Interview with Liz Barnes
“Know what your weaknesses are and seek help in that area.” – Liz Barnes
Today we feature Liz:Barnes, the founder at SwetWipes Ltd. We hear their story in their own words, their successes, their challenges and their insights.
Let’s start by getting to know you. Can you please tell us a little bit about you and what you do?
I’m Liz, the founder and Managing Director of SwetWipes Ltd. A UK company providing extra-large, antibacterial and biodegradable body hygiene wipes for use whenever you can’t shower or bath for any reason.
A great introduction and start to this interview. Can you please tell us, how did you start, from what age, and what made you decide to change direction and start?
The business was started in 2020 after I saw a gap in the market for a personal body wipe that removed the bacteria that cause body odour. I was working as a medical rep at the time, selling antibacterial products used for preparing the skin prior to surgery.
NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) released guidance in 2019 that Chlorhexidine (the key ingredient in our wipes) was the most effective product to cleanse the skin prior to surgery (because of the number of bacteria it removes) and led to the least amount of post-operative site infections.
I realised that if everyone had access to a safe level of this ingredient in a personal wipe, that they could use this to remove the bacteria that cause body odour. The in-depth knowledge that I gained in this role allowed me to formulate my own antibacterial wipe based on this evidence.
Thank you for that insight. So can you tell us…What does your business do and where is your company based?
We provide packs of coconut-scented, extra-large body cleansing wipes that can be used all over the body (except the face) to remove dirt, sweat and body odour. Our wipes are both antibacterial but most importantly, Biodegradable.
They are plastic-free (they are made from plant fibres) and can be composted. We are based in Lewes, East Sussex but sell to the whole of the UK from our website www.swetwipes.com
What’s the story behind your success? What led to your aha moment? how did you get to where you are now?
I have always been entrepreneurial having set up a small business (aged just 14) buying and selling free-range eggs, which I then distributed to my neighbours in a child’s buggy! After Uni, I then worked in Media sales for 10 years before changing career and working as a medical rep.
After my children were born in 2009, I left work as a medical rep to set up and run another business manufacturing and selling ladies swimwear to allow me to work more flexibly and be my own boss again.
I sold this in 2018 and returned to work as a medical rep for a couple of years until I started SwetWipes. I’m an ideas person and am always looking to solve problems. Working for myself allows me to fulfil this side of my personality. I’ve always surrounded myself with positive people who support my ideas and enthusiasm. If you believe you can – you can!
Thank you for sharing that. What’s been your life’s biggest lesson so far?
My biggest challenge in business so far has been the impact that COVID initially had on SwetWipes. Our wipes were originally developed for sporty types to use between gym sessions, after sweaty runs and bike rides and for on the go people that were trying to cram too much into their life.
Our first delivery of stock (delivered to Amazon), coincided with Lockdown V1 and all of a sudden, no one was leading this sort of life anymore. Everyone was well within arm’s reach of a shower and I thought ‘I’ve invented a product that no one wants or needs’.
However, the global shortage of hand sanitiser meant that people were just looking for anything to clean their hands with and a year’s worth of stock sold out in 6 weeks.
After the initial panic buying subsided though, my next batch of stock just sat in the warehouse. A worrying couple of weeks ensued where I wondered if I had made the biggest mistake of my life.
Then I started to get emails from disabled, bed-bound and elderly people that were using my wipes because they had stumbled across them on Amazon or been given them by family members.
They started to call my wipes ‘a Godsend’ ‘A lifesaver’ or ‘Amazing!’ I quickly realised that I had massively overlooked this enormous section of the public who physically can’t shower for one reason or another. It was an eye-opener for me because, until that point, I had concentrated all my focus on who I ‘thought’ might like these wipes.
Once I concentrated my time on those that ‘needed’ them and found that they solved their problems, the business picked up. Disabled, elderly, bed-bound and post-operative patients now make up 80% of my customers.
It’s made me realise how important it is to find the potential problems your product solves and who else might be suffering from this problem, other than the ones that you designed it for. It’s this ability to adapt, think outside the box and change tac that has helped my business to flourish.
Not to focus on Turnover but to concentrate extensively on whether you are profitable or not!
If you were to go back in time, what piece of advice would you give to your younger self?
I’m not actually sure that I would change anything really. All paths have led to this point and all my life experience has taught me various lessons. I come from a long line of small business owners.
My grandfather owned a Mens’ barbers as well as being a successful lecturer at the London College of Art & Fashion and my mum owned a florist when I was young.
I was always brought up with the work ethic of “The World doesn’t owe you a living’. So I grew up knowing that working for yourself was very rewarding. I just remember being very scared of starting my own legitimate business and was riddled with self-doubt after University.
I didn’t know what I wanted to do but ended up excelling in sales and being a sales rep for years. In hindsight, I guess I could have pursued a Founder lifestyle years earlier, however, I firmly believe that things happen for a reason, and perhaps I just had a lot to learn first. To anyone that doubted I would succeed, well they don’t know how stubborn I am 😉
We’re nearly halfway through our interview so it’s a great time to ask how does your business run. What three tools make your business run better?
I’m an Apple addict & couldn’t live without my iPhone, my Mac Book Pro and Apple watch. I can run my business from anywhere in the world with these tools.
EKM power my website and they have been amazing. In the long term, I’m looking at partnering up with a shipping carrier that can offer cost-effective next day delivery to better improve the shipping offering to my customers.
What do you know now that you wished you had known before?
Not to focus on Turnover but to concentrate extensively on whether you are profitable or not!
What has been your greatest or proudest achievement or moment?
Aside from my two children who I’m immensely proud of and are my greatest achievement, winning the President’s Club at my last company. The award is given to the top 5% of all sales reps nationally. It was an amazing moment getting recognised for all the goals that I had achieved.
However, I didn’t get to take advantage of the prize which was a fully expensed trip for two to the Maldives. Because of COVID, the dates kept getting pushed back and it’s now taking place in April 2021. I couldn’t hang on just for this though, I was itching to run SwetWipes full time and so I had to leave this company and turn my back on the prize.
What future life goals do you want to achieve and why?
My dream is to get SwetWipes stocked by Boots Plc. I want to make SwetWipes available to everyone regardless of whether they have the internet or not!
To finish our inspire questions…”We believe that sharing inspiring words can inspire others.” If there was one positive thing you would say to someone to inspire and empower them what would it be and why?
Know what your weaknesses are and seek help in that area. If numbers are not your thing (and they are certainly not mine!) , have someone look over your financials and see whether your projections are feasible.
Seek advice from others you look up to or know more than you. Then be passionate about your business. People always respond to the flag that flies the highest. Motivate and lead others, be courageous, take calculated risks and never give up!
“Thank you it has been great learning more about your founder story and SwetWipes Ltd”
To learn more about SwetWipes Ltd Visit www.swetwipes.com
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