Tuesday, 2 August 2011

My Mumpreneur of the Month: Michelle Daniells from Benjoy Nutrition Ltd

1. Can you quickly introduce yourself to our readers?

I’m Michelle Daniells, mother of Benoit (5) & Amelie (18 months) and the founder of new children’s nutrition company, Benjoy Nutrition Ltd. We develop really healthy, delicious and handy snacks for young children (from 1 year+) and sell them in our amazing, anti-spill, less mess MUNCHCUPS.

2. When and why did you decide you decide to become your own boss?

When my son Ben started on solid foods in 2008, I soon realised he was a very fussy eater. I was constantly worried about his diet and struggled to find the time to prepare home made food for him all the time. He preferred “snacking” to eating his main meals and I tried to find healthy, convenient, packaged snack foods that were appropriate for him as a toddler. 

I was not happy with the choice, ingredients and nutritional value of most of the products available and realised that all my mummy friends shared similar concerns. We were all giving our children foods like breadsticks, savoury biscuits and crackers, and even breakfast cereals as snacks because we wanted to avoid things like crisps, sweets and biscuits as much as possible. There were many occasions where we were giving our children packaged snacks that were convenient, but not healthy and we were feeling guilty about this.

I had lots of ideas for snack foods that would be better for young children and started to develop these, along with professional children’s nutrition experts and food bioscience academics. I was also keen to address other problems I had encountered with young children’s snacks such as portion sizes being too large and the mess created when children spill conventional bags and boxes of snacks.

I have always been driven by doing something useful and am also very interested in food and cooking. I had diet and weight problems when I was younger that have had a lifelong impact on me and I felt passionate about creating tasty and nutritious foods that would help to make parents lives easier and children’s diets better. I wanted to help parents feel less stressed and guilty about their children and free up more time to spend with their special little people. 

3. What sort of products do you produce and sell? And which one is your absolute favourite?

We produce a range of nutritious snacks including crunchy strawberry & grape slices (100% pure fruit), multigrain bites (little puffs coated in fruit & vegetable juices), multigrain munchers (mixed grain and seed toasts with vegetables) and root vegetable crisps (unsalted). All our products are made from 10% natural ingredients and have no added salt or sugar. 

My favourite is the root vegetable crisps. People can’t believe they have absolutely no salt added. We selected the tastiest root vegetables (parsnip, beetroot, carrot & sweet potato) and use no potato, which is quite bland. Most children love crisps, but they contain far too much salt and it’s great that we have developed something so delicious as a great alternative. Children and parents love them and parents don’t have to feel guilty about giving them to their kids – it’s a real win-win. They are also high in Vitamin A, which is an added benefit. People keep asking when we are going to supply them in large bags.

4. How do you juggle being a successful business woman and a mum and wife?

I admit I haven’t always been successful at getting the work/family balance right. After spending months feeling constantly stressed and guilty, I finally found techniques that helped and I made peace with myself.  For example I try hard not to work during the day at weekends and other times when the children are around and I do a lot of work after they have gone to bed.  I strive to separate family and work life so that each gets my full attention when it’s their turn. It doesn’t always work, but when I am trying to look after the children and take a work call, I somehow manage to wipe my son’s bottom or feed my daughter and sound professional and competent on the phone at the same time!! 

Maintaining a strong sense of humour and perspective has helped a lot!  I make sure family time is quality time when we do loads of fun stuff and I’ve become quite good at switching off from work. This means my children are getting enough time, attention and engagement from me when we are together. I try hard not to feel guilty and don’t beat myself up when I have to work during family time occasionally.  It helps that my kids are very happy and my relationship with them is just what I would want it to be.  Contrary to popular opinion I believe it is possible to be a brilliant mum and a brilliant business person (just not concurrently!).

As any working mum knows, childcare is always a huge challenge. My mum has been a great support and helps out a couple of days a week and the children go to a great nursery that I am very happy with (so I don’t feel worried or guilty about sending them there). 18 months ago my husband had to go and work overseas and to be honest, whilst it makes life hard on the one hand and I feel like a single parent, it has also meant I don’t feel torn in too many different directions because I only have to focus on the kids and the business and don’t feel like I’m neglecting him. He’s due back in the UK next month, so let’s see how we cope then!

5. Is there anything you wish you'd known before becoming a mumpreneur or wish you'd done differently?

At times I’ve said I wish I’d known how hard this was going to be, but I don’t regret it and if I had known I might not have done it and taken the huge risks I have done. Because I am doing something that is really close to my heart and directly related to my children’s well-being and that of other kids, it has all been worth it. It would have made the journey easier if I’d had more experience in some areas though.

I’m new to the food sector and my lack or experience has mean it’s been a huge learning curve. It would have been good to have know what some of the challenges were going to be so that I could have been more prepared: things like how the big supermarkets operate and all the complexities involved with sourcing and packing foods. We’ve done extremely well getting into the likes of Morrisons and Waitrose already, but it could have been easier. I’m not a packaging expert either, but have developed the world’s first anti-spill snacks packaging and feel very proud of that. I also had to raise external investment, which I had never done before, and that was incredibly challenging and stressful.

I’ve learned a lot and would have done things a bit differently with our fundraising. I got into hot water when an investor pulled out at the last minute and that was really scary.

What do I wish I had done differently? I wish I had taken more time to select some of the people who worked for me in the early days. Some were brilliant, but others were not good value and I should have checked out their backgrounds and references in more detail. You live and learn!

6. What do you love most about your job and what are your plans for the future?

I love all the positive feedback we get from parents and carers about our products.  Once people have tried them and understand how nutritious they are, they are so pleased that they send us loads of lovely messages.  It has been a hard road (and continues to be, as we grow and develop new products) but it’s amazing to see our products on supermarket shelves and know that children and parents are enjoying what we have put our hearts and souls into.

Future plans for the business are to grow our distribution so that our products are available where parents need them.  This includes venues like cafes, airports, petrol stations and leisure centres.  We also have loads of exciting ideas for new products that we hope to introduce soon.  Personally, my plans are to lose weight, go cycling every day (like I used to in my life before children and Benjoy) and to grow the Benjoy team so that I can take more holidays!

If you love the sound of Benjoy's healthy snacks, pop around tomorrow for this month's Mumpreneur of the Month giveaway. This time, we have one big first prize and two runner-ups.


  1. Well done Michelle, what a fab product and I love the new packaging. Wish you every success in the future.

  2. Love it Michelle, very proud of you, well done and good luck the future looks bright for Benjoy :-) Sam in Aus

  3. well done Michelle!

  4. Good luck to you. I can totally agree that its hard to find nutritious snacks for little ones. My little angel is also a fussy eater who seems to like anything that is bad for her!



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