For the first of our Meet the Entrepreneur events, last Tuesday Lynn Mann joined us at Edinburgh Napier University’s Craiglockhart campus to inspire our innovative and enterprising community.
Lynn Mann founded Supernature Oils, the multi-award winning cold pressed rapeseed oil business, alongside her husband Chris in 2011 on the Midlothian farm which has been in their family for over 165 years. Supernature Oils now has the broadest range of infused oils in the UK and offers the most awarded cold pressed rapeseed oil in the country out of over 30 producers in the UK with 10 National Awards. Their award-winning White and Black Truffle oils have gained listings in Harrods, and they export to several countries.
Lynn’s working life has taken her from selling water filters, being a barmaid, a TV researcher, doing admin for Strathclyde Police, to psychotherapy. From the early beginnings, driving around Edinburgh trying to sell bottles of oil from the car and at farmers’ markets, Lynn now gets a real kick from seeing Supernature Oils sitting on kitchen shelves all over the country, and around the world. Lynn has had to overcome the various cultural and social hurdles facing female entrepreneurs and is a passionate Ambassador for Women’s Enterprise Scotland. She is also a member of the National Council of Rural Advisors and an Advisory Board Member for Interface, advising on the strategy for connecting business to Scottish Universities.
In the beginning
The reason why Lynn and her husband decided to start Supernature Oils was one that is often encountered with entrepreneurs around the globe. They were looking to diversify their production and find an extra revenue stream, whilst utilising the resources they already had at their disposal – their family farm.
After doing some research, Lynn and Chris decided to try and grow rapeseed – so that they could produce rapeseed oil. Cold pressed rapeseed oil has a higher burning point than olive oil, and is, in many ways, a healthier option to cook with. This was their first unique selling point.
The climate and soil at their family farm proved to be perfect for growing rapeseed, and the oil that they produced was different from the rest. Different in a way that it had a thicker texture and a ‘cream like’ body. A true locally grown, natural product, just waiting to be taken off the shelves in every supermarket in Scotland.
Their production started small, and they utilised the facilities of a press down south in England. Lynn and her husband would grow the seed, then drive a few hours across the border, press it, then collect it and bottle it at the farm. A truly strenuous process but one that proved to be extremely rewarding from the very start.
The first sale
Landing your first sale is a moment that most business owners, if not all, remember for the rest of their lives. The excitement that comes with someone’s appreciation for your product is profound, and even more so when they are willing to part with a few pounds for it. Lynn told us the story of packing her trunk full of boxes with oil and driving around 27 outlets in Edinburgh. Finally, the last one, a small butcher shop, agreed to buy a couple of bottles.
As much as this was a success, Lynn realised that the aspect of selling was something daunting and something that she had to force herself to do. Instead, every time she went out in the future, she went out with the idea that she was spreading awareness about her product, and if that landed a sale, that was perfect. If not, she moved on to the next client. This made the journey a lot easier and more importantly, enjoyable.
After that first sale, it was a phone call from a Michelin starred chef that really changed the family’s outlook on their business. If a chef from a renowned restaurant liked the oil, perhaps other restaurants would like it too? Perhaps their product could stretch beyond local farmers’ markets? Perhaps they could be found UK wide? Even European wide?
That was one of the early turning points in Supernature Oils. Together with the numerous awards they won along the way, of course.
Once the sales started coming in and the family made an investment in a press, hence taking the whole production process in-house, they started thinking about diversification. What is it that they could do, that their competitors aren’t doing? How can they be better, unique, and still maintain the high standard of quality that is paramount to their business?
Launching Supernature’s infusion line proved to be a momentous decision, and one that proved to be profitable and sustainable. Their oil infusions won award after award, and the business kept growing. Soon Lynn and her husband started offering smaller packaging, and became the first business in the UK to do that with cold pressed rapeseed infused oil, together with offering gift packages around the holidays – think seasonality and taking advantage of the rise and fall of sales demand…
8 Years on, and still as excited as day 1
So after all this time, we could clearly see that Lynn was extremely passionate about her product.
What kept her going?
“The fact that something we made, at our family farm, is cherished by other people and can be found in other people’s kitchens all over the country. This excitement for our product and my emotional investment in it has kept me going through all the tough times that, as an entrepreneur, I was destined to encounter.”
Her words of entrepreneurial wisdom?
”If I can make it as an entrepreneur, without any prior training and 22 different jobs before starting a business, then all of you can too.
Never give up in business because you think you aren’t good enough. If you exit, make sure it is for the right reasons – more time with your family, a different career path, or another idea. But never do it because you are doubting your skills.
Ask questions, and listen to the answers. Educate yourself constantly and never lose your passion for what you do.”