James Caan once said to me that ‘when you have an idea, rather than simply ask people what they think about it, ask them why they think it might fail, and then you might learn something’
What inspired you to start Annabel Karmel?
I actually started working life as a musician – I was a talented harpist. I studied classical music at the Conservatoire in the Hague Holland and then continued at the Royal College of Music in London. My very first job was playing at the Savoy hotel in London, which was pretty amazing.
It was the tragedy of losing my first child Natasha, who was born healthy but who died at 13 weeks old from a viral infection that led me to change direction into the field of nutrition.
It wasn’t a diet related illness but I was understandably cautious when it came to feeding my second child Nicholas. Feeling vulnerable when he became fussy I struggled to find enticing recipes to encourage him and so set about devising my own. I shared my recipes with other mums and set about compiling a book – The Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner – which has sold over 4 million copies worldwide and is turning 25 next year.
You’ve managed to build a phenomenal global brand out of your passion. What’s your secret?
I haven’t tried to be all things to all people, I’ve always focused on what parents – especially mothers – really want to give their growing family the very best start in life. My recipes take mums through every stage of a baby and toddler’s life and are simple to make using a range of ingredients. Over the years I’ve built up a strong credibility with mums so they trust me, my recipes and my meal planners.
In the early days, how did you juggle your role as a mum with building your business? What advice would you have for women who want to do the same?
Juggling the dual demands of work with family life is no mean feat by any stretch of the imagination; I remember completing my first recipe book in between the children’s naps, managing a busy toddler group and running a house. It’s difficult keeping all the balls in the air without dropping one occasionally!
No combination of being a working mum is worry-free so my advice would be to try to keep the guilt in check – it is a waste of energy and mental capacity. Focus on the positive benefits of being your own boss and value the time you do have with your children.
One of the most important rules is to be efficient with your time. Make the most of any dead time, perhaps whilst you are on the train or in a supermarket queue. Only put the essential tasks on your to-do list so that it feels achievable, and become a meticulous planner – but also understand that you will have days where things won’t go to plan!
What’s been your biggest highlight to date?
Back in 2006, I was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for my work in the field of child nutrition. I didn’t believe it until I saw my name in the newspaper. I’m passionate about making a difference to people’s lives, and this award made me realise that there was a lot more that I wanted to do.
Another big success has been turning my popular recipes from my books into quality supermarket food ranges. There will always be times when cooking from scratch isn’t feasible, so I worked hard to create baby and toddler ranges that taste just like home and count towards a child’s 5-a-day.
What’s been the biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge was actually getting my first book published – The Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner. It was rejected by over fifteen publishing houses and each rejection letter was pretty tough. I had to keep getting up every time I was knocked down but I continued to believe in my pitch as I knew I had a well-researched product.
It was eventually published by Simon & Schuster in the US who ordered 25,000 copies and the book has since gone on to sell 4 million copies around the world, in 25 different languages.
What’s the best piece of career/ business advice you’ve ever received?
James Caan once said to me that ‘when you have an idea, rather than simply ask people what they think about it, ask them why they think it might fail, and then you might learn something’. I have never thought about my idea in this way, so it was really good to challenge my idea and see it from different perspectives.
What’s next for Annabel Karmel?
My Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner turns 25 this year which is amazing, it’s a really special milestone for me!
We also have plans for global expansion. We already have a very successful extensive range of foods in Coles supermarkets in Australia and we’re looking to export our ranges into China, Belgium and Holland so there’s some really exciting growth in the pipeline.
Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.
At The Career Stylist, we are loving Annabel’s book Mumpreneur (published by Vermillon) where she shares all her inside secrets on how you can juggle building a thriving business with being a mum. Mumpreneur is now available via Amazon. You can also check out Annabel’s Mumpreneur resource hub at www.annabelkarmel.com or connect on Twitter and Facebook.
Note from The Career Stylist Founder, life and career coach Beth Reacher:
Having recently become a Mum myself, I know how challenging it can be to juggle career and business ambitions with motherhood. I know all to well – not only through my own experiences but through the clients I have coached- that our priorities radically change when a little person is involved! Those changes often mean that we desire more autonomy, passion and creativity in our careers. I love Mumpreneur because it shows that it is absolutely possible to go on and create a thriving business and career you love AND be a mummy – the two do not have to be mutually exclusive! The book’s full of practical tips and case studies that will confidently guide and inspire you on your Mumpreneur journey.
Mother of three Annabel Karmel continues to reign as the UK’s No.1 children’s cookery author, best-selling international author, and a leading expert on devising delicious, nutritious meals for babies, children and families.
Since launching with The Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner 25 years ago – a book which has become the 2nd best-selling non-fiction hardback of all time – Annabel has written more than 41 books selling over four million copies worldwide. And new to the table this year is Annabel’s Busy Mum’s Cookbook (out now) which is full of delicious, simple recipes to wow every family member whatever their age.
Coupled with a vast digital following, recipe apps, cookbook-inspired supermarket food ranges and menus in some of the world’s top leisure resorts and hotels, Annabel has become a leading pillar for parents who want to give their growing family the very best start in life. Because of this she was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for her outstanding work in the field of child nutrition in 2006.
Whilst remaining a regular media commentator on children’s food issues, Annabel is recognised as one of the UK’s leading female entrepreneurs, becoming an inspirational role model for other rising stars, business start-ups, women in business and parents returning to work
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