How a Brain Haemorrhage Inspired This Entrepreneur’s Next Business Idea
Interview with serial entrepreneur Jo Tutchener-Sharp
Jo Tutchener-Sharp is a serial entrepreneur — Founder of Beauty PR agency Beauty Seen, the BRITs Spa and Scamp & Dude — a business that came about after Jo had to leave her young children at home (aged one and three) in order to undergo life threatening brain surgery. Her time in hospital, away from her children, gave her the idea for award-winning clothing company Scamp & Dude; “From something dark came something light.”
Scamp & Dude works with several charities including one through which they are able to gift their Superhero Sleep Buddy to children in intensive care.
Facing death and an uncertain future makes you look at things very differently.
Newnham: Can you tell us a bit about your background and what you were like growing up?
Jo Tutchener-Sharp: I grew up in a small town in Shropshire, spending most of my time playing in fields, hanging out of trees and looking for fairies on the river bank. I was lucky enough to have an extremely idyllic childhood in a very loving, happy home. I believe this upbringing has a great deal to do with the confidence I have as an adult which has enabled me to take risks and follow my dreams.
Newnham: You are the founder of BRITs Spa and Beauty Seen PR — what made you want to start your own businesses and how did you make that dream a reality?
Tutchener-Sharp: I have always had a fierce work ethic; I work very hard and always want to do the very best at whatever I commit to. I am an all or nothing kind of girl so if I commit to something, I literally become obsessed with it and live and breathe it.
When I set up Beauty Seen, some people thought I was mad to leave my job (I was Head of Press for Estee Lauder and Tom Ford Beauty) to set up “another PR agency”; some people told me there were too many agencies already but luckily I didn’t listen as I felt there was a gap in the market for a beauty agency that did things a bit differently.
I listened to my gut and went for it, and I was right. We were soon winning large clients like Topshop Beauty, Eve Lom and NARS, beating the bigger, more established PR agencies when we were a new agency with only nine employees. It felt good to see the hard work, blood sweat and tears pay off.
Newnham: And can you tell us about your latest business — Scamp & Dude — and how it came to be?
Tutchener-Sharp: I had a brain haemorrhage in October 2015, followed by brain surgery in January 2016. This was a life-changing moment in my life. Facing death and an uncertain future makes you look at things very differently.
On 3rd January 2016, I said goodbye to my young children, not knowing if I’d see them again. It was when I was in hospital recovering from brain surgery and missing my two boys, that I came up with the idea for Scamp & Dude. I wanted to create a brand that helped kids feel more secure when apart from their loved ones.
I created the Superhero Sleep Buddy which is a dinosaur or bunny superhero comforter (shaped cushion) which sits on the child’s bed watching over them, protecting them while they sleep. There is a pocket on the back to keep a photograph of whoever they need to keep close. Created for kids who struggle being on their own. Even if your parents are in the next bedroom, it can feel like a galaxy away to a small child.
Also, for every Superhero Sleep Buddy sold, we are donating another to a vulnerable child, whether they are in hospital themselves, are struggling to deal with a sick parent or have had a parent pass away. We are working with three amazing charities including a famous London children’s hospital, Don’t Forget the Kids and Grief Encounter.
Scamp & Dude also has a superhero inspired clothing line offering kids security when on the move. A neon pink embroidered lightning bolt on all garments gives the child a burst of superpower confidence when they need it most, and our slogan ‘a superhero has my back’ is written on the back of the T-shirts and sweatshirts to remind kids that someone has their back at all times. The collection includes our leopard and bolt print as well as some cool superhero characters including Super Dino, Super Bunny and Balloon Man — a superhero balloon! We launched into Liberty and are in many more high street and independent stores now.
Newnham What have been some of the obstacles you have faced starting and running your own businesses and how did you overcome them?
Tutchener-Sharp: Scamp & Dude has been a complete learning curve. I have never worked in production before so that has been a challenge. I have literally been buzzing so much because I am learning again. I’ve worked in the PR industry for coming up to 20 years (and still love it and will continue to consult in PR moving forward in addition to running Scamp & Dude and BRITs Spa). But it feels so good to learn new skills and I have been loving pretty much every minute. Some issues with factories and learning all about the testing, legal and shipping side of things has been a little bit of a challenge but now I’ve done it once, it won’t be as stressful next time. I have also loved being creative and designing the collection, I am literally like an excited child when I’m designing, I absolutely love it.
Newnham: What advice would you give other women looking to start a business?
Tutchener-Sharp: Starting your own business is crazy hard work, you have to be totally committed to it. No one knows understands what it is like unless they have been the one to start a company from scratch. I never stop thinking about my businesses, whatever business it has been, I live and breathe it. I wake up in the night, sketching ideas and sending emails. I was up at 5am this morning chatting with China! You have to be willing to commit as it becomes a bit like another child. Running your own business is definitely not for the work-shy, but it is so rewarding and satisfying.
Newnham: Finally, who inspires you?
Tutchener-Sharp: The founder of one of the charities I am donating our Superhero Sleep Buddies to inspires me greatly, Nicola Dady. She has suffered with cancer but rather than wallowing in her misfortune, she set up the charity Don’t Forget the Kids which supports children struggling with a sick parent, supporting them emotionally and running activities to take their mind off what is happening at home. She’s an amazing woman.