Interview with Anne Marie Wright and Kate Tilbury, founders of Rowdy Kind

Find out how an innocent bath time question by Kate Tilbury’s son inspired her and Anne Marie Wright to launch Rowdy Kind – plastic-free body care made for kids.

What’s your career background?

Kate – I finished up University with a degree in Anthropology and firm belief I didn’t want to be an Anthropologist! 

My first job was working for a small food manufacturing company answering phones and filing. From there I worked up to managing sales and marketing, spending a lot of my career at Unilever and Johnson & Johnson. 

This gave me a good foundation in how to execute effectively, but most importantly it taught me how important culture and purpose are in a business for ensuring that the business achieves its goals. That’s the biggest lesson I bring to Rowdy Kind.

Anne Marie – My background is in marketing and brand management, I’ve worked for a wide range of brands from iconic Canadian brands (I’m based in Montreal), to start-ups, and even did a stint at an advertising agency. Rowdy Kind has made me a first time entrepreneur.

How did your career change after having children?

Kate – I was significantly more career focused after I had my son. Specifically, I was focused on leading teams and divisions, partly because I wanted to ensure there were women in leadership roles to help other women transition back to the workplace post maternity. 

There was no one there with experience of the transition when I came back from my mat leave, which meant I felt very alone as I grappled with all the issues that returning to work brings. I wanted to be part of solving that issue and showing it was possible.

Anne Marie – My career changed dramatically after the birth of my daughter as I started working with Kate on Rowdy Kind shortly thereafter, I became a mum and a first time entrepreneur at the same time – it was a lot of change!

Where did the idea for your business come from?

One night at bath time Kate’s son Chris (then seven) asked “why do we use plastic bottles when we know they’re bad?” It was a good thought provoking question. 

After a search in the market for an eco-friendly alternative came up short (and Chris wouldn’t let it go), we quickly realised that if they wanted a truly sustainable solution for bath time, they were going to have to make one ourselves.

How did you move from idea to actual business?

I think a lot of stubborn focus on moving one step forward at a time was the key. It would have been very easy to give up when we struggled to find a manufacturer who could produce a product that we were happy with, but we persevered by putting one foot in front of the other, making continual small progress, and accepting that everything wouldn’t be resolved all at once. Like climbing any mountain, you don’t realise how high you are until you look back.

What’s your USP?

Rowdy Kind is the world’s first plastic free skincare brand, made for kids’ sensitive skin. Previously parents had to make a choice between sustainability and sensitive skincare for their kids, now they can have both. 

Our bars offer families everything you’d expect in a high quality children’s shampoo or body wash, without the environmental footprint.

Who’s your target audience?

Our consumer is children from aged 1+ through to adolescence. Of course our target audience is their parents, primarily mums, as they do the majority of personal care shopping.

These parents are among the rapidly growing population of people who want to make more sustainable choices for the planet and their children’s future. We represent an easy ‘eco-swap’ that families can make in order to make an impact, without any compromises to performance or care for your children’s skin.

How do you spread the word about what you do?

We’re very lucky that our customers love to become advocates for Rowdy Kind and tell their other parent friends about us. We also have been fortunate to receive fabulous media coverage in publications such as: The Independent, Hello Magazine, and Metro. 

We are very active on social media and also do a little facebook advertising as well to help get the word out, but helping more families to find out about us is definitely one of our biggest challenges (so please check us out and tell your friends!)

What’s been your most successful marketing strategy?

As a completely bootstrapped company, we embraced email marketing very early on. We dedicate a lot of time to our email communications and this has been a great way for us to engage and excite our audience, while also maintaining consistent yet affordable revenue through our growing pains.

What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?

There has been many, we did launch two weeks before Covid-19 showed up on the scene after all. But I think the biggest obstacle we’ve had to overcome (and are still working towards) relates to confidence. It’s really hard to be an entrepreneur, it can be lonely, stressful, and comes with a lot of self-doubt. 

Can we be successful? Are we the right people to achieve these goals? Are we doing the right things? Sharing these feelings with other entrepreneurs and realizing we are not alone has been a game-changer.

And your proudest moment so far?

There are many individual moments where we have felt great pride, whether it be winning an award or our latest feature in the press – but for us, the greatest sense of accomplishment comes every time we receive a new review.

Whether it be their excitement about finally finding a sustainable solution for bathtime, the positive impact our products have had on their children’s skin, or a story of how Rowdy allowed for a tantrum-free bathtime by letting their toddler flex their newfound independence, reading our reviews from families truly delivers our most pride and quite honestly fuels us through the tough times.

Why is work so important to you?

What’s most fulfilling about working on Rowdy Kind every day is seeing the impact we are making. With the sale of every bar we know that two plastic bottles are being replaced, this feels huge to us as we truly believe that every small change adds up to one big impact.

We are truly motivated by making a difference for our kids and the planet, this deeper motivation really is more intrinsic than the more traditional measures of success. At the end of the day we want to make our kids proud, I’m not sure what would be more rewarding than that.

Who inspires you?

Our greatest inspiration are kids, of course our own are the reason we started Rowdy Kind, but also kids in general. Their natural sense of wonder, their openness to change, and their undying positivity. Looking at the world through their lens really allows us to approach things differently.

We are also constantly inspired by other entrepreneurs. We now know first-hand how difficult this journey is and that understanding fuels so much respect for those who are also on a mission to make a difference.

How do you balance your work with your family?

Finding the right balance is always a work in progress, but the most important thing we did in the very early days of Rowdy Kind is set a core principle very firmly in our culture, which is that family comes first. 

This ‘rule’ has allowed us to make the right choices for our families, regardless of the impact on Rowdy Kind, without guilt. It’s been a really great thing for us individually and as business partners.

What are your three top pieces of advice for someone wanting to do something similar

Great question, our top three tips would be:

  1. Find a buddy. We both acknowledge that entrepreneurship is very hard, and lonely.  We have great respect for solo-preners, we don’t know how they do it!
  2. Be confident. (Even if you have to fake it). Being an entrepreneur and starting a business is hard, but do the hard work to make yourself confident in your business idea and then GO FOR IT.
  3. Stand for something, without compromise. From day one, we wanted to make bathtime plastic free. Not less plastic, not upcycled plastic, not refillable plastic… PLASTIC FREE. Would our journey have been much easier if we were more flexible on this, 1000%. But our mission to make bathtime plastic free is what guides us, challenges us, and makes us continually push to be better.

Find out more about Rowdy Kind.