In 2018, I was sitting in this spot at my desk I’m writing at now when I had a call with a scientist that changed my life. I’d been looking for a remedy to stop the stream of coughs and colds in my house that came home with my kids from nursery.
An endless cycle of spluttering that had all the mums at the school gates rolling their eyes in helplessness. As a curious journalist, I went looking for a solution. A nutritionist told me to try making homemade kefir for better gut health, but the straight-talking Aussie scientist on this call said words I’ll never forget:
“Kefir’s all well and good, Stephanie, but if you really want to stop a cold in its tracks you want to try Lactoferrin”
Lacto-what?? I quickly learned that it was natural, made by our bodies each day as a vital part of our immune system to keep bugs at bay and that it was the key ingredient of mother’s milk for kickstarting a baby’s immunity. My sceptical husband was with me when the sample of Lactoferrin arrived. “What’s that?” he said of the fine pink powder as it poofed over the counter when I opened it. “This is Lactoferrin, and apparently it cures a cold” I replied. He scoffed, but gamely tried it with me over the coming months. By the time the sample ran out he was climbing the walls for me to source more. It had worked again and again to stop our family’s colds, neutralising them before they took hold, and now he couldn’t be without it: “I’ve got too much work on, I can’t afford to get sick!” he panicked.
I couldn’t buy Lactoferrin in the UK in the chewable format I wanted – we’d allowed the Lactoferrin to slowly dissolve in the mouth which the scientist said was beneficial – so I decided to create my own supplement. A chance encounter with Renée Elliott, the founder of Planet Organic, allowed me to pitch my idea to her and she came on board as my mentor. I brought together the brightest minds I could find on Lactoferrin – immunologist Dr Marian Kruzel, nutritionist Emma Davies, and pharmacist Dr Hamid Merchant. I sourced more raw Lactoferrin for us to use until Leapfrog was ready, and I remember my husband calling out to me:
“You know, that stuff is amazing – I’ve just leapfrogged over a cold again.”
It was a sign: I’d decided to call the company Leapfrog two days before.
By mid 2020 I was holding in my hand a tangy citrus-flavour chewable Leapfrog tablet, an immune support supplement formulated with Lactoferrin, Zinc and Vitamin C. It was official: Leapfrog Remedies was the 1st Lactoferrin brand in the UK.
Covid had struck the world and immunity was suddenly at the forefront of people’s minds. Virologists got to work looking for a solution among the drugs and compounds already available, and Lactoferrin began making waves. I gathered the scientific information as it was made public, sending it over to other journalists and editors for them to consider writing about. There was a wall of silence. My team and I wrote to all the glossy magazines and broadsheet newspapers, but Leapfrog got lost amid all the “immune boosters” flooding the market. Lactoferrin was too little-known to get media attention. “People want to get on the train as it’s leaving the station,” my husband rationalised as I ranted, “and right now Leapfrog and Lactoferrin are still in the station.”
I remember every piece of press we’ve had since we launched and am grateful to every journalist who wrote a line about Leapfrog. Tor Cardona at SheerLuxe was the first, and I sent her chocolate éclairs – a tiny token of thanks that could never match the magnitude of what she wrote, which included “Meet Leapfrog, the supplement brand taking the health world by storm”. I then had the opportunity to pitch to Selfridges. I had 10 minutes over zoom with the buyer, and by minute six he said he wanted Leapfrog for the store. “You can open the champagne, Stephanie” he smiled, “I’m completely sold.”
The best feeling for me as a founder though, was that after the initial orders of Leapfrog by supportive family and friends, people I didn’t know began buying it. When the first of those came back to order again, I knew what they knew because I had felt it myself in 2018: it really worked to stop a cold in its tracks.
Leapfrog is now two years old, and I’ve gotten to know many of my customers. It’s been a privilege to speak to so many and find out why they want Leapfrog in their lives, whether it’s for their daughter heading off to a festival or run-down from burning the candle at University, or if they themselves are heading back into the office or jetting off on holiday. They tell me they feel reassured by Leapfrog and that it’s a “must have in the medicine cabinet” – there is no better sense of achievement for me than hearing this.
Now those lurid liquids that we used to use for the kids when they got colds are never touched – when the kids feel a sniffle, a scratchy throat or a sick-feeling tummy, they come to me for a Leapfrog IMMUNE. It’s not been easy building a business and nurturing two small tornado-like boys. It has been like brain jiu-jitsu, particularly when folding in all the Instagram reels and TikTok videos I’ve thrown myself into. My boys have had to be patient, but they are Leapfrog’s No.1 fans (and chief taste testers). When waiting to cross the road the other day, Milo, my 6-year-old, turned to a woman – a complete stranger – standing beside us, and said:
“Do you want to buy Mummy’s pills?”
Two years after launching, Leapfrog is about to bring out a new supplement – one to help with stress and sleep disturbance (two factors that negatively impact the immune system). Again, the key ingredient is natural and sourced from that magical cocktail: milk. The second chapter of the Leapfrog story is about to be told, and I hope to see you in it ; )