Danielle Kinney overcame post-natal depression to launch her Placenta Plus brand, which has attracted celebrity customers including Amy Childs, Chelsee Healey and Coleen Rooney, and which is now being franchised, as Janet Tansley reports.
With its huge bay windows and imposing solid doorway, Danielle Kinney dreamt about the Victorian house in a quiet, select road overlooking a park near where she lived. It was a standing joke with her family that she coveted the mini-mansion, poring over the property pages when it came up for sale.
“I used to say, ‘if I ever win the Lottery, I’ll buy that house’,” smiles Kinney. That house is now her home, not because her numbers came up on a Saturday night, but because – for the past two years – she has put her heart and soul into building her business, Placenta Plus, born from a personal health battle and a determination to do something about it.
“I have always said, you have to be your own Lottery,” she admits. “And I have.”
Kinney is now the go-to person for a host of celebrity – and ordinary – mums who have embraced the trend to turn their placenta into pills and potions after childbirth and harness the many benefits it has to offer. In just over two years, Placenta Plus has become known around the world and, with plans to franchise the name globally, the mum-of-three is, on paper at least, a millionaire.
“It seems incredible,” she confesses. “I never imagined for one minute it would take off as it has. It feels amazing and while it’s not about the money, that does keep me going… along with the coffee.”
Kinney, 33, from St Helens, is proof of the cliché that every cloud can have a silver-lining, however much it appeared that the one above the mum-of-three was getting ever darker. After her second daughter, Tess, was born Kinney was wracked with post-natal depression (PND).
“I didn’t realise I had it,” she says. “I thought PND was when women couldn’t cope, when they couldn’t look after their child or clean their house; or they wanted to harm their child.
“That certainly wasn’t me. I was the total opposite. I’d get up at 7.30am, clean the house top-to-bottom, get me and the kids dressed and by 9am everything would be done.
“But if the kids got chocolate on their clothes, that would send me into a frenzy of panic; I’d get unbelievably stressed. I would obsess over the silliest things and thought everyone had it in for me, that they were being nasty to me.
“People around me were walking on eggshells, not least my husband, Wes, and there was a time when we thought it would be best if we went our separate ways.
“I remember one night when I was driving along the motorway after a row with Wes – a regular occurrence when I had PND – and a big Eddie Stobbart truck pulled alongside me. If I hadn’t had my two daughters, Bella and Tess, in the car with me I would have driven underneath it. That’s how bad it can get.
“On another occasion, I was in the kitchen with Wes and we were bickering. I just turned and bit his face, I sank my teeth into his cheek. I was angry with everyone and everything and I bit him. I’m not a violent person; it was so unlike me and he said, ‘that’s it, you’re ill’. Thank God he did.”
Kinney went to her doctor and was prescribed anti-depressants to help treat post-natal depression, and that might have been it had she not suddenly become pregnant with son Harry, now two-and-a-half. Given her previous experiences, she was desperate not to go through the same again.
“I searched Google for alternative remedies for PND and I came across an article about Kourtney Kardashian having taken placenta pills to prevent the baby blues,” she remembers. “I did wonder how likely it was to work, but I was willing to do and try anything.
“I looked for people who could do it for me, but I wasn’t happy with anyone – one woman suggested my husband meet her in a Tesco car park with my placenta. There were so many flaws I decided to do my own. I have always been that person who would have a go.
“I did an online course and bought a standard dehydrator and a coffee grinder. I took a Tupperware box into hospital when I went in to give birth to Harry, to put my placenta in.
“Having always had C-sections, I had never seen a placenta, so I hadn’t realised how squeamish I was. And I hadn’t bargained for all the veins and blood. That first time it was like a scene from Breaking Bad.”
Kinney roars with laughter at the thought. “It’s a human organ,” she explains. “But I carefully cleaned it and dissected it, put it in the dehydration machine and then ground it down, before putting it into the capsules I’d bought. It seems relatively easy on paper – but it’s not.
“I was in Tesco the day after thinking, if only these people around me knew what I was up to in my kitchen yesterday.”
For the first couple of days, Kinney was terrified in case she had done something wrong that would make her ill – the last thing she needed with a newborn – but she grins: “I felt amazing.
“I got up each morning, took two of these pills with a glass of orange juice and I was ready for anything. Harry was born in July so as soon as we were up and ready, we and the girls would be off to the beach or the park. I felt great and, crucially, there were no signs that the PND that had reduced me to considering suicide after Bella and Tess.
“Of course, I wondered if it was a placebo effect, or fluke. But I knew inside – and other people could see the difference, not just with my moods, my hair and skin were glowing.
“It’s about putting back what’s been lost. Mothers who have taken placenta pills have reported a boost in energy levels, balanced moods, a faster recovery and, what was crucial for me, a lower instance of baby blues and PND.”
The theory is that the placenta contains rich nutrients like iron, vitamins B6 that aids the making of antibodies and E that helps heal damaged skin cells. It has oxytocin, a hormone essential for facilitating birth and breastfeeding and a corticotropin-releasing hormone, which is responsible for reducing stress levels.
At first friends were “freaked out” by what she had done but when they witnessed the results, they were fascinated.
“I went to Dubai with friends when Harry was six weeks old and a pregnant pal asked me if I would do it for her,” she says. “I was reluctant at first, but eventually agreed on the understanding she didn’t tell anyone else.
“But she was so pleased when I gave them to her that she put a picture of them on Instagram and persuaded me to do the same. Within 24 hours, 15 people had booked me to do it for them – one of them was Coleen Rooney.”
Business was booming – not bad for a girl who left school with no GCSEs. “I was diagnosed as dyslexic when I was 15 but it seemed too late by then,” she explains. “I had been described by teachers as ‘bright, but lazy’ and predicted to get nothing but Ds and Es.
“But I told my mum I wasn’t going to let those grades define me – and neither should she. If she did, she was letting me down. I said, ‘I’ll be fine in life, I’ll prove myself to you’.
“I left school and got an apprenticeship as a hairdresser at Herbert of Liverpool and at 21 left to work for myself. But I was getting less interested in hairdressing, it wasn’t challenging me anymore.
“I thought about midwifery but realised how long it would take to qualify and, after having children, like most people I put my dreams on hold.”
When she finally set up Placenta Plus, Kinney wanted it to be the best, to be the service she wanted but couldn’t find. She spent £25,000 building a lab in the back garden of her former home and equipped herself with the very best in medical technology to create the brand that won her a “Women in Business Award” nomination and led to a clamour of celebrity mums seeking her services to have placenta turned into pills and creams for around £200 a time.
Rooney was the first famous face – many more have followed, Rebekah Vardy, Tanya Bardsley, Amy Childs, Chelsee Healey and Rochelle Humes – but so too have ordinary mums.
“I have had interest as far afield as Australia, Germany, Mexico, the Netherlands, China and the United States,” Keeney says. “Last year I went out to the US to provide my service for a woman whose husband said his wife would be disappointed if anyone else did it for her.
“They paid my expenses, travel, hotel – and £5,000. I resisted at first because it didn’t seem right but then I thought, there are days when I have worked solidly for 48 hours, why not enjoy a perk?”
In demand, but only able to ‘be in one place at one time’ Kenney has made the decision to sell franchises for Placenta Plus across the globe. “By offering franchises I can help other people offer services with the same standards and quality I provide already – and I will remain on call 24-hours a day,” she says. “I started this business to help women, but cost and distance has meant it wasn’t available to many and that devastated me. People in Ireland, Scotland and London even, were saying they would love to use Placenta Plus but couldn’t afford the fee, which could be doubled by the costs of the human tissue transport services to carry the placenta to me – now I’m doing something about it.”
Fourteen people are already in legal negotiations to buy franchises, which will be split into territories and will start from £55,000, which includes the name, the expertise and the lab kit needed to provide the service. The licence will last for five years.
Selling 10 will make Danielle a millionaire but it is proposed, initially, to sell 23. She has vowed never to let go of Placenta Plus Liverpool, even though that has been valued at more than £1m on its own.
“I have gone from being a stay-at-home mum to a successful businesswoman, proud of what I have achieved and, now, of helping others to do what I started,” she says. “I am nervous. It’s a bit like having a baby and then taking them to school for the first time, letting them go, but l’ll regain control to ensure clients still enjoy the superior service I created.”
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