Founder, Little Ones
Where are you from and what brought you to Shanghai?
I was born in Hong Kong, partially raised in Canada, and worked in London before moving to Shanghai.
The story of what brought me to Shanghai dates back to 2015. I came to China for a wedding and had a couple of days free in Shanghai. At that time, I worked in the beauty industry and I was at a crossroad between staying there and pursuing a new career in food - something that I love and care about. I just couldn’t see myself selling lipsticks until I’m 60.
Thanks to the wedding, I had a chance to visit China and thought: why not cold call a few people working in the food industry and get some perspective? So that’s what I did.
One of those meetings unexpectedly turned into a job offer. I said yes and moved to Shanghai in 2016 to build new brands at Cargill, where I worked until late 2018.
Can you tell us about Little Ones and how you came up with the concept?
Little Ones is China’s first fresh baby and toddler meal delivery service.
We use over 50 natural and organic ingredients to create nutritious, paediatrician approved meals. Our meals are customised to age, teething, nutrition, and motor skill needs at each growing stage.
Based on each baby’s dietary profile, we offer a selection of meals. We cook them fresh and deliver directly to homes each week.
The concept of Little Ones came from the parents themselves.
After I left Cargill, I conducted a series of focus groups and surveys with parents, hoping to understand their lifestyle and baby weaning needs. Parents wanted a break from cooking and meal solutions that are guaranteed to be fresh, natural and nutritious. I knew immediately that we needed to solve this problem and so I started Little Ones.
I believe that businesses should be founded on solid consumer needs. My background is marketing, and consumer insight is everything that drives our business and product directions.
Last year was a very busy year for you. What have you learned during your first year of business?
There are so many things! I’ll keep it short with two things that stand out for me.
1) Don’t follow a textbook
Most of my career was spent working in Multi National Corporations, where everything is planned and forecasted even 3 years ahead. Everything was planned in advance based on certain management templates or rulebooks. We had the luxury to do that because we had a very established system of operations and management, as well as huge teams to support that.
When it comes to start ups, excel can forecast, powerpoint can tell stories, but none of them are reality. Always be prepared for a rapid situational change (things can change within days, especially in China) and always have a Plan B. You should always have multiple scenarios in mind, and be agile enough to change, adapt and execute on the go.
2) Hustle and Be Strong!!!
A quote from the founder of Lao Gan Ma sauce (an extraordinary story in itself) left a strong impression on me: “If you’re not strong, no one is there to be strong for you.”
And nothing ever works if you don’t hustle for it. You just have to break out of your comfort zone to hustle, accept and overcome challenges, and learn to sell.
Tell us about winning CCI France Chine’s 7th Edition Investment Club's Pitch Day
First of all, I encourage all budding entrepreneurs to apply for CCI’s Investors Club Pitch Day competition. The 2 weeks following our first pitch felt like a mini accelerator program. We were blessed with many suggestions and advice from CCI’s experienced panel of judges. Everyone involved in the Pitch Day was very open and supportive – it was a great experience.
As part of the competition, we got one training session where a panel of judges listened to our pitches and raised questions and advice about our projections, business model and the likes. One piece of advice particularly hit home: you need to get out there and offer samples to more consumers, thousands of them, before you can really find the formula and method that fine tunes your offering. What 100 people tell you might not be what 1,000 people want. To quote, “try your model until the point you cannot scale.”
When raising for funds, it’s a common mistake to present your case from a market perspective. We certainly did that. Pitch Day changed our perspective by making us review our project from an investor’s point of view. That helped us rethink our business assumptions and phase strategies.
What goals have you set for this year and how are you working to reach them?
We have much to work on this year. I’ll name two major goals we’re focusing on.
When we founded Little Ones, we didn’t just want to offer healthy, nutritious foods for babies, we also wanted to help make parenthood easier.
As such, one big focus this year will be building a Little Ones community.
We want to empower parents not just with nutritious foods, but also with practical parenting and paediatric knowledge, given by experts, as well as sharing by fellow members that can help address the questions, emotional ups and downs of parenthood. We also plan to work with corporations and offer knowledge sharing, parenting talks and subscription plans.
Product wise, there are a few areas we are working on.
One demand I hear a lot from parents is healthy toddler snacks. We’ll be working towards that and hope to offer exciting, healthy snacks to older toddlers during the year.
Picky eating is something that troubles many parents, and we’re working to hack that, with the help of food research and palette science. One of our goals this year is to reach 100% kids satisfaction guarantee.
What advice or encouragement would you give to other aspiring entrepreneurs?
1. Get Out There Early
Every entrepreneur is obsessed with the product, and rightly so. But getting yourself out there early is critical to building a good product. It’s easy to get shy and think: the product is not perfect, it’s not good enough to meet the world yet. That was my problem too. I spent a lot of time perfecting the product when I could have tested and launched a couple of months earlier. In the end your product will have to change anyway. It will go through many “mutations” until you arrive at a satisfactory and scalable form. It’s better to do it with many user's feedback than limited evaluations slowly, slowly.
And don’t worry: if your proposition is strong and people desire your offer, they will help you to make the right product. So get out there early, speak to people, let them try your Minimal Viable Products, and keep improving along.
2. Be Obsessed with Your Consumer
Listen to your clients, always. You should be obsessed with what they think and how they feel about your brand or service, and whether there are unmet needs within your service category. Appreciate and learn to love ALL the bad comments because they help you improve. Always listen, probe and see how you can better service them and / or remove the problem that you seek to resolve.
3. Remember the Bad, Celebrate the Good
When you’re having a 12 hour work day, many things can happen within a day. The first 2 hours might be filled with good news, and then bad news at noon, and then the rest was okay, and then some other problems emerge before the day closes.
It’s very easy to get drowned in the bad news because you feel deeply personal about your business. But it’s very important to remember and celebrate the good news you receive each day. It helps to gain some perspective, understand what worked, and cheer yourself up to march on another day.
Regarding bad news, learn from your mistakes and move on. Don’t spend more time thinking how bad it is, or what you could have done. Face the reality, make adjustments, and get on with it. It takes a lot of mental strength to manage your business; being mindful helps you overcome stress and focus on action.
If you would like to find out more about Little Ones you can find them at: