Leslie Bradford-Scott is the founder and CEO of Walton Wood Farm, a multi-million dollar lifestyle gift company based on a farm in Ontario, Canada. Bradford-Scott began making bath salts in her kitchen mixer in 2014, and within three years, sprouted more than 85 fun and funky gift products sold in Canada and the USA. Walton Wood Farm is a multiple award-winning company on a mission to bring back jobs to rural communities and preserve our agricultural heritage. Waltonwoodfarm.com.
Can you tell our readers about your background?
I'm a high school drop out with learning disabilities who dealt with some traumatic issues in my youth and adult life. My father was a convicted drug dealer, and my brother was killed by a drunk driver when I was sixteen. I ended up in an abusive marriage that lasted 15 years. When I sprouted the courage to leave my husband, I ended up selling cars to support my two young daughters, because it was the only job I could get with an outdated resume and no education.
What inspired you to start your business?
Fast forward ten years. I found myself in a wonderful new marriage and we recently purchased a farm. The historic buildings were falling down, and we wanted to save them for future generations. I started making bath salts in my laundry room with my kitchen mixer. What saved me time and time again throughout my struggles in life, was a hot bath. I decided to create themes based on these struggles in hopes it would make people laugh and give them an excuse to 'check out' and regain their own sanity. A hot bath with a 20-minute vacation from life, if you will.
Where is your business based?
Bailieboro, ON Canada
How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?
I read a lot of books on blending bath salts and natural products. The benefits of natural products including essential oils. I'm also a podcast junkie. I listened to every start-up podcast I could get my hands on.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?
First, I proved my model by cold-calling on retail stores within 200 miles of me. Once I saw the sell-through, I invested in exhibiting at wholesale tradeshows across North America, beginning with one at a time.
What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
Scaling the company. When you're growing as fast as we are, the wheels tend to start flying off the bus. Having no business background and a 10th-grade education, I had to really plunge myself into books and podcasts to figure out how to build a sound infrastructure. It's a constant, steep learning curve.
How do you stay focused?
I take a lot of walks. First thing in the morning, I have my coffee and commit to just 'being quiet'. No email, no phone, nothing. Just my coffee and a view.
How do you differentiate your business from the competition?
Our product themes target emotional occasions and archetypes, instead of scents. For example, our number one selling hand cream is Week from Hell. It's grapefruit and brown sugar, but we don't talk about that. The tag is, "Soft hands can handle anything."
What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?
Creating products with an edge. Edgy gets noticed, as long as it's tasteful, not crude.
What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?
Vet yourself. Take some online quizzes that will help you determine if you have an entrepreneurial mindset. It's a long, tough, scary road. Some people aren't built to go the distance. Make sure you can go the distance emotionally and financially because you're taking everyone with you on this ride; friends, family, and staff.
What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?
Rocketfuel by Wickman and Winters is my favorite book because it's how I learned you need both a visionary and an integrator to build a solid business. I'm a visionary, so I surround myself with integrators. How I Built This from NPR, is my favorite blog. It's one-on-one interviews with the entrepreneurs behind brands that are wildly famous. I love to hear the stories of founders who had the same struggles as me, and what they did to overcome them. Fascinating!
What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?
Coaches. The right business coach is like having an MBA in your pocket. I've used two coaches, so far, and I feel I'm on my way to getting a real life MBA through those experiences.
Who is your business role model? Why?
Sheryl Sandburg, COO at Facebook. She's honest and relatable. She's such a strong, powerful woman without being aggressive, or unapproachable. As a woman, it can be difficult to be strong without coming across too serious, or uptight.
What do you have planned for the next six months?
We are planning our Christmas catalog and a brand new collection I'm really excited about. Something we've never done. I know we're onto something really great because my entire team is tingling about it!
How can our readers connect with you?
FB, Twitter, Instagram @waltonwoodfarm and waltonwoodfarm.com