Jennifer’s journey from a humble beginning to The Pure Package

We Came From Nothing And Made A Million by Tessa Whittington

As new research reveals the number of self-made female millionaires has risen by 40 percent over the past five years, two women reveal how they made their fortune.

I had no running water as a child.

Jennifer Irvine, 35, runs The Pure Package, a gourmet food delivery firm. She has three children: Rose, two, Jasmine, three and five-year-old Lily and lives with her husband Stephen, 40, who works in the financial sector, in Virginia Water, Surrey.

I grew up on a farm in rural Cork in Ireland with no heating or drinking water in the house. Every morning we’d get dressed in bed with only the tops of our heads exposed to the freezing air.

To get water one of us children had to hold the other child’s legs while we dipped the bucket into the well. We had an ancient banger we had to jump start every morning.

Mum and dad were entirely self-sufficient. I recall once mum was in tears, pleading with dad to buy us bacon, but he said: “No, you’ll have to wait till we kill the pig.” It made me grow up longing for warmth and luxury and one of the greatest things in our house is the under-floor heating.

I studied food marketing and economics at Reading University and had to work at three jobs to put myself through university. Everything I have achieved I have done myself and that makes me very proud. My parents were very loving and gave me a fantastic work ethic. I set up my company seven years ago from my kitchen sink. We provide a complete daily food with snacks for our clients. Most want to lose weight and I have celebrity clients such as Hugh Jackman, Lily Cole, Ruby Wax and Patsy Kensit. We deliver food in a temperature-controlled bag with recyclable containers first thing every morning.

I started off doing everything. I’d answer the phone and pretend to be my secretary and then hand the phone over to myself. I hated the idea of asking for a bank loan or trying to get money from venture capitalists. So I financed everything myself by asking for money from my clients upfront. The more clients I had, the better the cash flow. I charge about £300 for 10 days’ worth of meals, including delivery.

To this day, when our turnover is over £2 million, I still don’t have any loans and have never had an overdraft. I have 24 staff and I am on the board of four companies. In those seven years I have had three children, which has forced me to slow down at times.

I don’t think corporate life suits women, which is why so many of us are setting us highly successful “cottage” industries. The female instinct is to care for our home and families. We don’t want to work 14-hour days in an office. I want to be there when my children are growing up. I have a nanny, but I ensure I am at home as much as I can.

We have a lovely home and lifestyle. I think my parents are proud of me. They still live on the same farm. My tough upbringing means I’m determined, resourceful and can take the knocks. Business is tough and nothing is ever plain sailing. You just have to take a deep breath and carry on.