As any parent knows, you'll go to the ends of the earth to stop your child suffering. So when her daughter Bella developed severe atopic eczema, Joanna Jenson knew she had to find a way to ease the intense irritation and pain her baby was enduring every bathtime.

Little did she know, when she first began researching ways to create her own natural bath products from her Basingstoke home, the rollercoaster ride on which she was embarking.

Setting up Childs Farm in 2010, at the age of 40, Joanna saw the company became the market leader for baby and child toiletries, thanks to a couple of viral social media posts, and the business even became her saviour when she found herself going through tough times in her personal life, including the breakdown of her marriage and a cancer diagnosis.

'It wasn't a bed of roses,' she admits.

Great British Life: Joanna Jenson, founder of Basingstoke-based Childs Farm. Joanna Jenson, founder of Basingstoke-based Childs Farm. (Image: Rachael Smith)

'Bella was born in 2008 and she was very allergic to pretty much everything. I created almost no breast milk so it was only when I went to put her on supplement formula, that we discovered she was allergic to that as well. She ended up having prescription formula, which is basically just glucose. So I weaned her at three months – I didn't have any choice – to get some nutrients into her.

'Her skin was terrible –.she's sensitive in every way, shape and form. I went to find something to use on her skin, but nothing had changed since I was a girl in the 1970s when I had atopic eczema – I was given hydrocortisone and steroid cream. I just couldn't do it – I knew that, on her very delicate baby skin, it wasn't something I was prepared to do.'

Great British Life: Childs Farm productsChilds Farm products (Image: Rachael Smith)

When Bella was two, former investment banker Joanna took it upon herself to try and find an answer, creating a range of formulas with a company in Kent (the products are now made at Alton-based manufacturer Laleham).

'She couldn't even have a bath or wash her hair because her skin was so sensitive and so painful,' remembers Joanna. 'These were what my own daughters called the "non-owie" products, because they didn't hurt her skin.

'At long last, I could give her a bath without her screaming in pain.'

Joanna created a shampoo, conditioner, body wash and moisturiser, as well as a bubble bath, describing the products as 'an absolute game changer'.

'I thought, if I could provide a solution for my daughter, then I can provide a solution for other people's children,' she says. 'I had my first 1,000 bottles made and gave them out to friends, family and school mums with a questionnaire and said "can you fill this out and give it back to me".

Great British Life: Joanna surveyed her fellow school mums to find out if her prototype products worked as well as she thoughtJoanna surveyed her fellow school mums to find out if her prototype products worked as well as she thought (Image: Rachael Smith)

'What was very apparent was, this stuff worked, and they loved it – because they're all the colours of the rainbow, it didn't look like a medicinal product. I wanted to make bathtime fun on every level.'

In 2013, the products were launched online through the Childs Farm website, as well as at Ocado, Amazon and some smaller, independent stores. By the time the products launched in Boots and other mainstream retailers in the summer of 2014, the brand already had a rapidly growing reputation.

The business was steadily gaining momentum when a viral Facebook post in 2017 changed everything.

'A lovely woman in Nottingham posted a picture of her daughter's hands before using our baby moisturiser and afterwards,' says Joanna. 'We didn't even know this had been posted. Within six months, it had been shared 65,000 times It completely changed our fortunes – it encouraged more and more users to post their success stories.

'In 2018 we had another vial post,which was shared 65,000 times in two weeks – 65,000 is our number! An adult used it on their psoriasis and it was cured within 24 hours.

Great British Life: Childs Farm productsChilds Farm products (Image: Rachael Smith)

'So by 2019 we were, and still are, the market leader in baby and child toiletries.'

No mean feat when Joanna throws in the fact that she separated from her husband in 2012 and sold the family home. Moving with her two girls to Wolverton, she had just enough money to pay the rent for a year, and was trying to find financial backing for the business, after a £3m investor pulled out just before the contracts for the first Boots listing were signed.

'The day after moving in here I had people meet to do a presentation to see if they would invest in the business and thank God, they did,' she says.

'It was all a bit much. But I had so much faith in the product and in myself that I just said "I'm going to do it". Once I'd secured the funding, I thought it was going to be fine.

'What I hadn't banked on was becoming quite ill.'

After undergoing a life-saving operation to remove fibroids, one of which had wrapped itself around her intestine, in 2016 Joanna battled cervical cancer, followed by a hysterectomy when she was told the fibroids had returned, and found herself going through the menopause.

Great British Life: Joanna was inspired to launch Childs Farm due to her daughter’s allergiesJoanna was inspired to launch Childs Farm due to her daughter’s allergies (Image: Rachael Smith)

'I was overwhelmed, but I got back to it, and it was a hard slog,' she says of keeping the business going.

When Covid hit in 2020, Joanna and her team concentrated their efforts on the brand's online marketing until, after the pandemic, she found herself at a crossroads when she realised the next step was international expansion.

'I felt I wasn't the right person to do that,' she explains. The Childs Farm team met with PZ Cussons, owner of household brands Imperial Leather, St.Tropez and Carex, which loved the brand and, in 2022, Joanna sold 92 per cent of the company for £36.8m.

'It's still based in Basingstoke and I act as an ambassador for the brand,' she says. 'They're having fantastic success doing what we wanted to do, which was to go international. The opportunities are endless.'

With her girls now teenagers and her mum diagnosed with Alzheimer's and vascular dementia, Joanna says the sale came at the perfect time to allow her to be around for her family, although she admits it took her at least six months to 'unwind' from being a workaholic.

'It was like going cold turkey,' she smiles.

'Whilst I still do a lot for the business, it's all stuff I never had time for - sharing my expertise, helping people with what I went through building a business, guiding people. I'm thoroughly enjoying all the work that I do with female founded businesses – support, mentoring and sometimes investing.'

Great British Life: Childs Farm productsChilds Farm products (Image: Rachael Smith)

Joanna is chair of The Parallel Club, part of the British Paralympic Association, which aims to assist paralympic athletes and half owns a paralympic dressage horse.

She's also finally finding the time for more personal endeavours – she's currently training to pass the jockey fitness test and, at the time of going to press, was waiting to hear if she'd made the cut to compete in a flat race at Goodwood.

Last but not least, she's also planning a wedding with her partner Jonathan, with a ceremony taking place at Chelsea Registry Office in April, and a big party at home in September.

'It's a constant up and down, bumpy road,' she laughs.

'Running a business is phenomenally hard work and everything is an extreme of emotions, but it gave me such a buzz. It's so exciting, it's so frustrating, it's so terrifying - to me, it was like Champagne and the best canapés I've ever had.'