Dominique recently started her new business, The Woolf’s Kitchen, selling a range of versatile, spicy sauces inspired by her Thai roots. Launching during lockdown with three young kids and no childcare has meant the kids coming on deliveries and even to meetings with her. In just two months she is already stocked in over 20 independents, and is currently developing a new product range.
How did you balance being a mother and professional?
It’s been tough, particularly with three kids (3, 4 and 6) and no childcare during lockdown! I launched The Woolf’s Kitchen during the pandemic, so I have had to carve out time whenever I can, even if it’s just 5 minutes here and there, or when the kids are watching TV. They’ve come with me on deliveries and even to a couple of meetings! I try and set goals for the week and I’m constantly thinking: what one thing can I do to move the dial today? And that really helps focus me. At the moment, the balance isn’t perfect and my house is messier than I’d like it to be, but I’m OK with that!
What have you sacrificed (both personally and professionally) at each stage of your career?
My career in food is very new, but as a start-up, it’s all-consuming. I think you have to be single-minded to succeed as an entrepreneur, and with your own business it’s very hard to switch off. We went on holiday recently and I spent much of the time working. I was excited to have the chance to get stuck in, but obviously it meant I wasn’t as present for my kids. I’m working most evenings as well which means my husband is spending a lot of time on his own watching Netflix!
Who inspired you and why?
I love hearing stories about successful entrepreneurs, whether Pip Murray of Pip and Nut, Sara Blakely of Spanx or other foodpreneurs like James Watt of Brewdog, who have done exceptionally well. I love hearing how they got to where they are and it inspires me to follow in their footsteps. Holly Tucker’s podcasts ‘Conversations of Inspiration’ are a great resource.
What advice would you give to young women who want to succeed in the workplace?
Be bold, be confident and believe in yourself. Become knowledgeable about whatever area you’re in. Be a sponge and learn as much as you can, whether that means additional training, reading or whatever is applicable to where you are now. Always strive for better and put in what you want to get out. Mindset is everything, so keep up with the personal development.
Do you think women feel intimidated in business?
I think they can do, for many reasons – whether fear of failure, imposter syndrome or not having the confidence to put themselves out there. I run a networking group called Creative and Entrepreneurial Women in Crouch End, where I live, and mothers in particular often lose confidence after taking time out to have kids. They feel deskilled and frequently don’t know how to build a new career.
Where will we find you on a Saturday morning at 10 a.m.?
With three young kids, it’s often a struggle to get out of the house. You’ll probably find me running around, trying to get everyone dressed to go to the park!
What do you love about your job?
I love pushing The Woolf’s Kitchen brand out there and getting sales. Picking up the phone can be daunting at first but once people taste the product, they love it and want to order, which is a fantastic feeling. I’m thrilled with the traction it’s getting. I also love the product development side, and am constantly working on the next stage. I am passionate about my sauces and having the opportunity to create a career out of it is amazing.
What’s the best career decision you’ve ever made?
To start a food business.
What’s the worst career decision you’ve ever made?
Giving up full-time employment to try and make a career in music. It didn’t work out! Having said that, I wouldn’t be here now if I hadn’t made that decision, and I learnt a lot of valuable skills along the way such as networking, resilience and the ability to put yourself out there.
What would you be doing if you were me now?
I’d be heading down to amazing deli, Herbie of Edinburgh. Word has it they stock the full range of The Woolf’s Kitchen sauces!
How do you organise your time?
The truth is, life at home with the kids is pretty hectic! I love creating to-do lists but without childcare, I just have to wing it and steal moments when I can. If I’m lucky to get a few hours to myself, I work on the most urgent things, as well as the activities which will help push the business forward. Pre-lockdown when the kids were at school and nursery, I’d write my list for the week and try to give myself hourly slots. I didn’t always stick to it rigidly, but it really helped focus and cut through the fog. I also try to write my monthly plans and goals in a planner.
What do you think is your greatest strength?
Focus and determination – when I’ve got my eye on a goal I really go for it.
What do you think is your greatest weakness?
I’m incredibly messy
How do you make decisions?
I like to research and get as much info as possible, and I often take my time. For big decisions I use my husband as a sounding board – that really helps me take a more objective stance on things.
What do you read?
I’m going through a phase of reading positive mindset books like Think and Grow Rich by Napolean Hill and the 7 Habits of Highly Successful People. I must admit, I don’t always finish them, but they give me enough of a boost to get me moving in the right direction. If I’m on holiday, I do love a good crime thriller as well.
What do you think are the secrets behind getting to where you’ve got to?
Definitely the focus and determination I mentioned before. After having had kids, I completely lost my identity and was in total limbo both personally and professionally. However, once I found my purpose and realised I wanted to create a food brand, everything changed. I got my mojo back, and felt like a different person. From that point on, it was full steam ahead. I used to work in sales and recruitment, and the skills I learnt in those jobs have definitely been put to good use. I’ve got big plans for The Woolf’s Kitchen and I’m super excited about what the future holds.