When Pauline Paterson found herself racing against the clock at 6pm to pick up her toddler from nursery for the zillionth time — dashing through crowds of London commuters, praying the suburban trains wouldn’t be delayed — she knew she was reaching the end of her tether.

‘I was dropping her off at 7.30am and then everything had to go like clockwork or it all fell apart.’ There had to be a less stressful way to make a living and be a mum.

So began her ‘side-hustle’ Dr.PawPaw, back then a venture with a single product: a funky-coloured tube of soothing skin balm made using papaya extract.

Eight years later, Pauline is the hugely inspiring boss of a £5.5 million business — and this year’s winner of Inspire’s Aphrodite Award, sponsored by the Daily Mail, part of the prestigious Everywoman Awards for the UK’s top female entrepreneurs.

Pauline Paterson, 43, (pictured) received Inspire's Aphrodite Award at a ceremony at the Grosvenor House Hotel in central London last week

Pauline Paterson, 43 (pictured), received Inspire’s Aphrodite Awards at an event at Grosvenor House Hotel last week in central London.

At a ceremony at the Grosvenor House Hotel in central London last week, she received her trophy to applause from an audience of leading businesswomen in ever-more diverse fields — from distillery owners to women’s health entrepreneurs, from body-positive activists to tech- industry innovators.

‘I was genuinely shocked to win,’ she says now. ‘The calibre of women on the Aphrodite shortlist and in that room as a whole was extraordinarily high.

‘There was such a lovely vibe there, too, all these women supporting each other at the end of what’s been another pretty tough year for everyone. I feel really proud to be part of it.’

In fact, it was the toddler waiting for her at nursery — Jasmine, aged two when Dr.PawPaw launched in 2013 — who inspired the brand. At the age of nine months, she’d developed chronic eczema on her arms and legs.

‘We tried every over-the-counter cream to heal it, but nothing worked. The GP suggested steroids, but we wanted to keep it as natural as possible.’

Pauline spent most of her childhood in Australia. Beauty balms often contain papaya. Pauline tried one last time on Jasmine.

In a matter of minutes, the inflammation started to reduce. It was impossible to find a papaya-based product in Australia. She also couldn’t import it to the UK. She began making the cream herself.

Pauline, a trained hairdresser who has not received formal business training, made the decision to become an entrepreneur.

At 43 years old, she moved to Britain after winning an Australian competition for hairdressing. The top prize was a trip to London.

Pauline (pictured) said Dr.PawPaw was started with £20,000 — ten from her savings and ten from two friends

Pauline (pictured) said Dr.PawPaw was started with £20,000 — ten from her savings and ten from two friends

‘I asked them for an open ticket hoping to prolong the visit, and ended up staying for good,’ she laughs. She met her British husband Johnny (40), a former marketing executive who now works at Dr.PawPaw.

‘The first key to entrepreneurialism is believing in yourself,’ she says. ‘Self-doubt is honestly the biggest obstacle women face.

‘But the second biggest challenge is money. We started with £20,000 — ten from our savings and ten from two friends — and I didn’t give up my job in haircare [at the Wella Academy in central London] at first because I couldn’t afford to. I had a family; I couldn’t lose the house!

‘Having said that, I do really believe you can teach yourself any and every skill you need. You definitely need resilience to keep going, but with that and plenty of research, anything is possible.’

While I was learning about intellectual property laws, I also breastfed. 

Jasmine’s baby, Baby Jackson, followed her in 2013 just months after she launched the company.

‘I’d be breastfeeding him while on the laptop learning about intellectual property law,’ she says.

Filing the relevant documents herself saved the fledgling business £30,000 in fees. ‘I worked whenever he napped and whenever both kids were in bed at night. I still do.

‘Of course I was tired, but at least I wasn’t doing that crazy commute or having to ring Johnny in a panic and tell him to walk out of whatever meeting he was in because I was stuck. It was definitely less stressful.’

As a pure novice — and, depressingly, as a woman — she encountered her fair share of prejudice as she entered the world of business. Turned down for a bank loan, and even an overdraft, she was often dismissed as ‘the face’ of Dr.PawPaw rather than its owner.

Pauline (pictured) admits that she hadn't expected her brand to take off so quickly - today there are 36 products, from lip masks to hand creams to tinted balms

Pauline (pictured), admits she didn’t expect her brand would grow so fast – there are now 36 products from tinted balms to lip creams, hand creams and hand lotions.

Her determination and perseverance proved them wrong. Harvey Nichols accepted her pitch and she provided her with 5,000 tubs of her multi-purpose balm. They flew off the shelves.

‘I really hadn’t expected it to take off so quickly,’ she says. ‘But after that we could really start to ramp up.’ Today there are 36 products, from lip masks to hand creams to tinted balms in their colourful little tubes, stocked in Boots, Superdrug, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose, the majority priced at less than £4.

With a celebrity following including Victoria Beckham, Emma Watson and Elle Macpherson, Pauline’s products are also now found on the shelves of huge U.S. cosmetics chain Ulta Beauty, which has 1,200 outlets across the States. Overall she’s stocked in 30 countries.

All these women supporting each other, I’m proud to be part of it 

Next year the brand promises ‘a big launch’ of new products and a further push into the U.S. market. Covid continues to be a problem. This has made this year difficult.

‘We haven’t made the targets we had for 2021 because we’re still operating in a world that’s very far from normal,’ admits Pauline.

Shipping costs have spiralled, she says, especially to China and the U.S. ‘I’ve spent long hours learning about global logistics this year, which I’d really rather not have done.

‘If anything good has come out of Covid, it’s the emergence of a new kind of self-care. I think women have really started to understand the value of taking time out for themselves, even if it’s just a long bath or putting a nice face mask on or reading a book.’

The pre-Covid merry-go-round was very hard for working mums to get off, she says — and when women did, they often felt guilty.

Pauline said her favourite moment at the Everywoman Awards last week was when other women approached her to tell her how much they loved her products

Pauline shared that the Everywoman Awards were her favorite moment because other women approached Pauline last week to tell Pauline how much she loved her products.

‘Now I think we talk more about the importance of mental health and prioritising a balanced life. You project a feeling of happiness when you are happy.

‘You make better decisions, have more confidence and, in the end, your work is more effective.’ By contrast, when you’re low, ‘you’re much more likely to fall for bad advice and to not think clearly’.

She adds: ‘A nice body lotion or a new lipstick can have all these knock-on effects. The idea of wellness or self-care can seem trivial, but it really isn’t.’

Her favourite moment at the Everywoman Awards last week wasn’t on stage as she was handed her prize, but afterwards when other women approached her to tell her how much they loved her products.

‘Best of all was one who said her son had eczema and ours was the only balm that soothed it. That really made me smile.’