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Product idea #11: Sniffy Wiffy Beauty Products

The mumpreneur talks about her business journey so far, from her ‘lightbulb’ idea to getting her ‘product with a purpose’ to the market…

Founder: Sarah Parkins
Location: Cambridge
Date launched: September 2014
The product: Educating body lotion

Although founder Sarah Parkins never planned to be an entrepreneur, after a “lightbulb” moment she knew she had to create her potentially life-saving product business.

Sniffy Wiffy Beauty Products are more than great smelling and naturally made lotions – they teach women (and more recently men) how to perform important medical self-examination checks. Founder Parkins came up with the idea while watching Embarrassing Bodies and now has hopes to expand the business.

To date the business is completely self-funded, with Parkins determinedly working part-time jobs to fund her start-up – which she emphasises is worth it due to the business’ mission.

And although it’s early days, the business is already gaining recognition – winning an award at the recent The Festival of Female Entrepreneurs and adding three stockists to its sales channels.

Each Sniffy Wiffy cream contains only five ingredients and is entirely homemade, with customers given the option to personally tailor their fragrance selection. Every product comes with easy-to-follow directions to educate/remind the owner of a cancer check (applying cream is the best time to do a check) and the business donates a percentage of each sale towards cancer charities Coppa Feel and BallBoys.

Parkins discusses the challenges of juggling a start-up, part-time jobs and a full time family, and her hopes of eventually seeing her product translated into different languages.

Can you briefly describe your background Sarah?

My background is a degree in law but having my first child relatively soon after finishing university saw me trying to juggle motherhood with work and consequently embark on various part time positions.

Whilst I never had a burning desire to run my own business, I did find this quite an attractive prospect and had a really strong feeling that there was an idea within me that was just waiting to come out!

Where did the idea for Sniffy Wiffy Beauty Products come from?

Largely from watching Dr Dawn Harper on Channel 4’s Embarrassing Bodies demonstrate the steps involved in performing a self-breast examination to detect early signs of cancer. My first thought was that I would never remember all of these steps by the time I got to the bathroom.

Then after hearing that a good time to perform a check is while applying body lotion, I had a ‘lightbulb’ moment and decided to create my own lotions with this vital labelling to act either as an educational tool for women or simply as a reminder for those that already knew how to perform checks – a case of my products being in the ‘right place at the right time’.

Describe how your beauty products are disrupting the marketplace?

No other products are labelled in this way. This makes them – and the idea to do so – totally unique. They also contain a maximum of five ingredients and are homemade, and ordering online allows customers to tailor-make their product which I then make fresh-to-order.

What market research did you conduct to learn more about the skincare sector?

I found that the most valuable market research was to create the product and take it to local craft fairs and simply ask my customers questions/their opinions. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive but also very informative and definitely influenced things like the packaging, the type of fragrances to offer etc.

Significantly, it also led me to develop a male range addressing testicular cancer – so many people suggested this and it seemed like a natural progression from the female range. Social media is also a very valuable market research tool – a quick, simple way to ask questions/gain feedback.

How did you finance Sniffy Wiffy Beauty Products?body lotion sniffy wiffydpi

This has been tricky in that I have funded it entirely myself but was not fortunate enough to have any savings to dig into in order to do so. I therefore hold down three part-time jobs whilst also running Sniffy Wiffy and though this is very tough, I have such a strong belief in Sniffy Wiffy that I am happy to do so.

I would be really receptive to help with funding but my experience has been that because I have missed the 18-30 boat and my business is not high-tech, there do not seem to be many options open to me. I am happy to be proved wrong here!

Describe your business journey to date, from having the idea for your products to bringing them to the market.

This has effectively been a two year journey. I had the idea and then had to spend time learning to make the creams and lotions. After that I had to complete safety assessments and get to grips with the relevant legislation.

I spent two years attending fairs to getting valuable feedback. With my other jobs and two children, progress was slower than I would have liked; but once my husband and I had built the website, this gave us a platform to start from and following the launch of this in September things have taken off very quickly.

How do you distribute Sniffy Wiffy Beauty Products – is it exclusively online or is it currently stocked elsewhere?

Customers can buy online, and I also still sell at craft fairs and through Beauty Crowd and gift shops. Ultimately, I would love to see this stocked in a big store as this would be a brilliant way of reaching men and women with the message and guidance about how to perform testicular and breast checks.

Do you have plans to take Sniffy Wiffy Beauty Products overseas?

This is something that would be amazing and that I would be very interested in doing as sadly, cancer is a universal disease. To have Sniffy Wiffy translated into different languages and reach men and women everywhere is certainly the dream.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs considering launching their own beauty product business?

I have recently written an e-book addressing just this, although from the point of view of a ‘mumpreneur’. The main message is, with enough determination, you can do it.

Beauty products do require safety assessments and various legal hurdles so be prepared for this as compliance is vital.

Go with your instincts and if you feel you have a really good, unique idea then it is worth the many hours you will need to put into it!

What are Sniffy Wiffy Beauty Products' future plans?

Obviously all businesses want to grow, but for me, growth is so important as it means being able to donate more to charity and also making more people receptive to the idea of self-examination. I want to ‘normalise’ self-examination and make it something that everyone does as early detection of these two frighteningly common cancers can have such a dramatic difference in terms of outcome.

So put simply, the more we can grow, the more people will check their breasts and testicles. This can only be a good thing. I am also working on a range of products suitable for those who are going through, or who have gone through, chemotherapy, as this tends to affect the skin. 


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