I launched a business in my 40s – now it makes seven figures a year

After being diagnosed with cancer, Laura Harnett decided to launch her dream venture in her mid 40s. She shares her story and advice for budding business owners.

Our experts

We are a team of writers, experimenters and researchers providing you with the best advice with zero bias or partiality.
Written and reviewed by:

I used to have a view of what a typical founder looked like – and I felt I didn’t fit the profile. But if I’ve learned anything from my own journey, it’s that anyone can start a business, at any age. 

Now, I’m the founder of Seep, the million-pound plastic-free and biodegradable household cleaning range that’s helping to curb microplastic pollution and diminish plastic waste. But I didn’t start out on top. I grew up in South Wales and was state school educated. 

As a young girl, I was conscientious, competitive and curious – traits which may have been an indication of an entrepreneurial streak, though I didn’t know it then. I didn’t have an entrepreneurial family but was always keen on being involved in small schemes in my neighbourhood, like charging people who wanted to visit local gardens.

I took the more typical route of leaving university, finding a stable job and spent two decades working for large consumer brands and retailers. But I didn’t dare to become a founder.

“Cancer made me stop and reflect”

Everything changed when I faced a turning point five years ago. I was diagnosed and treated for breast cancer, and I had to slow everything down. It was undoubtedly a challenging part of my life, but it served as a chance to reflect and figure out what I really wanted to do. 

Up until that point, I’d always been a full-time working mum. I was able to spend more time with my two young children. I also had the opportunity to get involved with some angel investing in a small way, which opened my eyes to startups. 

I always felt that startups were a game for young people. But then I read a Harvard Business Review article that completely debunked that myth. 

It said that when you look at the most successful firms, the average founder age goes up, and that overall, evidence shows that successful entrepreneurs tend to be middle-aged, not young. 

“My aha moment came during the weekly shop”

The biggest reason new businesses fail is because there’s no need for that product or service. More important than age or experience is to find a true gap in the market. 

My ‘aha’ moment for Seep came during my local supermarket shop. When I do the weekly shop, I always try to choose products that are friendly to the planet and that are organic or recycled. 

In the cleaning aisle, I noticed that it was easy to find eco brands when it came to products like detergent. But household essentials such as bin liners and sponges haven’t changed in years. Sponges are plastic and only used a handful of times before releasing microplastics down the sink and ending up in the bin, where they will either be burnt in an incinerator or go to landfill. 

The experience in the supermarket kept niggling away at me and I knew if I didn’t take the chance someone else might. I didn’t want to live with regret. 

I called a trusted friend for her advice and set myself three months to carry out some competitor analysis, as well as create a cash forecast and a timeline for getting it up and running.

Once I spotted the opportunity, I just lost the fear. I knew I wanted to build something that I was truly passionate about – and that makes all the difference. 

On a mission

At Seep, we want to stop one billion plastic cleaning tools from entering landfill by 2030. All of our messaging revolves around this one mission statement

Our mantra is ‘do no harm’. Whatever we’re using to create our products should leave no trace behind. At the end of our sponge’s life, you can cut them up, and put them on top of your compost heap, and they should decompose in under three months. 

We’re available at major retailers including Whole Foods and Selfridges, but ecommerce is a vital part of our strategy – and that’s why we also started selling on Amazon in 2022. Amazon sales now make up a third of our business, and we wouldn’t have reached the million mark without it.

I’m proud to say that we were recognised as one of the ‘Best for the World’ B-Corp certified companies in 2022. We won the Startups 100 Sustainability Award in 2024 and were one of 10 European brands to be selected for the Amazon Sustainability Accelerator.

“I’ve become comfortable with risks”

Our commitment to sustainability and innovation has propelled Seep to significant growth, demonstrating that there’s a burgeoning market for environmentally conscious products. 

Today, we generate an annual £1M in revenue and have 80-90% YoY growth. We’ve raised £750k in seed funding and leveraged our store to disrupt the household cleaning category. 

Amazon has also made it easier to test new markets, as we don’t have the distribution to do it ourselves. We’ve started doing this with the EU, and it’s how we plan to expand to North America in future. As we expand, we hope to inspire positive change in the way we clean our homes, leaving behind a cleaner, greener planet for future generations.

It takes a lot of courage to start a business. Before launching Seep, I hadn’t ventured into entrepreneurship. However, through this journey, I’ve become more comfortable with taking risks in life. 

Ultimately, my advice to other business owners is to find your own convictions. Even if you fail, you never know where those risks might take you.

Written by:

Leave a comment

Leave a reply

We value your comments but kindly requests all posts are on topic, constructive and respectful. Please review our commenting policy.

Back to Top