Female Founders: In Conversation with Henrietta Norton
Henrietta Norton is a highly regarded nutritional practitioner, specializing in fertility and pregnancy, and has used her background to found the food supplement brand Wild Nutrition. Wild Nutrition was born out of the need to confront the reality of modern supplementation. Henrietta's company is grounded in the values of integrity, sustainability and respect with a commitment to support our planet and balance profit with purpose. We interviewed her to learn more.
What has been your journey in founding Wild Nutrition?
"It began very organically.
My background and training is as a clinical nutritionist which I have been doing for just over 17 years now. 7 years prior to launching Wild Nutrition, I was working as Head of Nutrition in an RND Department formulating their products but also being their front-facing nutritionist.
During this time, I became acutely aware that things needed to be different and better. It felt there was a lost opportunity to reflect what real people needed by using natural yet scientifically effective ingredients. Wild Nutrition therefore came from an acute knowledge that there was a gap in the market that absolutely needed to be filled.
At the time I was also writing a book on ‘endometriosis’, a female hormonal condition, and the editor asked if I could make some product recommendations. This was a turning point for me because I realised that there was a lack of products that I could authentically recommend. There weren’t many options on the market in the quality of ingredients, that I would say really reflected what these women needed for their bodies. That was the final piece and I thought I just need to start creating these products. So, I put together a few formulations from the shed in my garden and the brand quickly developed from there."
What does the word ‘integrity’ mean to you personally and how do you ensure the integrity of your products?
Integrity is a brilliant word. For me, it is an intuitively core value and a point of principle across all areas of my life. Due to the way we started out business, integrity was always going to remain at its core because it started from a passion and a point of purpose rather than just a commercial angle.
In terms of ensuring the integrity of our products, the quality is absolutely essential. For us, our business is about retaining a loyal and committed customer who will continue to return after trying and experiencing good quality products. Therefore, the sourcing is incredibly important in terms of the traceability and sustainability of the manufacturing processes we use. This is something of a founding principle of the brand but it is also something that is equally shared by all of our team members, particularly in the operations, quality control and supply chain side of the business.
How do you feel the value of integrity is viewed in our current context?
Milton Friedman, the grandfather of capitalism, stated “there is one and only one social responsibility of business - to use it resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits”.
This is the paradigm in which we are used to seeing business, however I feel there has been a shift. There has been an increasing desire from consumers to buy products from businesses with sustainable practices. These consumers are the ones who are driving that paradigm shift and businesses are responding to this change.
Some businesses started from this sense of purpose, much like Wild Nutrition. Now there are others joining because they realise consumers are asking for it, which is fantastic. To me, personally, it is unimportant whether a business starts with purpose as its core value or they adopt it later on. In both instances change is happening and that is the most important thing.
Have you noticed a paradigm shift in consumer consciousness particularly as a result of the pandemic?
There was growing momentum of consumer consciousness before Covid happened. Before the pandemic, to have sustainability in the small print of a product was a ‘nice to have’.
However, I feel the pandemic has amplified this as more of us have come to realise on a deeper level, how connected we are to the health of the planet and to our community. We are realizing how powerful it is when we work together, and of course, how we are all responsible for our own health and that of the planet because, quite simply, human health cannot continue to exist without a healthy planet. It becomes less of an intangible ‘nice to have’ because we have seen and felt the impact of sustainability as individuals, in our families and in our communities.
Uncompromising - both in philosophy and commitment to supporting our planet. How does Wild Nutrition imbed the notion of sustainability throughout your business practice?
This begins with simple business practices, like recycling the coffee cups and micro things on a team level. We do this because building and imbedding the notion of sustainability into the business culture is critical. Everyone has to believe and know what we are trying to achieve as a business.
What is your purpose, what is your why? This starts with the founders and leaders but then becomes fueled by every member of the team.
In terms of sustainable practices, there is a lot of greenwashing around the term sustainable. We are continuing to develop firm policies on sustainability throughout our procurement and supply chain. It is really important to look for traceability, to look beyond pieces of paper and make the effort to visit and audit the places from where you are sourcing ingredients.
This is where the consumer is, again, important, because the consumer is absolutely entitled to ask for any piece of information they want from a business. This curiosity and engagement from the consumer will continue to drive demand for better practices.
We love it when our consumers ask exactly where our products come from. For us to be able to say exactly what farm it comes from, what season it was picked in, what picking team was on that day and how well they were paid, this is the stuff that fires me up. I can see it is also beginning to fire up consumers.
What challenges did you face when founding Wild Nutrition and how did you overcome them?
How do I pick one! There have been many.
From my experience you have to be absolutely passionate about something you are doing with the business. This is essential because when you hit potholes, which you will and need to because they are absolutely critical for success, it is the passion that picks you back up and puts you back on the road. They are significant opportunities for learning and certainly for myself and Charlie (my business partner and husband) who had never run a business before, this is where we do our learning, from the mistakes and the wins.
One of the specific pieces of advice we got from the beginning is that we need to Think Big. Not in terms of world domination, but rather ensuring that we put solid infrastructures into the business from an early stage, so that we can support the growth of our business. We did this at the beginning, but we lacked certain expertise. This was a result of us trying to do too much and be too many things all at once.
One of the best things that you can do is invest in people and a team. As founders, Charlie and I needed to work out my strengths and my interests so that we could form a team around me to plug in the gaps.
As a female entrepreneur, do you think your experience has differed from your husbands in the entrepreneurial world?
I would say our experiences have been significantly different. I do not mean harder or easier, just different.
As a female, it has had its challenges in a predominantly male space. It has been challenging to have the conviction and confidence to have a voice and insert myself in a situation where I might be in the minority.
Another difficulty was, at the time of launching the business, we had two very young children and then we had a third through the process. Balancing the needs of a young family alongside the needs of the business can be difficult. There are bound to be a few sacrifices. As a mother, there have actually been sacrifices that have kept me up at night to be absolutely honest. And I do believe it is important to be honest about these things because we need more open conversations about it as women. However, I also know how fortunate I am to pursue a passion that has created a successful business.
It can be both a place of privilege and discomfort.
What’s next for Wild Nutrition and what legacy would you like to leave behind?
For us it is really quite simple, it is just scale. We have a really robust team and we have a product and a model that we really feel works. I have felt the product has always deserved to be in the hands of as many people as possible to support their health.
In terms of the legacy I hope to leave behind, I would like to feel that anything I have done or created, both as a mother and a business woman, is something that has only benefitted the world, rather than taken from it. Operating from a place of integrity and kindness and knowing that the product genuinely helps people on their journey to good health is incredibly rewarding.
I was speaking to people the other day for a branding exercise, and I still get goose bumps when I read the testimonials that people write about the product and how it has helped them.
If you would like to read more about Wild Nutrition please find the link to their website by clicking here.