We caught up with Dominique Woolf, founder of Woolf’s kitchen, to hear about how she’s juggling motherhood with her new venture into spicy sauces…
How did you come up with the idea for Woolf’s kitchen?
I’m half-Thai and was inspired by the sauces my Auntie used to make. When my first child (now 5) was a newborn, she would come over and cook us food such as curries and pad Thai, and also leave us jars of various sauces, including a tamarind sauce. All we’d have to do was grill a piece of salmon and stir-fry some veg, drizzle over the sauce, and we’d have the most incredible meal. The seed was definitely planted there. It was a few years later after I’d had my third child, and finished with nappies, that I had some headspace and had that real lightbulb moment – I realised I wanted to make a business of it.
What has been the hardest thing about being a mother and a businesswoman?
Lack of childcare! My kids are pretty young (3, 4 and 5) and during lockdown I’ve had no childcare so I’ve literally had to do what I can in stolen moments here and there. My husband works full time so I don’t have the luxury of sharing the load in the week. I’m working most evenings, and when I can, on weekends too. The kids have been coming on deliveries with me (with a bit of bribery!) and even to a meeting in a deli once. To succeed in business as a mother, I think you need sheer determination and will to make it happen. Every day I try to move the dial, even if it’s just the tiniest bit – it all adds up. There are only so many hours in the day and I have to accept that I can’t do everything. The house is definitely messier than I’d like, and the kids probably watch a little too much TV at times, but I try not to be too hard on myself!
What advice would you give to other women looking to start a business?
There are so many things to think about, but I’d map out my plan, write it all down and set some goals. It makes such a difference to have it all on paper. But starting your own business isn’t an easy option. It absorbs you and you become obsessed – or at least I have! I’m thinking about it every spare moment, and go to bed hatching plans, solving issues and dreaming up the next product range. When it’s your business you don’t switch off. It can certainly add pressure to your relationship as well, as your focus switches from house and children, to your business. I wouldn’t change it though.
On a practical level, I’d do as much research as possible on the area you’re going into. I’d network like crazy. Join Facebook groups for your industry. I actually started two of my own networking groups 18 months ago as I couldn’t find any locally – one for people in food, and the other for creative & entrepreneurial women. My women’s group has over 500 members, ranging from photographers and artists to e-commerce start-ups and coaches. The connections and friendships made have been invaluable. A large number of the women on it are working mums who are extremely supportive of one another.
My final piece of advice would be to just do it. Start before you’re ready!
What can we expect to see from Woolf’s kitchen in the future?
I’m currently on the shelves in 10 delis around north London, and I had a stall at Ally Pally Farmer’s market, but my aim is to be available all across the UK in the not too distant future, as well as on Amazon and Etsy.
New product development is my favourite part of the job, and I’m always working on a raft of new products, not just sauces, so watch this space!