”Find something unique” – Mama Mio’s Sian Sutherland 

Entrepreneur Sian Sutherland, one of the founders of the Mama Mio skincare range, is to be one of our speakers at Workingmums.co.uk  LIVE exhibition next month.  Here, Sian tells us how she established her business and gives tips to other working mums who are keen to set up their own ventures.

Entrepreneur Sian Sutherland, one of the founders of the Mama Mio skincare range, is to be one of our speakers at Workingmums.co.uk  LIVE exhibition next month.  Here, Sian tells us how she established her business and gives tips to other working mums who are keen to set up their own ventures.

Sian’s first business
When she was 25 Sian left her advertising job because she wanted to be at the helm of her own business.  In 1987, she established Sutherland’s,  a restaurant in Soho, which rapidly went on to be highly successful.  In its first year, the restaurant was named Newcomer of The Year in the Good Food Guide and was awarded the coveted Michelin star.  Sian was personally awarded National Magazine Company’s Entrepreneur of the Year award.  ”I wanted to set something up right from the very beginning,” she explains.  ”I learned so much in a very short time – starting a business from scratch, raising the finance, finding and refurbishing the premises, getting the team together and then working 18 hours a day, 7 days a week.  The restaurant business is wonderful but very mercuriaI – it is either brilliant or terrible.  No middle ground.“
After five years, Sian decided the time was right to move on. ”I had met my husband, who was my restaurant manager,” she said. ”Working in a restaurant is a really intense environment 24-7 and not really conducive to a relaxed relationship let alone a marriage!”
She turned her talents to running a small brand creation and  design agency with Kathy Miller – the agency specialised in beauty and drink.  This began a working partnership between herself and Kathy which has endured for 20 years. 

Beauty Business
The agency – Miller Sutherland – flourished and the two partners began to immerse themselves in the world of beauty products, building up a network of biochemists, aromatherapists and skincare experts.
”We learned a huge amount about the beauty business,” says Sian, now 50.  ”When you are creating brands, you have to get really under the skin of the industry you are involved in.”  This is how she met Tanya Kazeminy Mackay who was working with an aromatherapist at the time and went on to become the firm’s third UK partner.
Over a ten-year period, the trio created many beauty brands for others and also invented some products that they kept just for their own use.    ”At the time we didn’t have any commercial intent,” says Sian. ”We were purely interested in products for us – we wanted to look at products which we could use for all the various stages of our lives. Products that really really worked”
When she fell pregnant with her first son, Charlie, it was the catalyst for producing the first of their range, an oil called Tummy Rub.
Five years ago, the trio decided to enter the world of retail.
”We recognised there was a huge niche in the market for high performance premium body care to look after women through all the different stages of a woman’s life,” says Sian.  ”By now we had worked with many well-known international brands.  We decided we were ready to launch our own brand.”

US link
Mama Mio was always very keen to launch in the UK and the US at the same time and so turned its attention very early on to the US and established a manufacturing base just outside New York.  The fourth founder of their firm, Jill Dunk, is now based in California.  In the past five years, sales have rocketed.  Mama Mio now supplies 1500 stores around the world, including high class outlets such as Harrods and Selfridges, as well as creating their own proprietary spa treatments such as Bikini Bootcamp, for spas such as Ritz Carlton and Canyon Ranch. 
”We have only been going for five years which means we’re still a very, very young brand,” said Sian.  ”We’re very different to any other beauty brand out there.  We are innovative and that gives us a big voice in the beauty business.  Every year we have grown considerably in sales and grown in the breadth of our product range to appeal to more and more women.  And now, five years on, we are finally ready to take the big leap into the most competitive sector of the beauty world – with the launch of Mama Mio Face Care”

Working mums and families
Sian and husband, Christian, decided they didn’t want a live-in nanny when sons Charlie, now 18 and Tom, 17, were small.  ”They went to nursery from a very early age, because we didn’t want to have any live-in help” says Sian. ”It was hard because you don’t want to miss out on important stages.”
What about work-life balance?
”I don’t really have that approach,” she says. ”I choose to do what I do.  If I choose to be answering emails at 10 o’clock at night, then that is my choice because I love what I do.  I love being part of a team – we are very lucky because we love what we do and we love who we work with.  And we share a huge ambition for Mama Mio – helping women to feel more confident in their skin.”
Any advice for women seeking to start their own business?
* Think like a consumer – it is all too easy to start to think like a brand, rather than as a woman.  Keep your consumer hat on.  What would you want? How would you want to be spoken to?”
* Trust your gut instinct.  We have realised that we do an awful lot by gut instinct and to have confidence in that.  If it’s right for us, it will be right for our consumers.”
* ”Have a plan – otherwise how can you measure your success (or lack of it!)  And don’t worry that it is all guesswork – you have to start somewhere and your business plan will be your roadmap.
* ”This sounds harsh but seriously … Don’t bother unless you have something unique to sell or a unique way to sell it.  The world will not beat a path to your door however great your product is.  So make sure it is pressworthy or no-one will know about it”


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