Quit­ting was no op­tion for Wal­ton Wood Farm

Les­lie Brad­ford-Scott fought the temp­ta­tion to save jobs, in­vest­ment

The Peterborough Examiner - - >>NEWS - CAROLA VYHNAK

BAILIEBORO— En­tre­pre­neur Les­lie Brad­ford-Scott de­scribes her gru­elling trek to the top as “up­hill, with bare feet in mud, pour­ing rain and a 50-pound sack on my back.”

That’s only slight hyperbole of how she got her fledg­ling busi­ness off the ground: driv­ing around On­tario ped­dling 55-kilo­gram cases of bath salts.

To­day, her five-year-old Bailieboro com­pany, Wal­ton Wood Farm, makes more than $2 mil­lion in an­nual rev­enue sell­ing 80 dif­fer­ent per­sonal-care prod­ucts for women, men and pets on­line and in 2,500 stores across North Amer­ica.

Brad­ford-Scott, a high-school dropout with learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties, has grad­u­ated from in­ex­pe­ri­enced in­dus­tri­al­ist to Peter­bor­ough County’s En­tre­pre­neur of the Year in 2017.

At age 54, she was also re­cently named to the “Fear­less Over 50” list of women en­trepreneur­s on The Story Ex­change web­site.

Her ven­ture be­gan un­wit­tingly in her bath­room al­most 20 years ago, when she was a stressed-out solo parent of two young girls.

“I would soak in the tub with mu­sic and can­dles and pre­tend I was some­where else,” re­called Brad­ford-Scott.

In 2014, those respites in­spired a recipe for bath salts, us­ing a pinch of hu­mour, a heap­ing spoon­ful of cre­ativ­ity and mixed in a KitchenAid in her laun­dry room.

With quirky names like “Week From Hell” and “Win­ter’s a B*tch,” and la­bels printed with lit­tle sto­ries, the gift items were in­fused with per­sonal mean­ing, she ex­plains.

While they spawned a range of pop­u­lar spe­cialty prod­ucts made from nat­u­ral and sus­tain­able in­gre­di­ents, prob­lems with fi­nanc­ing, man­u­fac­tur­ing and mar­ket­ing threat­ened to sink her startup. Brad­ford-Scott was tempted to pull the plug, but balked at watch­ing “a lot of money” go down the drain.

From an ini­tial per­sonal in­vest­ment of $5,000 — sup­ple­mented by $112,000 from grants and a com­pe­ti­tion prize — Brad­ford-Scott had ac­cu­mu­lated a debt load of $250,000.

Quit­ting, she adds, would have meant the loss of jobs for half a dozen loyal, hard-work­ing em­ploy­ees who live near her home-based busi­ness in Bailieboro, about 25 min­utes south of Peter­bor­ough.

But Brad­ford-Scott had learned how to sur­vive. As her fam­ily’s sole bread­win­ner in 2001, she sold cars in Lon­don, Ont., mak­ing $24,000 the first year.

To keep bore­dom at bay be­tween cus­tomers at the deal­er­ship, she wrote screen­plays “one Post-it note at a time.”

Af­ter work­ing her way up to fi­nance man­ager, tak­ing home $130,000 a year, she yearned for a more sat­is­fy­ing ca­reer. She also met her fu­ture hus­band, Peter Scott, a farmer and smallplane pi­lot.

In 2013, the cou­ple’s need for in­come and funds to re­store his­toric barns on their di­lap­i­dated ru­ral prop­erty over­look­ing Rice Lake got Brad­fordS­cott’s cre­ative juices flow­ing, and Wal­ton Wood Farm was born the fol­low­ing year.

While she learned about start­ing a busi­ness from books, pod­casts and men­tors, she dis­cov­ered “thou­sands of de­tails” first­hand.

Get­ting prod­ucts into re­tail­ers’ hands by show­ing up at their shops was val­i­dat­ing. “They would start read­ing the la­bels and chuck­ling, and say ‘These are re­ally cute,’ ” she re­called.

Hand cream was an in­stant hit at Peter­bor­ough’s The Edi­son Espresso & Pastry Bar when owner Lind­say Brock put it on the counter for cus­tomers to try.

“I started with one dozen, but they went so fast I placed an­other order right away,” said Brock, who also car­ries lip balm and men’s items.

Cus­tomers “love the hu­mour and qual­ity of the prod­ucts,” she said.

Wal­ton Wood’s founder still ex­pe­ri­ences grow­ing pains.

“You’re al­ways tak­ing a lot of risk be­cause the mar­ket changes, com­peti­tors come and go, cus­tomer pref­er­ences change … there’s no coast­ing,” she says, adding that money flows through your fin­gers like, well, bath wa­ter.

“I was just throw­ing it out there to see what would work,” said Brad­ford-Scott, cit­ing early mar­ket­ing cam­paigns on so­cial me­dia, pod­casts, trade mag­a­zines and shows.

“You need about $550,000 in work­ing cap­i­tal at any given point,” she said.

Her prod­ucts, man­u­fac­tured in On­tario, Que­bec and the U.S., are priced at “bou­tique level,” which trans­lates to $15 for a lip­balm trio and $18 for hand and body lo­tion.

With $185,000 worth of restora­tion work com­pleted by Cobourg-based Eli’s Con­struc­tion, Brad­ford-Scott is ready to move her of­fices from the house to the barns.

KRIS­TINE HAN­NAH PHOTO

The need for funds to re­store his­toric barns helped spur en­tre­pre­neur Les­lie Brad­ford-Scott to cre­ate her per­sonal-care prod­ucts com­pany, Wal­ton Wood Farm, five years ago.

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