Lesley Gilchrist, 46, set up My Expert Midwife with her business partner Claire Charlton, 40. Lesley lives in Harrogate with her husband David Lister, 46, and their two children, Francesca, 11, and Ruairidh, nine.
Birth has always fascinated me, so becoming a midwife was inevitable. I qualified in 2003 and loved giving women one-on-one care.
But only when I had a baby myself, in 2008, did I understand what women went through afterwards. The postnatal pain was profound, yet I was only told to use basic painkillers.
In 2013, struggling to juggle two kids and NHS night shifts, I started teaching antenatal classes and working as a private midwife. That meant seeing women every day postnatally, and they were all in pain, too, desperate for something to help the swelling and bruising.
I was doing a part-time Masters degree at the time, looking into psychological and physical birth trauma. Many clinical trials showed the benefits of essential oils, so I found an aromatherapist to make tinctures for my clients. When these proved phenomenally helpful, I decided to set up a company — with a friend who did baby massage — to develop the blend.
We couldn’t get a bank loan so remortgaged our houses to raise money. I even sold my planned pension fund property. We invested in creating and designing the brand, consumer research and employing a digital marketing agency to reach consumers.
We found an amazing manufacturer with a technical director who understood what we wanted: premium ingredients, and that the product be must be highly effective and natural. We also wanted practicality — a quick, easy spray that worked upside down.
It took two years to develop, but eventually Spritz for Bitz was ready. It combines lavender oil (a natural painkiller), tee tree oil (naturally antibacterial and antifungal) and witch hazel (an astringent to take away swelling). People think of aromatherapy as fluffy, but most medicines and painkillers are derived from plants.
The launch, in March 2017, was slow — we sent out six parcels that first week. But a year on we’d moved to bigger premises and outsourced packing. We now have 18 people working for us and are stocked by Ocado and Amazon. From mid-February, we will be available on boots.com, too.
Our products have won lots of awards, and it’s wonderful having their effectiveness recognised.