What were you doing a year ago? Probably something uneventful, unmemorable and just plain ordinary. But if you were to ask Kirsty Henshaw what she was doing, her answer may slightly differ…
It is exactly a year ago since Kirsty burst onto our screens, and melted the hearts of the five Dragons with her ice-cream dream.
Rewind another year and Kirsty was making free-from ice cream in her tiny kitchen for her dairy-intolerant son Jacob.
25-year-old Kirsty, who has lived in Penwortham, Preston, all her life, was working ‘two and a half’ jobs, and doing anything she could to make ends meet, and improve her son’s quality of life.
Her life was caught up in the whirlwind that is the BBC’s Dragons’ Den, when Duncan Bannatyne, Peter Jones and the rest of the millionaire dragons were left speechless at her drive, passion and her desire to make a difference.
Kirsty credits her young son Jacob, four, as the inspiration for her success. Jacob was born with a life threatening nut allergy and is intolerant to cow’s milk and lactose.
She admits that had she not become pregnant with Jacob, she would’ve left Preston searching for business opportunities.
“Before I got pregnant, I was planning to move to London because that was where all the successful people seemed to be.
“I’ve always been quite entrepreneurial but when I got pregnant out of the blue I just wanted to stay in Preston with my family.
“If I didn’t have Jacob I’d either be living in Cornwall living on a beach, or living in London trying to make a business work.”
Kirsty, who attended Penwortham Girls’ School, Preston College and the University of Central Lancashire, started experimenting with ingredients using a £30 ice-cream maker from Argos.
After creating a recipe that her son liked, she tested it on family and friends before approaching ice cream maker Wallings, in Cockerham, near Garstang.
Her allergen free desserts are all free from dairy, added sugar, gluten, cholesterol, artificial flavours and artificial preservatives.
“There’s a lot of free from products that are really high in fat and sugar, and they’re not the best, they’re just okay. I want to make them good and tasty.
“There are products out there, but I’m just trying to make them more mainstream and I’m going to add my edge to them as I don’t just want them to be seen as free from. I’m trying to make them healthy as well.”
After Duncan Bannatyne and Peter Jones invested £65,000 in exchange for 30 per cent of her business, Kirsty has seen her product become a national success; with it now stocked in Tesco, Sainsburys and Waitrose.
Kirsty admits that she gets a different reaction about her business since her appearance on the show, before her rise to fame, her young age was seen as a disadvantage.
“I did get some prejudice in business because of my age before Dragons’ Den; I did get a little looked down on before that. Until they heard me talk about it and realised I did actually know what I was talking about.”
Kirsty is one of the youngest success stories on Dragons’ Den, but was convinced that she would’ve got to where she is now regardless of investment.
“I think I would’ve got to a similar level without investment, but I don’t think it would’ve happened so quickly and I definitely wouldn’t have got the media attention that I have. But I was convinced that I would get there, I definitely would’ve kept trying.
“It feels good to be a young success, I look at a lot of the others and they’re a lot older than me, yet I probably know a lot more than them.
“They come on very prepared, but it’s good to be referred to as successful. Hopefully it will inspire young people to follow their dreams. “
While Kirsty has made her name by launching her range of ice creams, she claims they’re just the beginning, and will not be the main product in the future:
“The frozen desserts are just the start, we’ve got a lot of products were working on at the minute. We’re launching mini ice cream tubs in March. But after that we’ll launch savoury and a few other products that are a healthy take on what’s already out there. We’re definitely expanding.”
Despite the unbelievable year she’s had, Kirsty still remains humble and grounded.
“We’ve got lots of work to do to make it better, we can’t just sit back and relax, we’ve got to carry on working hard at it.”
On Dragons’ Den, the five millionaires were amazed by the calmness and unassuming nature of Kirsty, and the success doesn’t appear to have changed her.
“I never just sit back and think well done. I never do that. Once I’ve achieved something I just move the barrier back and try and hit that target.
“I never sit back and be happy with what I’ve achieved. I always want more. I never feel fully satisfied.”