Mumpreneur’s testimonial: Cooking Gorgeous founder, Henny Flynn

Cooking can be fun but it’s even better if you do it in an elegant outfit! For Cooking Gorgeous founder, Henny Flynn, aprons offering pretty fabrics with flouncy patterns just weren’t enough. An apron is a serious garment! And every great cook wants a trusty apron they can go back to again and again. An apron you can wear every day that’s ethically made, washes well, feels gorgeous, and always looks good. Henny Flynn set out to focus on form, fit, function, and fabric. And to maintain the ‘made in Britain’ ethos. A tall order…but one she’s achieved.

Henny Flynn loves cooking. And she knows what its like to cook as a single girl, rushing home from work to prepare a romantic dinner for two or a large and lively party; what it’s like as a newly-wed, cooking for a husband; what it’s like cooking as a mother; and what it’s like cooking as a working mum.

And the apron idea arose out of need…first for her, then for friends and family, and now for others.

Based in Cambridgeshire, Henny has lived and worked around the world, with time spent in Spain, Egypt and Portugal. Following her social sciences degree, her career background has been very much focused on people and creativity – marketing, branding, communications, and HR. It encompasses several years in educational publishing and over ten years in senior roles in financial services.

She is 42 and married to her university sweetheart, Anthony. They have just celebrated the 20th anniversary of their first kiss! They have a gorgeous son, Rufus, who is ten and two gorgeous Labradoodles. After years of travelling and living in various parts of the world, Henny is back near to where she was born, with her brothers nearby and parents living in France.

1) Why did you want to start your own business?

My parents and three brothers have all set up their own successful businesses so it feels like a very natural step to work for myself.

I have always enjoyed working but two years ago I decided to leave my job in the City (as Brand & Communications Director for a national brokerage). I wanted to spend more time with my son and setting up my own business at least meant I could be at home – though I was under no illusion that it would give me more free time!

My husband has also run his own business for several years, copywriting and marketing, so we both understand the challenges involved and support each other really well. Setting up Cooking Gorgeous has also meant we get to see more of each other. It makes a nice change from all those years of only seeing each other at weekends. Turns out we really do like each other. Luckily!

2) How difficult was it to get up and running?

It’s surprisingly easy to set up a business, at least in terms of the legal aspects. But the actual process of developing the initial designs, finding suppliers, running focus groups, establishing the brand and working out the business model, well, that all took 9 months and a lot of hard work.

Finding the right suppliers was definitely the hardest part. My background is branding and marketing so that side of things was ok but moving into the new world of textiles was a huge learning curve. With the way the UK textile Market has been decimated by imports there are very few good quality manufacturers left in the UK. Fortunately the guys we work with are excellent and have been really supportive – they appreciate the quality of our designs and the innovations we’ve created.

3) What made you decide on a business that designed and sold aprons and other kitchen linens?

The idea for Cooking Gorgeous came from making soup!

I love cooking and had thought of setting up a business making soup for toddlers and older children – with a great name and a brand concept. But, after doing the market research I realised that it wasn’t the right route – however whilst planning some of the recipes and testing out ideas I also realised that many of the kitchen linens in my own kitchen really weren’t up to the job. So I started looking into what options there were out there for better quality products.

I found many designs leave much to be desired and that inspired me to start thinking about how they could be made better. I also found that many of the women I talked to wanted simple, straightforward designs not the ubiquitous antique florals that are seen everywhere. I wanted to create stylish, grown-up aprons that fit, flatter and protect and kitchen accessories that really work. And that’s what we’ve done.

At the same time as planning the designs I also looked into where to get them made. Everyone suggested China. I wasn’t so sure as I believe strongly in buying local. In this case that meant making everything in the UK.

I am so pleased we took this step. It makes me proud to know the business reflects my own ethics and I know it means something to the people who love what we do.

4) Who are your products aimed at?

Interesting question! They’re really aimed at anyone who loves to cook or who likes that feeling of using the right tool for the job! We’ve designed everything so it has longevity, with shapes and colours to appeal to all ages and ideas for men, women and children.

I love the feeling of putting on my apron (I usually wear the Aubergine Standard) and knowing that I’m dressed and ready for action! I also like the fact that it’s so comfy I often forget to take it off. We had one food writer who tweeted they had just arrived at the cinema and taken off their coat only to realise they still had their Cooking Gorgeous apron on. I love that!

5) What is the best bit about being your own boss?

Knowing that it’s all my own decision – and it’s the same answer if you ask what’s the worst!

6) As a Mum, how do you fit work around home life?

Juggle, sometimes more effectively than others. My son does sometimes say ‘I thought you set up Cooking Gorgeous so you’d have more time’. Hmmm!

But at least I am there. And I can go to sports day. But there are obviously times when you just have to put things down when you don’t want to and then pick them up again late at night. It’s all part of it and it’s the compromise you have to make. And whatever hours I do it’s still better than leaving the house at 6 in the morning and not getting back until 10 at night. So overall it works!

7) Has your son, Rufus every helped out with any of the products for instance, the new Child’s Party Cookery Set?

Yes, definitely. He’s come up with ideas and helps me with the children’s products – both as a model for the website but also with keeping things simple, particularly for the older kids. So with something like the Children’s Party Cookery Set aprons, I wanted to create a simple design that would be affordable and that boys and girls would both be happy to wear. Running the idea for the apron past Rufus was an essential piece of market research!

8.) What one piece of advice would you give to other Mum’s wanting to set up their own business?

You can have a fabulous product or service but if your brand doesn’t reflect how good it is then it’s really hard to get your message across. I think it’s the one area where it’s worth getting really good specialist advice as it will affect everything about how your business is perceived – from how you create your imagery to how you write your website.

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