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.

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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.

huel

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.

53: DIY Marking Tool – Interview with Martin Chard from Marxman

Today we feature Martin Chard from Marxman. He was recently featured on Dragons’ Den where he introduced his marking tool to a wider audience.

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

We are a small start up business, manufacturing and selling the Marxman pen which I began developing in 2010 to solve the common problem tradesmen and DIYers face of being unable to clearly mark a drilling position – either due to the type of wall surface or because they are at a distance from the wall.

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

I’m 50 years old and have been a self-employed building maintenance man for the last 30 years. I’m married to my wife Jenny and we have four grown-up children, two labradors and a rabbit!

I came up with the idea for Marxman after trying to fit a sink. I couldn’t mark the drilling position on the wall and see the marks so after a few, time wasting attempts, I reached for a can of black spray paint in desperation and marked it with that. After too many frustrating incidents like this and lots of wasted trips up and down ladders with broken pencils and felt tips not doing the job, I started the process of developing Marxman so other workers could benefit.

Which resources to run your business do you use most?

I use my inventor’s head with problem solver on the side mixed with a lot of energy and enthusiasm.

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

I recommend they do their research into the market for their product, gain knowledge from reputable sources on which way to go in terms of patents, suppliers etc and don’t give up easily.

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

Dragons’ Den was a surreal, fun, exciting and nerve racking experience which, for us, was a great success. We would advise anyone thinking of applying to really get to grips with their business and ensure their figures are in order. If they are unsuccessful at least they will come out with better knowledge of their business.

Any books about entrepreneurship you can recommend?

I did not read any books on the subject but there is a world of knowledge and experiences shared on the internet.

What are your future plans for the company?

My plan is to continue to promote Marxman here in the UK before looking to branch out to other countries.

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

We love walking the dogs and spending time with our children, family and friends.

Tell us some fun facts about you or your business!

The name Marxman was thought of by our son Oren when he was 15. Not only does it reflect the fact that the pen helps you precisely mark your drilling position but, knowing I am dyslexic, he played on the spelling of marksman which really appealed to me – x marks the spot.

The colour Marxman sprays is not only fluorescent but also glows in the dark so we admit we have used it occasionally on the family to make them glow in the dark!

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

I have certainly made lots of decisions in this process, I could not pinpoint the best but deciding to go for the Patent was the biggest.

What’s your fondest memory working on this business?

Standing in the car park of DH industries having just filled my very first Marxman.

To learn more about this nifty tool please visit Marxmanpen.co.uk.

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!

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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.

51: Sparkling Spring Water – Interview with Alex and Jack from Dash Water

In today’s blog post we feature London based Alex and Jack from Dash Water who offer fruit and vegetable infused sparkling water.

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

Dash Water is British sparkling spring water infused with organic and wonky fruit and vegetables to add a subtle dash of flavour. Dash contains no calories, no sugar, no additives – nothing but all natural ingredients. Jack & I launched Dash this month and are based in South West London.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

Alex: I’ve always had a passion for food & drink. I’ve got a background in cooking as well as wine which I’ve been involved with since a young age. My first real job was in the wine department at Fortnum & Mason, not a bad place to cut my teeth in the industry!

Jack: I come from an arable farm in Shropshire, I believe the close proximity to the crops and being on the farm when I was growing up has driven my curiosity around what we eat and drink and why we do it. I currently live in West London and have always wanted to create my own brand, and hopefully one day we can grow some of the fruit and vegetables for Dash at Home in Shropshire!

What inspired you to start this business?

Jack & I originally started out working in the mainstream soft drinks industry. It’s where we developed a daily office ritual of bringing in a water bottle filled with different fruit and vegetables. We’d nerdily compare flavours, but frustratingly couldn’t find anything we liked half as much available when we went out for lunch in the shops. So Dash was born…

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What is your daily routine of running your business?

Our daily routes are really varied as we’re on the road meeting our customers and letting people know about the good stuff that is Water. I could never work in a conventional office, getting on the tube each day, so it suits me perfectly zipping around London introducing people to our delicious flavours.

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

It’s great seeing people enjoy something you’ve created, each time I see someone pick a can of Dash off the shelves I get a buzz. I also love being really hands on with the business, learning all the aspects of running it from the brand creation to the financial side.
The toughest part is the potential setbacks that can happen, especially with production. Our infusion process of using whole ingredients to infuse Spring Water is unique and we’ve spent a lot of time developing the technique with a few complications along the way – it’s definitely been worth persevering with though!

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

Starting up is easy if you’re backing something you truly believe in. For us it was all about encouraging people to drink more water. From the off we did a lot of product testing by popping up a table in the park with our infusions and asking passersby what they thought, from their feedback it gave us confidence to get going. When we perfected our infusion we then pitched it to Virgin Startup who backed us and have been extremely supportive through their fantastic initiatives.

Any books about entrepreneurship you can recommend?

I’m currently reading Mission by Michael Hayman & Nick Giles who founded the PR agency Seven Hills. They speak about connecting to the people who love your brand through a higher purpose instead of simply enjoying a product or service. For example, Uber have a higher purpose of enabling ‘transportation as reliable as running water, everywhere, for everyone’ instead of merely ‘competing to be the best taxi service’. It’s an inspiring read.
Another recent favorites is Zero to One by Peter Thiel, if you read that and don’t get the urge to make an App that’ll rule the world I don’t know what will!

Any cool tools or apps you can recommend?

My two new favorite apps are Slack which I use to message on my phone & laptop, it’s perfect for group chats. The other is a running app called Strava, you can follow your friends and give them kudos on their runs – it’s the only thing that fueled my recent training for the London marathon!

To learn more about Alex’s and Jack’s company please visit Dash-water.com.

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