Marie Farmer worked for an ad agency and in PR before she started her own business with help from The Prince’s Trust. Wanting a flexible job that she was truly passionate about, it was the birth of her son that inspired Marie to sign up to the enterprise course.
“I wanted to start my own business and had no idea where to start, but then I remembered learning about The Prince’s Trust at an ad agency I used to work for. Because of its reputation, I knew the Enterprise programme wouldn’t be something dodgy. Plus, the course was free!
“I started the Enterprise course in 2017 and found the four days really exhilarating. It was nice being in a room of people who had lots of ideas and who also wanted to start their own businesses. The classes on SEO and business-building were particularly helpful to me. I took the course really seriously and worked hard. It took me a year to get to panel - it was a long process - but I was committed and wanted to do it properly.
“There was a year when I couldn’t do anything on the busines and I felt really down, but, towards the end of that year, I got my proper business mentor who was amazing and is still very supportive. He gives sound advice and honest feedback. He’s very good at bringing up the things I don’t want to talk about and he shines a light on everything I need to do which is very helpful. I’m the only person who works on the business full-time and there are no co-founders. There are other people working on small sections of it but I’m the only one who looks at the whole picture and makes strategic decisions so it’s helpful to have a sounding board like Dan, my mentor.”
Marie now runs Mini Mealtimes, an app designed to help parents ensure they’re giving healthy food to their children.
“I wanted my son to be healthy but found that exploring different food options was a minefield. For a while, we thought he had bone cancer as he was having some unusual symptoms. There was a three-month period when we didn’t know what was going on. Luckily, he didn’t have cancer, but it was awful at the time. They asked us to monitor what he was eating and it was hard to write everything down and monitor every meal when I had so much else going on too. That’s where the idea for the app came from.
“I wanted a tool that would give me both control and knowledge. I spent a long time trying to find someone to help me build the app and find funding. Eventually, I won a couple of grants which gave me a starting point.
“We launched officially at the end of January 2020. It’s been a really interesting year because peoples eating habits have changed so much and they’re cooking far more. Early nutrition is crucial to our make-up and affects us for a long time. Parents are under a lot of pressure and it can be hard to see through the marketing and find the healthiest products. The main aim of the app is to make it easier for parents to find healthy options. You scan the barcode of the food in a supermarket and search our database for the nutritional information you need. We also have suggested recipes to help parents create balanced meals.”
Marie has big plans for the future and is currently seeking funding so that she can hire more people to work on the app.
“I want every parent to be using Mini Mealtimes and I’d love to become a trusted source on child nutrition. I’d also like to plug into school and nursery lunch databases, so parents can get a complete overview of what their child is eating.