Rowdy Kind is on a mission to make bathtime sustainable with its range of zero-plastic bath, body and hair care products for kids.
Rowdy Kind co-founder Kate Tilbury won The Pitch Side Hustle Final in August, beating five other incredible side hustles to a £5k prize.
Two months later, Kate pitched alongside some of the best startups in the country at The Pitch Final – and won. She leaves the competition this year with £10k to spend on her business, plus money-can’t-buy mentoring from leading entrepreneurs.
See us talk about Kate’s winning pitch in more detail below.
We caught up with Kate just before The Pitch Final to find out what inspired her to launch the business, her main challenges so far and the advice she’d give other founders just starting out.
The moment that inspired the business idea
Kate can clearly remember the moment when inspiration first struck. Her son Chris was seven at the time, and she was supervising his bath time when he asked: “Mum, why are we using all these plastic bottles when we know they’re so bad?”
“I just thought it was a really good question. And I said, ‘when we go to the supermarket, we’ll get something that isn’t plastic’. But there were no options,” she said.
In her research, Kate was shocked to discover that the average person uses over 50,000 single-use plastic bathroom items in their lifetime.
Her solution? To develop a zero-plastic product range entirely for kids.
“You think, ‘oh, I’m just going to switch that one bottle for something else’. But once you add that up over their lifetime, that behaviour change – which you can make from birth – makes a huge difference to the impact that that person has on the environment,” Kate said.
Building a sustainable brand
Having previously worked at Unilever and Johnson & Johnson, Kate had insider knowledge of how the industry works.
“It was really clear to me that it’s going to be very hard for this industry to change,” she said. “Their legacy supply chains mean they’re unable to make the scale of changes needed to provide really sustainable, low carbon solutions in the market.”
Not only is Rowdy Kind addressing the packaging problems associated with bath care products, it’s also taking strides to give consumers other sustainable benefits.
Kate explains that the solid products contain zero water, compared to bottled products that can contain up to 90% water – but they still contain the same amount of active ingredients. This means the quality of the products isn’t compromised.
“In some cases, companies are shipping the weight of that water all over the world, and you can imagine the CO2 emissions that entails. Whereas our products are made in the UK, and are lighter in weight. So there’s a massive CO2 saving to get the same level of active ingredients to the consumer,” she said.
The challenges of starting a side hustle
The business is still young, but it’s already overcome a number of challenges to get to where it is now.
“Very early on, the struggle was ‘how the heck are we going to make it?’. Our vision is to be as low impact as possible, so we looked at all the different ways to produce and package the products.”
Once they had settled on the approach of solid bars, the next hurdle was working out the manufacturing side. This proved tricky as most UK manufacturers are only geared up for products in plastic bottles. Finding somebody who was willing to take that leap wasn’t easy.
“And then you get to the scale thing. How do you move from making really small, 100-bar batches? How do you scale that up in an economic way? That’s something we’re working on right now,” Kate said.
Winning the Side Hustle Final
Kate took part in The Pitch Side Hustle Final, pitching Rowdy Kind to a panel of three judges. She beat five other businesses to be crowned the winner.
“I was pretty shocked to win, but we’ve already started spending the prize money! We’re in the midst of a brand refresh, updating our packaging and brand identity, and introducing some new products. So it’s gone towards making that happen,” she said.
After competing in The Pitch, Kate is now preparing for what’s likely to be a tough market in 2023.
“It’s a pretty challenging economic environment at the moment. And it’s going to be more challenging next year, when the raw material inflation comes through,” she said.
“There’s at least a nine-month lag between raw material price increases, and any change in consumer pricing in packaged goods. How do you cope with that as a small business with already lean profit margins? That’s a very real challenge for us.”
Advice for other side hustles
So what has Kate learned about starting a side hustle that she would tell others thinking of doing the same?
“I think the best advice for any entrepreneur is to risk what you feel you can afford to lose. And I know that sounds so unambitious, but that way you can set an amount of time or money or energy you’re prepared to invest.
“Then when you get to the end of that level of risk, you can evaluate whether you are now ready to risk more or not. It helps to think about it as staged levels of investment of your energy, your time and your capital.”