Philippa Mitchell is an independent distributor with Wikaniko, a British cooperative marketing company that aims to encourage and enable people to be both greener and healthier through making economic and eco-friendly changes to products they use every day.
Tell me a bit about Wikaniko
Wikaniko (We Can Eco) is a family business, started in 2009. It makes its own products and sources & sells products on behalf of other, mostly UK-based, businesses. All products and companies are checked so that they meet Wikaniko’s ethical and environmental concerns. None of our products are tested on animals and all the companies we work with have strong environmental ethos.
As a distributor, I am free to work the business in the way that best suits me and my circumstances. I choose to focus on catalogues, going to events, my blog and Facebook to promote the products and look for new team members. The support from Head Office is fantastic and they have recently developed a Fast Track Business Building Programme for distributors who wish to reach the top levels in under 3 years.
I love this business because it means I am continuing with my passion of educating people about the value of the natural environment and our role in taking care of it. But more than that, I am giving people the tools to really take action for the natural environment and improve their health as well. So many of the products we use have been linked to allergies or chemicals within them found to be carcinogenic or hormone disrupters. I help people find their way around these issues and to the best products for them and their family.
My family uses the products and we love them. My daughter is repeatedly astounded at what else I get from my Wikaniko shop – my latest buy: stripy bamboo socks, but not in her size!
What inspired you to start your own business?
I started thinking about setting up my own business in 2010 when I realised that it was very hard to find part-time work in my field without moving location. As I had a young daughter, I did not want to be at work full time and could not move location! I worked within the environmental education sector at the time and so looked to set up a business working with schools and other groups to run workshops on environmental topics.
Initially, I worked on this idea whilst working part time and looking after my daughter part time.
My first son was very premature and sadly only lived 3 weeks. After losing him, I knew that I did not want to be working for someone else again and that I wanted to be self employed.
I was also realising that due to government change and subsequent policy changes, schools did not have the finance or much motivation to invite in outside organisations to run workshops on environmental issues.
So I looked around for something to go with this business. Thanks to a wonderful mums business networking group in the NE, I realised that network marketing is actually a valid business model and found Wikaniko.
For the first 2 years, Wikaniko was very much a small part of my business as I focussed on the Environmental Education Workshops and was starting to break even when my second son was born. Whilst I was on maternity, my partner got a new job the other end of the country. Wikaniko was portable, the environmental education workshops less so!
What has been your biggest challenge?
Keeping going and starting again when circumstances changed! When we moved south, my son was only 8 months and my daughter just 4. In addition to finding friends for them, creating a life for us, finding a house to buy (and do a lot of work to before we moved in), I also had to re-establish my business.
I was so lucky I had Wikaniko. It is a very flexible network marketing model and was incredibly portable. We are not restricted to an area as some are, the products are very useful and easy to show the benefits of and I could do it with a boy-in-a-sling and my 4 year old alongside me. We learnt numbers, read road signs and chatted lots as we delivered catalogues!
I would not have been able to set up the environmental education business as I had no contacts in the field and would not have been able to go into schools with a young child. Child-care for him was not affordable for us whilst I was setting up the business! Now, 3 years down the line, I have a good steady business.
What have you learnt about yourself since you became self employed?
I think that I have learnt that I can. Often, I may not want to do something, but, when push comes to shove, I can do it. That is actually very empowering.
What is the best thing about being your own boss?
I am in control of how I run my business, when I do it and what I do. It fits my life. I do not fit into someone else’s idea of what I should be doing and when.
What jobs within your business would you love to delegate to somebody else if you could?
Keeping my paperwork and desk space in an orderly fashion!
If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring ‘mumpreneur’ what would it be?
Go for it! If you try and don’t succeed, well you tried and did your best. If you never try, you will never know.
Oh, and if you are likely to have a child whilst being self-employed do keep your NI contributions up, if you don’t you are not likely to get statutory maternity pay.