How We Started a Fresh
Organic Baby Food Business
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
I am Dr Sophie Niedermaier-Patramani, founder and in-house Paediatrician at Little Tummy. We make parents’ lives easier and babies’ lives healthier by delivering cold-pressed baby food directly to their doorsteps.
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
I am a paediatrician with more than 10 years’ working experience in various healthcare systems and have regularly guided parents on their weaning journeys. I trained at top level universities in Germany (LMU Munich), Switzerland (University of Bern) and the US (Harvard Medical School).
As of July 2019, I am also a mother to a little girl and am currently experiencing and enjoying the weaning journey first hand. At Little Tummy I ensure that every ingredient has a purpose and designs all recipes to make them not only delicious but also high in nutritional value.
I believe that parenting is easier when I am given all the right information. This is why I give strictly evidence-based advice to parents on our social media outlets and during weaning workshops.
Long runs with and without my baby stroller help me clear my mind and sort through my thoughts. This is when I strategise best about the business.
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
The biggest challenge for me was to leave my clinical work behind and enter an entirely new world. It wasn’t an easy decision to stop seeing patients as this had, until that moment, been my life and my passion. In addition, I didn’t feel very well prepared for my new job where I had to manage finances and negotiate contracts.
Luckily, I found that I had a supportive network among my friends and family who were happy to help. I also joined some female founder networks where I found women in the same situation.
Securing the right manufacturer for us was another challenge. Researching and travelling up and down the country took a lot of time. It felt somewhat like dating, where we would be giddy and excited before a meeting and then nervously wait for the next call or email. In the end, we found a wonderful manufacturing partner who believed in our idea and our team.
Who is your target market?
Little Tummy’s customers are busy parents who are looking out for truly nutritious yet convenient meals for their children. In simple words, they appreciate convenience without compromising on quality. Our cold-pressed meals relieve them from the guilt of not being able to prepare home-cooked meals at all times. In addition, we support them with setting up healthy habits for their little ones.
Our typical customer would either be a first-time parent who needs reassurance and is exhausted and overwhelmed by choices and conflicting information about baby food. We equally serve second- and third-time parents who are time-poor, juggling their children and their return to work.
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
Little Tummy provides a much-needed educational platform for the parent community. As a paediatrician, I can act as a trusted source of knowledge and information. First-time mums are bombarded with conflicting information from baby food brands and other influencing factors, which need to be disentangled and thoroughly explained.
I believe that education is the best support for parents, no matter their children’s age. I host weekly Q&A sessions on our Instagram account and contribute contents to parent magazines and blogs.
Email marketing (newsletters) and word of mouth (referrals) have been a strong marketing channel for us. We try to personalise and customise the customer experience wherever possible and have, therefore, created a unique and seamless customer journey.
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
We make parents feel like members of our trusted Little Tummy community. This starts with a thank you card in their delivery box and continues with a follow-up email after the purchase.
Our ambassador programme is fuelled by brand advocates who are macro- and micro-influencers, loyal customers and celebrities. The fact that we find a variety of authentic spokespersons amplifies our storytelling.
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
At Little Tummy, it is of great importance that everyone’s opinion is valued. As we are still a small team, we benefit from a flat hierarchy. My own philosophy is that honesty and openness are key ingredients to a successful communication and I will always be upfront if there is something I don’t know or haven’t made any experience yet.
At the same time, I am eager to learn from my team members. I feel this creates an atmosphere where everyone can thrive. I am in strong favour of continuous professional development and would always support a team member to conquer a challenge and share the learning experience.
Even though we have taken to working remotely, we make sure to have regular catch-ups and team drinks. These are great opportunities to learn more about the personalities of our team members and how they influence our everyday working environment.
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
We currently work with Zendesk as CRM software, mainly because they had a great discount in our first year and are easy to use. Xero has been a personal lifesaver as it helps me understand the details of accounting.
What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?
To this day, I haven’t regretted a single thing. Mistakes happen, not because I wasn’t thinking properly but because I didn’t know better. They are something to learn from and the most important thing to me is that I can acknowledge when I was wrong and take measures to not let something happen again.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
The fulfilling feeling of having created a company which contributes something positive to so many people’s lives. Making parents’ lives easier and babies’ lives healthier has been something I strived to do as paediatrician. Little Tummy helps me to multiply this achievement.
What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
It can be tiring to be constantly switched on, having the company on my mind. I am lucky enough that I am not alone on this journey and that I have colleagues, friends and family who support me when I have a bad day.
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
Hype Yourself by Lucy Werner has been an eye opener when it comes to planning our company PR. It is a wonderful step-by-step guide which forces you to bring your thoughts to paper in a structured way. Reading the book made us rethink our whole marketing strategy!
Bad Blood by John Carreyrou tells the story of Theranos and its founder Elizabeth Holmes. Although it is clearly quite one-sided, it teaches a lot about company culture and what can happen when brilliant employees don’t have the freedom to spill their creativity and genius.
Finally, New Startup Mindset by Sandra Shpielberg has been a true revelation. It challenges you to critically think about your mindset and helps with new, creative ideas. Anyone who ever felt stuck in their own company will find refreshing advice in this book.
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
I hope that Little Tummy will continue to grow into an established brand for children’s food. I have loved growing our little team so far, so I hope more wonderful people will join Little Tummy and will teach me new skills.