55: Coconut products – Interview with Jacob Thundil from Cocofina

Today we feature Jacob Thundil from Cocofina who was featured on the British entrepreneur show Dragons’ Den.


What kind of business do you run? When did you start it and where is it based?

I run Cocofina a coconut company. We produce a range of 30 products with coconut. All of our products are 100% natural and majority of them are organic. I started 11 years ago and we are based in Eastcote.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background. What inspired you to start this business?

I was born in Kerala. While I was at university my dad passed away and I ended up running his business and completing a mechanical engineering degree. After completing my studies I decided to leave the family business to pursue an MBA and work in large companies like BT, Accenture, HSBC, Virgin Media etc. When I got to 30 years I started looking for ways to leave the corporate world. While I was in Brazil on a business trip and still contemplating on what to do I was given a coconut to drink and I rediscovered coconut water. I decided that this is what I wanted to do. When I was searching for names I wanted to focus on a name which signified a quality product hence ‘Cocofina’

Which resources to run your business do you use most?

My colleagues are the most invaluable resource.

What would you recommend new entrepreneurs? How to get started?

Start small and be quick don’t be afraid. Often when you have a job and you leave it start a business it can be lonely but this is a temporary phase. Life is game make sure you have enough lives left to play to cover for the mistakes you will make early on. In the early stages try to favour variable costs over fixed costs and have enough money to be able to live in case everything goes badly.

How was your experience in Dragons’ Den? What would be your advice to other people want to appear?

My experience on Dragons’ Den was amazing although you see 15 minutes on TV we were in the Den for 2.5 hours! My advice would be prepare and be yourself.

Any books about entrepreneurship you can recommend?

I am currently reading the Barefoot Spirit. Its an interesting story of a couple who built a very successful wine business with lots of business lessons.

Outside of business what do you enjoy doing? How do you recharge your batteries?

I visit the gym twice a week and cook afterwards with my 15 year old son its our time to catch up. I like going out to eat and travelling.

Tell us some fun facts about you or your business!

All the products originated in my kitchen. At any time there is at least 50 products which were made in the kitchen and not taken into production.

What is the best business decision you’ve ever made?

The best decisions were to wait to appoint distributors in the various countries. In the early stages we were not attracting the right calibre of distributors.

What’s your fondest memory working on this business?

Visiting Japan for a trade show. We had so much fun experiencing a new culture.

Tell us more about the “Great Taste Award”. Do you need to apply to get it and do you think it helps sales?

You need to apply and they close the application when it gets to 10,000 products, Panels of judges judge products and awards and given out. It helps sales since consumers recognise it.

What are your future plans for the company?

We plan to make Cocofina a global house hold brand name!

To learn more about Jacob’s company please visit Cocofina.com.

54: Powdered Food – Interview with Huel

Today with interview the people behind Huel who manufacture powdered food.


What kind of business do you run? When did you start it and where is it based?

Huel is a nutritionally complete powdered food startup. The idea for Huel was first thought of in 2012, but but sold our first batch of Huel in June 2015. We’re currently based in Aylesbury.

How did you come up with the name Huel?

Huel, is created from a combination of the words Human and Fuel.

What inspired you to start this business?

The idea came from when the co-founder, Julian Hearn, was on a diet plan for a former business of his. He had to stick to a strict diet to make sure he was getting all the nutrients his body needed, but found that making sure you got them all, and having all the time to prepare them, was a “nightmare”. That’s why he created Huel. It takes two minutes to prepare, and has 100% of the vitamins and minerals your body needs to thrive. People can gain or lose weight, eat healthier and save time all in the knowledge what they’re eating is sustainable and healthy.

The formula was created by our nutritionist, James Collier BSc (Hons) RNutr, who has 25 years working in nutrition, includes working in the NHS as a clinical dietitian for over 7 years covering an array of clinical areas, where he worked with people with a wide range of ailments and is co-owner of one of the world’s most popular bodybuilding forums, www.MuscleTalk.co.uk. He carefully created it to make sure Huel was a nutritionally complete powdered food, containing all the protein, carbs, fats, vitamins and minerals that your body needs. Indeed, Huel provides at least 100% of the UK Government’s ‘Reference Nutrient Intakes’ and the European Union’s ‘Daily Recommended Amount’.

Are there any blogs, podcasts or Facebook Groups about entrepreneurship you follow closely?

There are too many podcasts to list, but one that we are particularly fond of is Shopify Masters, which the founder Julian Hearn was recently asked to be on.

Which resources to run your business do you use most?

We use the eCommerce platform Shopify, so that is what we use the most. However sites such as basecamp which help create and track tasks people are doing are also invaluable for keeping on top of things. Outside of these, gmail, Skype, and our forum hosting service Discourse are also things we spend a lot of time on.

How many people are involved in your business?

There are currently 7 people directly hired by Huel. However, we outsource a lot of Huel to fulfillment our house, freelancers and the facility that makes Huel, so the number is much higher than that. At least 30 people, probably a lot more.

How was your company funded?

Julian Hearn has previously sold a successful former business of his, so he was able to fund Huel entirely from this. As he has already made his money, this means Huel is much more a project of love than something to make money.

To learn more please visit Huel.com.

52: Energy Bars – Interview with Christine Spliid from Crobar

Today we feature a truly unusual business! Christine Spliid from Gathrfoods.com offers energy bars with a twist!


What kind of business do you run? When did you start it and where is it based?

I launched the first insect-based food product in the UK, Crobar, in spring 2015. You could call it a ‘disruptive’ business, as I’m introducing a new protein source which people in the West haven’t eaten before, so I am literally trying to change people’s perceptions and mindsets. I am based in London, and work from home.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

I have been into health foods for years, and love snacking on new, healthy products. I also love travelling, and it was on my trip to Cambodia that I first tasted insects. After some research into the health benefits, I realised how much more there is to the story, in terms of the huge environmental benefits if we could introduce insects in Western diets on a bigger scale. This is what fascinates me so much and makes this so worthwhile. By launching Crobar I’m trying to make healthy, innovative products, and I’m also giving back and starting something which could benefit the whole planet in the long run.

What is your daily routine of running your business?

Other than no two days ever being the same, I obviously spend a lot of time on my laptop writing emails. I work mostly from home, but have meetings all over London several times a week. I tend to wake up, check emails, go for a jog, then meetings and more emails. I also like to sit in cafes and work from there sometimes.

What are the best and worst parts of running your business?

The best bit is deciding what you want to do and when. If you don’t feel like doing something, you can just do it tomorrow. The worst part is that when things go wrong you feel isolated and don’t know who to turn to because no one knows the business as well as you do.

What would you recommend new entrepreneurs? How to get started?

On the one hand I’d say do your research, seek out people who know more than you and learn from them. On the other hand, you also have to just dive into it and do it and take a chance. Too much thinking can mean you make up excuses for not doing it. It’s a fine balance.

You know you’re an entrepreneur when …

All you want to talk about is your work, it’s the first and the last thing you think about in a day.

Any books about entrepreneurship you can recommend?

I love reading biographies about other entrepreneurs who have become successful business people. It inspires you and you realise they have been through some tough times as well, probably tougher than you. Currently I’m reading the biography of Elon Musk, it’s pretty interesting.

What are your future plans for the company?

I want to launch more insect based food products, such as crackers, chips, bread, pasta. The opportunities to use cricket flour are limitless!

What’s your fondest memory working on this business?

The best memory is when the first Crobar came our of the production line. To see something you have been working on for months become a reality was amazing, and I felt very proud.

To learn more about Christine’s business please visit gathrfoods.com.

50: Meat Alternatives – Interview with Barry Honeycombe from More Than Meat

Today we feature Barry Honeycombe from More Than Meat. I’ve first encountered his company in London at the Just V Show. Please enjoy the 50th interview!

Barry Honeycombe Cooking 1

What kind of business do you run? When did you start it and where is it based?

My business is called Plantalicious Limited and our first range of products is called More Than Meat. More Than Meat is just what it says, a plant protein based meat alternative brand that is more delicious and healthier than animal protein meat. After years of yo-yo dieting, I switched to a whole food, plant-based diet and it revolutionised my health. I founded the company to help others make the same positive change to a meat-reducer lifestyle.

We blend plant-proteins with wholefoods to make our products, which are made in small batches, using real ingredients. More Than Meat burgers and casseroles are protein packed, zero-cholesterol meals, containing no added fats, no eggs, no dairy and, of course, no meat.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

My background is not in food. Most of my career was spent selling analytics, helping banks and financial institutions make better decisions through data for risk decisions and pricing. After reading The China Study, I studied for a certificate in Plant Based Nutrition through Cornell University’s online programme. I also used to travel to the US a lot for work and happened to be in California so I took a few days to go to a Farms 2 Forks weekend where I ate the most delicious and healthy plant-based foods and met some of my “food heroes”. I came back from the US and immediately starting following a plant-based diet where I eat nothing that has a face or a mother! I now follow a plant-based diet and then founded my company, as I could not find delicious and healthy plant-based alternatives that were not full of salt, fat and sugar. So, I decided to make my own.

What inspired you to start this business?

It was sheer frustration really. The products that were on the market were not what I was looking for. I wanted something that tasted good but that was healthy. I also missed certain textures and flavours that are associated with meat. For me, a burger should have a degree of resistance and chew; it should not fall apart or be dry. I also love all the flavours associated with lamb, such as rosemary, mint, red currants, red wine etc., hence the lamb casserole. My love of food inspired me to start my company. I am passionate about good food and have always loved to entertain and show my love for my friends and family through food. I am not on a crusade to turn the whole world vegan. I simply want to offer some good food where the proteins just happen to come from plants. If my food is tasty enough, I hope that my customers will choose to eat more plant-based foods as part of their diet. My motivation and passion is to provide people with products that are delicious, good for them and good for the planet.

More Than Meat Jerk Burger 1

What is your daily routine of running your business?

At the moment it is more of a weekly routine. The earlier part of the week is spent trying to secure new retail and foodservice partners. We have taken a non-traditional approach where we deal direct rather than through wholesalers at the moment. Our online, retail and food service orders are all sent out by courier on Thursdays and my team cook and freeze the products wednesdays to fridays each week. I love those days as the smells drift from the kitchen up to my office!

What are the best and worst parts of running your business?

For me, the thrill of someone saying that they love our products, is still the best feeling in the world. Whilst I know that we cannot “please all the people all the time” it really does hurt when someone does not like one of our products. It’s like being told that you have an ugly baby! What is difficult is to acknowledge that everyone is entitled to his or her own opinions and that our products are not for everyone and then to move on. I am someone who takes criticism to heart and I do not find it easy to let go of criticism and move on. Emotions aside, there are a number of key challenges, for us as a small-scale producer. With our products being handmade means that whilst this ensures a quality product, our costs are high and our capacity does have limits. We also need to drive sales as we are an unknown brand and for us it is key that we secure sufficient regular sales to allow us to expand and grow into the company that we are planning. We want the business to be a force for good, be that through supplying delicious and healthy food that our customers love, by having less of an impact on the planet than animal protein based products, and finally by creating an organisation where our employees and partners thrive and succeed.

Do you use any productivity tools?

We use Paypal for business (for invoicing), Evernote (order processing and bookkeeping), Skype and Mindjet (for planning).

Tell us some fun facts about you or your business!

Our chef is Italian
Whatever the chef says goes!
Our burgers have 23.8g of protein per 100g which is more than animal-based burgers
Plant proteins are more sustainable, it takes 150m2 of land, and 15,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of beef

How was your company funded?

To date all of our funding has come from the founder, although as we grow in size, we will be looking for investors.

What is the best business decision you’ve ever made?

To hire a chef who is as passionate about food as I am.

What are your future plans for the company?

We have a very strong sales pipeline, so we need to look at how we can expand whilst not compromising the quality of our products. By year 5 we will be expanding overseas to markets such as Australia, USA, Canada, Middle East and India. Profit is likely to be in line with the industry average of 5.8% of revenue. Our plans are to clearly call out the delicious nature of our products as well as the positive impact that we will have on our consumers health, the planet and animals.

For more information please visit Morethanmeat.co.uk.

46: Pitta Chips – Interview with Sophie Harvey from Soffle’s

Today we interview Sophie Harvey from Soffle’s.  I tried her chips at an exhibition in London, Olympia. I loved the chips so I thought I asked her for an interview and she gladly obliged!


What inspired you to start the business? Tell us about your background!

I started making pitta chips at home for friends to have with beers and dips, everyone loved them so I thought that everyone needed to try them, I started making a bit of a project out of it, designing a bag, making stories about my adventures then popping up at events with a tray. Bit by bit I started doing more events then had a small run of hand sealable bags made with my logo. This meant I could take them to my local Hackney pubs as this was the start of getting them out there. The inspiration has always been how much people have liked them and the enthusiasm about the brand that made me want to turn it into something. It was great to be able to make something that everyone enjoyed so much.

Previously I had worked for an Auction House and then onto a Art Gallery in London. I studied Fine Art for my BA so great to use my artwork for the brand as that was really the starting point of Soffle’s.

What is your USP?

There are so many! But these are my top 3:

1. The famous Soffle CRUNCH!!!!

2. Our ingredients is all FRESH! We bake this into the dough then oven roast with olive oil rather than using powdered extracts for flavours which is extremely important for the way our pitta chips taste.

3. They are so versatile! They pair up perfectly with a beer, hummus, fresh avocado, tzatziki, soup, salad, cheese……..basically you can have them with anything! A home staple in fact.

Sophie Harvey

What was your biggest challenge setting up your business?

It has all been super challenging but always in completely different ways. At the beginning the physical labour and endless hours of producing the product was very hard and self motivation was key to this period and then upscaling and changing the way I had always thought I wanted to run the business was also very challenging As I pretty much worked alone until a few months ago every aspect was something that I needed to manage. So from doing the accounts, being a salesperson, artwork designer, making deliveries or roasting the chips it can become hard to focus or get things done as well or as organised as you would like them to be which can become quite frustrating.

What is your advice to new entrepreneurs? How to get started?

Just start, make it happen. There is definitely a lot to be said for planning and working out how you are going to do things but ultimately you need to get into action asap. Time can pass very quickly without anything happening and it can be possible to miss opportunities. I definitely didn’t do enough planning as it wasn’t something at first I planned to make into a business so all my time was spent in production and working out how I could increase the production. I also worked for a long time before I decided to give up my job which made it very hard to get to the next stage as time was so limited, if you think it will work and have good reason to think it will then put 100% in as soon as possible. It can become very tiring if you are dragging something out and not having the time to work out how you can make it work.

Ask for advice from everyone you can. Again something I didn’t do until about a year ago as I was so busy in production it was very hard to get out and about. As soon as I did I started to really learn how things worked. Always have in mind the key stages that you are going to need to make the business work. Understand what roles can be done by others so you can then focus on the next stage.

Are there any business books you recommend?

Not yet, next on the list start reading business books!

What is your favourite flavour?

Chilli & Garlic WILD, super HOT made with fresh scotch bonnets its comes with a warning and best in the pubs!

What are your future plans for the company?

Our chips are being introduced to selected Waitrose this month so we are really excited to work on that. In the early days of roasting chips in a garden shed it was something i had always hoped for and of course i always thought it would happen but the reality of it actually happening is a time to think back to the days when I spent endless hours in a shed roasting pitta chips!

But the main focus is all about having our chips with the beers in the pub and the breweries. It is what I made them for and for me is the best environment to be part of.

What is the best business decision you’ve ever made?

Move out of the shed!

For more information about Sophie’s pitta chips please visit Soffles.com.