Henshaw started her business 8 years ago when she discovered that her son, Jacob, was severely allergic to nuts and intolerant to dairy and gluten. After the initial panic and concerns that his food choices were dramatically reduced, she soon began exploring free-from food options only to discover that healthy options were few and far between. As such, Kirsty started to make everything from scratch including a free-from ice cream that would get her in front on the Dragon’s and allow her to launch her business and career.
Starting out with the brand name of ‘Worthenshaws’, Kirsty set about launching her ice cream into health food stores across the UK. However, at this stage Kirsty was only 23 years of age and the challenge of trying to juggle work, parenthood and a business start-up was taking its toll.
Kirsty comments: “To say that money was tight is an understatement. I was working two jobs as well as trying to get Worthenshaws off the ground and be a mum to Jake. Although doors seemed to be opening, I had £200 to my name with myself and my son literally living day to day. I was terrified about how things were going to turn out, but equally determined that I had a product that I believed in and the drive and passion to make it succeed.”
Kirsty then took a leap of faith in 2010, by visiting the BBC website and entering herself and the business into the Dragons’ Den. Kirsty’s application was a success, getting her in front of the Dragons’ and receiving the full offer and backing of the two Dragons that she was really after, famously crying tears of joy as her path changed forever.
Kisrty continues: “For the next three years I worked with Peter Jones and Duncan Bannatyne, which was an amazing experience. As the business developed, so did demand on my time. As a busy mum I tried to buy healthy ready meals for those evenings when time was short, but soon realised they were packed full of hidden sugars and salt, with virtually no free-from alternatives for my son.”
It was at this stage that Kirsty decided to launch a range of healthy, chilled ready meals that could be enjoyed by everyone, including people with food allergies, intolerances and Coeliac Disease. In 2012, the business was renamed ‘Kirsty’s’ as she wanted to personalise the brand and connect with the customers who had come to support her so well.
The first range of naturally healthy, free-from chilled ready meals were launched and can now be found in over 1400 supermarkets nationwide. In September 2015 Kids’ Kitchen also hit the shelves; the UK’s first range of allergy free meals specifically for children. Gluten-free, dairy-free and wheat-free meals designed for children aged 2 to 9; that are nutritionally balanced, free from artificial colours and additives, with no added sugar.
The business itself is going from strength to strength with new product development in place and exciting new ranges to follow in 2018. Kirsty has a devoted fan base, which is demonstrated by her massive social media following and the general public interest around her and her brands.
Kirsty concludes: “Starting a business at such a young age is a risk on its own but doing it with little or no money and the responsibility of a young child with allergies and intolerances, the possibility of failure seemed inevitable. I think the moral of my story is that if you find a niche and come up with a solution that you truly believe in, then anything is possible.”
For more info visit http://www.kirstys.co.uk