“Our story started when I set up my sweet shop, Sherbet Pip, which sells nostalgic sweets.” explains Henry’s mum. “I recognised that every time adults talked about sweets, they thought back to when they were children. Plus, I always had a secret desire to go into retail.”
“While working on my product range, my 11 year old son Henry asked me what I was doing for children. I explained that it was a sweet shop for adults who wanted to be children as opposed to products for children. However, I told him to come up with some ideas and, if they were good enough, I’d think about a children’s page.
A few days after our talk, he came back with six jars of sweets – one of which was Mud & Worms. I told him that I didn’t think it would sell as it looked unappealing but he was adamant that children would love it.
And he was right.
Packaged with the sweets, he included a pen so that kids could decorate the jars afterwards and he sold them with dental stickers – to keep the parents happy. He really had all bases covered. He decided to call his page on the site ‘Not Before Tea’ – named after what his grandmother says to him when he asks for sweets. Next he designed a logo – Pip the Mouse – and even wrote a book about it.
“So, once we had a name, a brand and a product, I wrote press releases for both businesses, sent them out – and everybody pretty much ignored mine and went straight for Henry’s. Once the word was out, Not Before Tea really captured people’s imagination. The Daily Mail called us for an interview and the story was picked up by Yahoo News, The BBC, The Independent, The Times and the New York Times.
“We’ve been invited to so many awards and events. Among them was visit to the Bedford Chamber of Commerce, where Henry was presented with a plaque and given lifetime membership. However, when asked what his best moment in business has been so far, Henry will say the evening he attended The Great British Entrepreneur Awards. We met politicians and leading business figures and it was obvious that Henry was in his element. From the moment he arrived, he worked the room like he’d been doing it for years. One of the big highlights was when Sir Steve Redgrave recognised him and asked for a photo. The night was topped off by him being given a special One to Watch award and being asked to speak.He stood up and said that the government was not doing enough to help young entrepreneurs and business people.
“Henry was then given some retail space in one of Start-up Britain’s PopUp shops – an initiative that gives start-ups the chance to get their products onto the high street. This was a fantastic experience and we got loads of great customer feedback, the type which you just don’t get by being purely online. It was the perfect way to see firsthand how his product would sell in a shop – and we sold out of Mud & Worms. Soon after, Henry was invited to pitch to Sainsbury’s. The programme saw ten startups from 2,000 chosen to pitch their business to Sainsbury’s.To be honest, we weren’t really prepared for the scale of it all and knew we wouldn’t be chosen but, again, we got some great feedback, mostly about our packaging (or lack of it) and the door has been left open.
“Jon Wright, one of the founders of Innocent Smoothies was also there and that was a thrill for Henry to meet such an inspirational entrepreneur. It also inspired him to expand the range. When deciding what to do next, he’s interviewed his grandparents to find out about what they used to do for fun. There’s not a computer in sight and it’s very traditional.
“Henry learns a lot from established entrepreneurs and when asked who he wants to be like, he always answers ‘Alan Sugar but happier’. He’s also a big fan of David Walliams and loves anybody who can capture the imagination. I think he’s done just that so far.”
Henry Patterson – Not Before Tea