From inventor to inspirational business leader with Solvej Biddle

Innovative business leader Solvej Biddle in the Netowrking Success header image

How do you turn a spark of an idea into a multi-award-winning international brand?

In our latest Networking Success interview, Solvej Biddle shares her outstanding journey. She recognised a common challenge she faced as a parent and transformed it into an innovative solution for families worldwide. She secured partnerships with industry giants and became a ‘dragon slayer’ with her compelling appearance on dragon’s den which has got to be in the top 5 best performances. As a passionate mentor and champion for women in business and tech, she’s on a mission to create a more inclusive and opportune landscape for all. Join us as she shares her vision for the future and the wisdom she’s gained along the way.

Solvej Biddle

Solvej Biddle
Transitioning from a top advertising lawyer to an influential business leader, Solvej has turned parenting challenges into innovative solutions. As the founder and CEO of Content & Calm, she has created award-winning children’s products designed to simplify parenting, securing partnerships with giants like Mothercare and British Airways. Her products are internationally recognised, distributed in over 21 countries. Solvej is also the founder and CEO of Inspirational Solutions, a consultancy revered for propelling business growth and leadership excellence. She serves as an Executive Coach, guiding individuals to achieve their personal and professional goals through effective, empathetic leadership development. As a UK ambassador for Tech Nordic Advocates, Solvej fosters collaboration between the UK and Nordic tech ecosystems, enhancing innovation and strategic growth. Her role as Chief Operating Officer and Brand Ambassador for From Another underscores her commitment to supporting working parents through meaningful flexible work arrangements. Her extensive experience also includes strategic advisory roles with Boardroom Advisors, providing interim support to executive teams and guiding SMEs and startups towards scalable growth. Solvej is a dedicated mentor at the Cranfield School of Management and a Leadership Development Mentor for the Whitehall & Industry Group. In addition to her business and mentoring endeavors, Solvej has served as Development Board Member for Ovarian Cancer Action focusing on significant fundraising and partnership development for critical research.

Many thanks, Solvej, for sharing your journey and insights with us.

Whilst being a successful lawyer you had a brilliant idea for a product and successfully brought it to market, even securing investment on Dragons’ Den. Can you tell us a bit about that initial spark of inspiration and what it was like taking your first steps into the entrepreneurial world?

The inspiration for all my products came from having my children and the needs I had travelling with them and that I could see others had when on the move with their little ones. Taking a leap into the unknown world of design, manufacturing and retail and leaving my legal career was scary to say the least. I realised I lacked all sorts of relevant knowledge, so my tenacity paid off when I managed to persuade some incredible people to help me on my journey.

Appearing on Dragons’ Den is a formidable challenge for any entrepreneur. Could you describe the impact it had on your business, and any advice for entrepreneurs considering similar avenues for exposure and funding?

Solvej Biddle on Dragons Den

Undoubtedly it had a huge impact on my business. Albeit that I had already secured some key retailers, including Mothercare, and an international distribution deal for southeast Asia, more than 3 million viewers watched my pitch on the night and many thousand more with the re-runs. Not only did individuals watch the episode but crucially, buyers from major retailers like Boots, Sainsburys, John Lewis and many others which had the effect of setting off the snowball effect of securing most major retailers in the UK. The international reach of the programme was incredible too and the positive effects of being on Dragons Den continue to this day. It gave me and my brand great exposure and led to ongoing investment.

How have you approached building and maintaining relationships with key partners like British Airways, Mr & Mrs Smith’s hotels, and the Automobile Association?

I approached them directly. Always remembering to think about what is in it for them, ie what can partnering with you offer them? With BA we talked about making travelling the world with children easier, by helping children to be content & calm, the vision of my brand. This aligned with their goal of encouraging parents to travel whilst ensuring that travellers without children could enjoy a calm and restful journey.

My advice would be to ask yourself some key questions and have a good think about whether your product is suitable for TV pitching – how does it come across in 3 minutes? Is it controversial? Could you raise money elsewhere for less equity? Are you good at pitching? Would you want a Dragon investor? Can you satisfy the demand if it goes well and handle the negative PR if it doesn’t?

For founders who may be introverted or uncomfortable with traditional networking, what would you suggest for building meaningful professional relationships?

Again, think about what is in it for them. What can you offer business wise and where is your expertise? At the end of the day professional relationships are forged when mutual benefit and ground can be found. This can be done on paper too, not just by being a natural networker.

As a champion for Women in Business and Tech, what changes would you like to see in these industries to foster greater inclusion and opportunities for women?

Female Entrepreneurs receive less than 2% investment.

There are incredible female entrepreneurs and innovators making positive lasting change to lives through their products and services. What is needed is much greater access to investment for female founded businesses. According to gov.uk, in 2022 of the UK’s multi billion pound venture capital funding, female entrepreneurs routinely received less than a 2% share of the investments made each year. There needs to be greater diversity amongst the decision makers who hold the purse strings. Statistically female led businesses outperform male led businesses in many areas and therefore, investors should be backing many more of these potentially sure bets. Women also do need to be brave and go for it, shedding the imposter syndrome which is so often felt more keenly by women.

You’ve dedicated a significant part of your career to mentoring and coaching, from guiding students at the Cranfield School of Management to advising tech founders around the world and executives in boardrooms. How has this commitment to helping others grow shaped your own personal and professional development?

I am a true believer that we never stop growing and learning and I have gained valuable insights from every person and business that I have mentored. My mantra that we all have strengths – the key is being able to identify them in others, has served me well and helped me be able to inspire others to be the best they can be and to reach the goals they aspire to reach.

If you could share a piece of wisdom with your younger self just beginning her business journey, what would it be?

Be resilient, tenacious and always gracious. See things from others’ perspectives.

The word Gracious made up from individually placed latters.

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