Mum’s The Word – Skinny Tan

A new breed of entrepreneurs has taken hold across homes throughout the United Kingdom. With a baby on one arm and a phone in the other, these women are changing how mums are perceived across the business world. We talk to a few of these so-called “mumtrepreneurs” – women who have started businesses whilst on maternity leave or whilst looking after their young children – to find out how having children affects their business life and the challenges it presents.

Kate Cotton and Louise Ferguson, Skinny Tan
Kate Cotton and Louise Ferguson, Skinny Tan

Australian mums, Kate Cotton and Louise Ferguson shot to stardom in 2013 when they entered the Dragons’ Den with their slimming, self-tanning product, Skinny Tan, and received an unprecedented offer from all five Dragons. Eventually, they signed a deal with Piers Linney and Kelly Hoppen, receiving £60,000 for 10% of their business. One year later, we caught up with them to discuss their success and juggling family life.

What were the initial challenges of setting up a business?

Kate: “The business was borne out of a desire to spend time with our children. In Australia there is no maternity pay, so we had to find a way to make ends meet and provide an income. We also had a slightly selfish desire, after having children, to look good and look slim. With our background in the beauty industry, we set the business up almost for personal reasons, rather than business ones.”

Louise: “With no money, we had to remortgage our houses, credit cards etc. We then presented it to Priceline (a large Australian chain, similar to Walmart) and got a deal. The odd thing was, we then had to go to the manufacturers and say, “We don’t have any money, can you make it and we’ll give you the money once it is sold?”. It was a strange proposition for them, but luckily they did it and it allowed us to really take off.”

Did it feel like taking a massive leap of faith?

Kate: “To a degree, it was a risk, but we weren’t getting any younger. My kids were older, but it is still tough. As a woman, it’s a juggling act and you can be very hard on yourself. All businesses are all-consuming and so are children, so it really is a juggling act. You have to run with it and do your best.”

Louise: “It was a difficult position to be in, having such little funds. People always say you must be brave, but it was a measured approach. We had this Priceline order and we knew it was good from our background, so it didn’t seem so risky.

What efficts does having children have on the business, your mentality, and your enjoyment of the business?

Kate: “We’re very grateful to our kids; we want them to be proud of us, and we want to show them the value of hard work. We hope they can look up to us as an example of how far women in business can go, and the success they can achieve.”

Louise: “The only downside is that we wanted to be well-tanned, very skinny, stay-at-home moms but, because Skinny Tan has become this runaway train, the children are being sucked into the office. When you have children, women look at their children and think, “I put my career on hold for you.” But with mine, they inspired me to take that leap and leave a job to do this.”

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