Jonny Philip is the co-founder of Nursem, a skincare brand for working hands that donates free products to nurses and midwives across the UK.
Reader's Digest: Tell us the story of how your business began…
Jonny Philip: Antonia (my wife) was working in Manchester as a newly qualified paediatric nurse and she would often come home with sore, cracked and bleeding hands as a result of the constant hand washing needed to keep her patients' infection free.
It eventually became so bad that she was forced to take a week off work, and that was the point whereby we both realised something needed to change. We later discovered that of the approx. 480,000 nurses in the UK over 80 per cent of those will at some point suffer from symptoms of contact dermatitis as a result of their job—so we always keep this in mind when the going gets tough.
RD: Was Nursem your first venture?
JP: For as long as I can remember I've always had an urge to do something entrepreneurial. It's an opportunity to do something fascinating and meet inspiring people along the way.
My first serious business was selling my oil paintings on eBay at the age of 16.
RD: When did you first know Nursem was going to be a success?
JP: Seeing the public's response to our products and the results they're achieving was a huge moment for us (but we still have a long way to go before I would class us as a "success").
RD: What business achievement are you most proud of?
JP: Being joined by my business partners in 2017. This validated the last 15 years of hard work and helped to rid some self-doubt.
Also more recently—the first photographs we received from our Nursem Promise [for every product bought, the company donate a month's worth of Nursem to a nurse or midwife] sent out to hospital staff was a moment I'll remember for the rest of my life. It was a great example of how good businesses can have a really positive effect on people’s lives.
RD: Do you have any business role models?
JP: My business role models are [founder of Patagonia] Yvon Chouinard, [founder of Toms shoes] Blake Mycoskie and [founder of Beauty Pie] Marcia Kilgore.
RD: What has been the biggest challenge in growing your business?
JP: Working with the right people—they move the needle more than money ever can.
RD: What is the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received? And the advice you’d offer to wannabe business owners?
JP: It's very blunt and simple—but if you ask yourself "So What?" it'll help you zero in on ideas that people find so valuable they naturally want to share it with friends. Then, when you've found that idea you should obsess over making your product or service the best it can possibly be!
My personal advice would be to read as many books as you can—it'll save you lots of headaches in the long run. Some of my absolute favourites are: Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard, Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, Principals by Ray Dalio and Good To Great by Jim Collins.
RD: Do you have any mantras that have informed your work?
JP: "You get out, what you put in."
This helps to remind me that nothing should be taken for granted and if you want to change something, you need to work for it.
RD: If you could go back in time are there any things you would change?
JP: I would have got married earlier and had my son sooner—knowing how much they've made my life better.
I would also have been more ambitious with my goals from a younger age, and not be afraid to try and fail.
RD: Tell us more about how Nursem gives back to nurses and midwives
JP: Very simply—for every product we sell we provide a month’s worth of Nursem for free to a nurse or midwife, and we call this the Nursem Promise.
We've developed special "Ward Packs" that contain enough hand cream for 24 nurses, along with other goodies to show staff just how much they're appreciated.
RD: What does the future look like for Nursem?
JP: Our mission is to provide free hand cream to every nurse and midwife in the UK by 2025, so to do this we're looking to expand our product range, expand on our retail partnership with Boots and hopefully get as many people loving Nursem as possible!