‘The only option I give myself is to win’
Many mums will have heard of Milkysnugz, well this edition we introduce you to the inventor and founder of the popular brand, Sukhy Heer Javeed.
Milkysnugz are cuddly, baby bottle comforters which help aid breast to bottle transition and independent feeding. Sukhvinder, a mum-of-two herself, flew out to China alone in 2011 to build her own business. Today her brand has won several awards, not to mention Dragons Den, Theo Paphitis’ ‘Small Business Sunday’ award. We caught up with the successful inventor and entrepreneur to learn more about her business and her journey to success.
Tell us about your invention MilkySnugz. What is it and how did the idea come about?
I invented Milkysnugz because I had challenges breastfeeding, and when my friends were having babies, they were facing a lot of the exact same challenges. They had jobs, they wanted to go back to work, or maybe just spend more time with their friends! And obviously dads want to get involved – with breastfeeding, it’s very hard for a dad to get involved, because mum’s obviously got to be there to support her baby. And I think in today’s day and age, everybody should be able to work together to raise their children. So when I realised there was an issue, I thought I might be able to help with my invention. I also really wanted a yacht! [Laughter] so I thought well, how am I going to get this yacht? The corporate world was never going to give me a yacht.
I didn’t want to do anything that wasn’t going to be beneficial and for the greater good overall. I wanted to do something that was going to better other people’s lives – getting a yacht was going to better my life, but not many other people’s! So I thought right, look, it’s time. If I don’t do anything now, I might not do anything ever. So I did loads of drawings, lots of experiments, then I went and spoke to my lawyer, who said ‘yeah it’s a great idea, are you going to go to China?’ And I went ‘what do you mean?!’ So yeah, I just went out and caught a plane to China, and it went from there!
What made you take the risk to launch your own invention?
The risk I think, was a calculated risk. I don’t think I thought too much about the risk factor, if I’m really honest! I more or less just learned a few Chinese phrases, got on a plane and two weeks later was stood in a hotel in China where nobody spoke any English. And I was just thinking okay, I can do this. I was just so excited!
Your product is now available in Mothercare, Babies R Us, Tesco and abroad in countries such as Russia, South Africa and the USA. How did you manage that?
Well I’ve got an amazing product! Everyone wants it. I launched Milkysnugz on a Friday, and by Sunday we had sold out of generation one of the product at the baby show we were at. Even though I knew there was a huge need for the product, I didn’t quite understand just how great the need for it was. It took me a bit by surprise, especially when one woman started blogging about it on the second day of the launch, and I was wondering, what on earth is she writing about me so soon? Her eight-month old son had never ever taken a bottle, and she really needed to have an operation and be away for a few days so she needed him to. She was so reluctant to buy my product, but she took two, and her husband and her both ended up crying because they’d never seen their son have a bottle until they used Milkysnugz. And it allowed her to go and have the operation she needed, so that was great. Innovation is a bit difficult sometimes, people look at something new and say ‘Well why do we need that?’ But once you start explaining it and showing it to people, they’re like ‘Oh god yes, that’s brilliant, that’s amazing!’
Once we had that, the retailers came to me. We got marketers and distributors and some really good people involved, but the product itself had to be of the highest quality. That was really important to me, it had to be ethically good and fully tested to the highest standards. I would never want to give something to other people’s babies that I wouldn’t give to my own. That’s one of the biggest things, I think, that attracted the major retailers in the end. It works, it’s needed and there was a gap in the market that I managed to fill.
Where is your business heading now. What’s next?
So we are now looking to expand our global reach, we’re going to grow internationally bigger. In the UK though, we’re going to look at looking after the independents more. We’re also soon going to be launching a whole new range of products with three new product lines and 7 more characters that all sit around transitioning baby from breast to bottle.
What or who has been your greatest influence in business and why?
Can I say myself? [Laughter] Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of people in Business who I look at and say ‘wow, they’ve done so well’. If I look at Xavier Roberts in particular, who invented the Cabbage Patch Dolls! He’s a big inspiration; those were and still are a global giant. But really, it’s the women who I meet and speak to who need this support, who really inspire me. There’s a food revolution going on at the moment, and 70% of children under 5 are likely to be diagnosed with obesity by 2020. And studies have shown that if you breastfeed a baby for just six months, you reduce the chance of them ever being diagnosed with obesity by around 90%. And that’s just for six months. That’s the kind of thing I’m passionate about and that’s what drives me. Don’t get me wrong, formula milk has its place and I would never judge women who can’t breastfeed, but we need to support women so much more to breastfeed for a bit longer where they can. Gender equality as well needs to come out of the boardroom and into the home, and let’s empower men as well as women.
What would you say is your greatest professional accomplishment to date?
I don’t think I’ve reached my greatest one yet! I think my greatest achievement for me personally is that I’ve started to build an empire here, and that’s what I always set out to do. I’m still driving that forward though, and I guess that’s what it is for me. The fact that major retailers approve of and want to sell my product as well is mind-blowing, that places like Mothercare would support me is a huge, huge achievement and I don’t take that for granted.
How do you juggle family life with running an international business? How do you keep the balance?
Well I don’t know whether I keep a good balance, necessarily. I know that there’s a lot of pressure to do so, and I’m blessed that I have a really supportive family. You know, the only option I give myself is to win and succeed, so that’s what I’m going to do. I was a very young mum, I had my first mortgage at 19! I studied for a degree in Business with two children under five, a mortgage, a marriage and a part-time job. It works for me because I’m good at handling pressure, I thrive on it. But sometimes I do think ‘wow, I could really use a holiday!’ [Laughter] But I really enjoy it. I don’t think anybody could handle a situation like this if they didn’t like pressure. I make room for what I want to do as well, I make time for myself, because that doesn’t just benefit me, it benefits my family and everyone around me. The key to it is definitely having a supportive network and infrastructure. If that’s not there, it’ll start having cracks appear. It just works for me!
You’ve won and been nominated for many awards over the years, what do they mean to you?
It’s actually quite humbling. I’m humbled to be given a platform to have a voice, because that’s what awards mean to me, to have a voice, and have the chance to be a role model to others. And to look at a lot of people and show them look, I can do this, I’m doing this. Awards are really there to humble you and recognise you. Everybody likes to be noticed, everybody likes to be seen and to win an award is a great compliment. So yeah, I quite like winning awards!
What one thing have you learned as a small business owner that has served you well over the years?
Listen to your gut. You are never far from the truth when you listen to your gut. It’s always served me well, and the times that I’ve questioned myself because somebody else is questioning it, I’ve always ended up worse off than before. And kicked myself afterwards, because I should have listened to myself – you should always listen to yourself. And don’t be afraid! You know, don’t be afraid to be who you are. Those are the things I try really hard to live by.
What advice would you offer anyone who is sat on an invention and doesn’t know how to take it to market?
Come and have a consultation with me, and we’ll get it on the market! I do talk to a lot of small businesses, who have inventions they want to get off the ground. But mostly though, you’ve just got to do it. You just have to go for it, because the only thing that stands in anyone’s way ultimately, is yourself. And I know people will say oh well, you need money and you need this and this and this, but if you really want to do it, there’s always people around you who can help you. And of course be careful about the people who you do have around you, but without action, there’s never going to be anything.
What are your views on the EU? Should we stay or leave? And why?
I say leave, I’m a rebel at heart! I don’t really think that the mass population really knows what staying or leaving would actually mean. But for me, I’m not 100% certain that staying or leaving really affects me or my business either way. I’ve still got to catch my planes and visit my factories and do international business, because I get up and choose to do that with or without the EU. It’s got nothing to do with world policy what we do as a country – as a country I think we’ve kind of stopped believing how amazing we actually are! We’re a tiny island and we’re so powerful, and I think it’s about time we actually united together.
Finally, what’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to our readers?
The best advice, that’s hard. I think maybe it would be don’t be afraid to seek your own truth. Nobody else can tell you what your truth is, and don’t be afraid to share your truth with others no matter what issues they have with it – you should never stop speaking because other people can’t take what you say. Other people’s emotions are not your responsibility, and that’s probably the best – and hardest – advice I’ve ever been given! It’s just business, it’s not personal. Get up, speak your truth and go and get what you want, because only you can do it.