My Early Hour: Milly Cundall, founder of Kidchup

When her son was one and going through a fussy eating stage, Milly Cundall was shocked to see him helping himself to chips and Ketchup. She went home, created a healthier; refined sugar-free version and launched her business, Kidchup…

Milly Cundall, 39, lives in north London’s Stoke Newington with her four-year-old son Archie. She’s the founder of healthy tomato sauce brand Kidchup

What’s your home like?
We’ve recently moved into a top floor flat in a lovely bright 70s block – the space is bathed in natural light with beautiful parquet floors. The décor is a bit of a mish mash, a bit Scandinavian and a bit retro – I seem to be drawn to blue velvet furnishings and chrome accessories in times of turmoil!

What time are you up in the morning?
Between 5.30-6.40 – on a good day.

What wakes you up? My son bounding in insisting he’s hungry and in need of breakfast.

How do you feel?
The morning is my favourite part of the day but these days, more often than not, I’m shattered so it takes me a minute to find my groove. Once I’ve been harangued out of bed and I’m up, I’m fine.

What do you do first thing?
Check my phone to see what’s come in overnight before going to the kitchen, making myself a coffee and Archie some porridge.

In three words, describe mornings in your home?
A happy hectic juggle.

Tea or coffee?
Always very punchy coffee.

How might the rest of your day pan out?
If it’s a weekday and I have Arch, I’ll drive him to school and, all being well, hit the gym before driving home and starting work. I’ll then work through until pickup then it’s back to mum-mode until he’s in bed at 7ish. I give myself some time to tidy, catch my breath and process the day before probably working for another hour or so. I’m usually in bed by 10pm with a book or something on Netflix.

What’s your workspace like?
I’ve worked from home for the past five years but I’ve just started to hot desk one day or so a week in a local co-working space. The workspace is small but light, airy and full of interesting people.

Where’s Archie when you’re working?
Archie’s just started school so that’s him until 3.20pm.

Tell us about your business: when did you launch, and how/why did it come about?
Kidchup wasn’t an overnight thing it was all very organic. I’d always blogged over the years and, most recently, been more focused on the food side of things. Back in 2015 when Archie was about a year old and going through a fussy eating stage, we were on a weekend away and I remember feeling very flat and, in my sleep deprived state, taking his disinterest in food incredibly personally. I couldn’t get him to eat and it really upset me. Now I know better but at the time it was killer.

We were in the hotel restaurant and I ordered some chips for myself and, naturally, they came with Ketchup. I turned away for a minute only to turn back and find Arch happily helping himself to my chips and dipping them gleefully into Heinz Ketchup. I was elated and horrified. As a mum who was determined to cook everything from scratch and keep him away from sugar where humanly possible to then see him digging into sugar-laced Heinz was a shocker but there was just no denying the joy on his face.

When I then couldn’t find a ketchup on the market that was super low in sugar, didn’t use sweeteners and tasted great, I decided to make my own for us to use at home. I actually posted the recipe on my food blog but then other parents started asking me to make it for them and the rest is history. Once I realised it could actually be a thing I then set about testing it out on as many kids as I could and spent about nine months tweaking it, testing it and tweaking it. I wanted to create something completely natural with no refined sugar that offered parents an alternative to the market leader. And here I am.

What’s the greatest challenge when running your own business?
There are so many! I think simultaneously being able to keep an eye on both the minute details as well as the huge stuff is immensely challenging. I’ve been working on Kidchup solo for 3+ years and I always find it challenging not to have someone else to bounce ideas off or share the load. Sometimes when the going is immensely challenging it’s hard to know if you should trust your gut, keep going and chalk it down to a shit month or if it’s really time to call it a day and throw in the towel.

What makes it all worthwhile?
Seeing kids’ reactions to Kidchup and hearing from parents who are now so happy to have something to replace Heinz with. Also, knowing that I am building a long-term future for me and Archie.

Are there aspects of the production that you delegate to others; do you enjoy, for instance, the creative side but not the accounts?
I no longer make the sauces myself which was a massive relief. I used to make them in massive pots in my kitchen, which was incredibly time consuming. It got to the point where I just couldn’t keep up with demand and grow the business if I spent half my time stood at my stove. I love creative and strategic thinking, which was my career before Kidchup. I loathe admin and accounts and I tend to put them off for as long as possible, which usually bites me in the arse.

Are you a happy lone worker, or do you enjoy the buzz of a shared workspace?
As a newly single mum, I’ve found I need to be around people during the day in some shape or form or I can go days without proper adult company or conversation. I also like to keep my head down when I work so for me a couple of days working from home and a couple of days in a co-working space are the best mix.

What’s the secret to career success?
Trust your gut and don’t follow the herd. What’s right for one person isn’t for another and success looks different for everyone – you’ll be miserable if you try and force yourself to do something you think you should rather than something you love. Sometimes you just have to be brutally honest with yourself. I also think there’s a lot to be said for portfolio careers as what you love in your twenties just doesn’t do it for you in your thirties.

Is the juggle real for you… do you find it difficult balancing parenting/me-time/time for friends/career?
Yes, it can be gruelling. I tend to find it’s all or nothing and I lack the foresight to make space for myself in all the chaos – I’ve yet to meet a mum who doesn’t feel the same. In fact, I often find ‘me time’ is the very bottom of my list of priorities because when you’re stretched for time it can feel unjustifiable and even indulgent to take time out for yourself – that’s until the wheels come off in some shape or form and you wished you’d had the bloody foresight to see it coming. Now Archie’s dad has him every other weekend balance is coming back and I have to say I have a great social life, which helps keep me topped up and definitely makes me a better mum.

Describe an ideal weekend?
Slow mornings followed by mooching about exploring and eating great food then, if I’m kid free, a nice pub in the evening.

If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?

Buy Kidchup
Follow Milly on Instagram: @millyskidchup