At 40, Dominque Woolf was at a crossroads. She had reached a point where she wanted a change her life but wasn’t sure how to do it. After getting through the chaotic first few years of parenthood with three children in quick succession, she knew she wanted to change her career but she didn’t know what she wanted to do. So, she decided to start with what she loved – food – and go from there.
Dominique, from Crouch End, was a singer throughout her 30s and pursued that after giving up a career in sales and recruitment. A significant risk at the time but singing was her love and passion until she “fell out of love” with it. She had her three kids in quick succession – 16 months between each child – and soon realised that music wasn’t a long-term career for her.
The 44-year-old told MyLondon: “I knew I didn’t have a career to fall back on once I finished with music. I realised it wasn’t going to happen for me the way that I wanted it to. I had followed it for 15 years and was very committed to music but I made the realisation it was never going to happen.
“Once I had the kids I was a stay-at-home mum. It was full-on trying to raise three babies and ensure they got the time they deserved. Being 40 and not knowing what you want to do is a hard place to be. I didn’t have a career to go back to once my children reached school age, it was hard to figure out what to do.”
Food has always been a big part of Dominique’s life and half of her family coming from Thailand plays a big part in that. She remembered in her childhood eating “big flavours” and the sauces her aunty would cook that she loved.
After being inspired by her aunt’s tamarind sauce, she started developing her idea. She undertook a cooking course at Leiths Cookery School and started working from her kitchen table. In September 2019, she decided to make three sauces and sold them at a farmers’ market at Christmas. She sold 250 bottles over two dates and the feedback she received was “amazing”.
She invested £3,000 of her own money into her business idea and in 2020 The Woolf’s Kitchen was born. When she first started selling her sauces she would deliver to her local deli, and as word spread she eventually started selling to the whole of the UK. In 2021, she got them stocked in Selfridges.
She has so far created three sauces – Tamarind Ketchup, Jalapeno and Lime, and Hot and Sour – as well as a range of four condiments including Chilli Crunch.
Dominique Woolf and her three sauces
Dominque said: “Since starting The Woolf’s Kitchen I’ve gone on to achieve a lot. I won Jamie Oliver’s Great Cookbook Challenge TV show in March and launched a cookbook called Dominique’s Kitchen that was a number 1 Sunday Times Bestseller. Being stocked in Selfridges is a proud moment and now we are stocked in Co-op.
“I’m not going to say it’s easy balancing everything. There’s only one of me. Working in the kitchen is a full-time job, writing a cookbook takes time, raising my children as well as being a wife. When you’re an entrepreneur you get to a point where you need to delegate tasks away and ask for help.
“I’m very fortunate that my mum comes around and helps look after the kids. When I’m working at home in the kitchen and the kids are back from school, it gets quite disruptive in that sense. I work late but my husband is great and he will take them out at the weekend to give me some time.”
The Woolf’s Kitchen Chilli Crunch
So far, Dominique is proud to have made over £150,000 in the last couple of years which “could have been more” as she took time out to make her cookbook.
“I’ve been full on with my book and the business is still doing well so I’d be interested to see what could happen if I actually got a team in place. My children are five, six and eight and I use them as taste testers. It’s all about balancing my time but it’s a work in progress. I’m really proud of what I have achieved so far in a relatively short time period, having launched in Covid as well as juggling three young kids.
“You do get mum guilt at times; if you’re not spending enough time with your kids and you don’t want to regret that I haven’t spent that time. It’s also about being realistic and not giving yourself a hard time. There’s a lot of guilt but there are times when you can’t because I’m trying to forge a career but it’s easier said than done.”
She added: “I think women definitely find it harder getting back into the workforce after having children. I created a networking group of local mums during Covid and they all found it hard getting back into the workforce after having kids. I knew I didn’t want to go back to sales or recruitment as my heart wouldn’t have been in it. I needed to do something for myself.”