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.

Update December 2018: Christine has sold her business and started a coaching business, see https://christinecoaching.co.uk/

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.


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…


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.

Follow Dash Water on social media: Facebook · Instagram · Twitter · Newsletter

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.

49: Ice Cream – Interview with Charlie and Harry from Oppo

Today we interview Charlie and Harry Thuillier, the brothers behind Oppo Ice cream – a UK-based company. I asked them for an interview after testing the product myself. I regularly use Oppo to make delicious kefir smoothies!


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

At Oppo, we make indulgent and healthy ice cream. Made using fresh cows milk, virgin coconut oil and stevia leaf, Oppo contains 60% fewer calories and sugars than regular ice cream.
We launched straight into Waitrose and Ocado in October 2014, and are now stocked in Whole Foods, Budgens, Holland & Barrett, Co-Op, two national contract caterers and multiple independent retailers.
The Oppo team has also grown. 18 months ago, it was just my brother (Harry) and I on my kitchen table, and we’re now a team of 9 full-time and 2 part-time.

What inspired you to start this business?

The Oppo journey began in 2011 when my brother and I broke the world record for the longest unsupported kite buggy adventure on land. During the trip, we started living off foods growing along the Brazilian coastline. Deliciously indulgent, they were also incredibly nutritious. This sparked an idea…why can’t the most indulgent foods be healthy? What about ice cream?
Oppo took 25 months to develop. Industry professionals said that it just wasn’t possible, they had tried and there would have to be a compromise on taste. But we disagreed. Product was and is king. Oppo had to be perfect. All natural, healthy and indulgent.
The response has been overwhelming. We were recently awarded a Great Taste Award, were the 2015 Guardian Startup of the Year, have won the Healthy Food Guide Award two years running, and have received multiple 5-star reviews and testimonials from customers and industry professionals alike.

What are some unique challenges to the FMCG industry and how are you overcoming them?

The ice cream market is ultra-competitive, and is dominated by supermarket own-brand and large corporations such as Unilever and R&R. As a start-up operating in this market, we are David against Goliath. But that’s no bad thing. We just have to ensure that our offering is unique.
We are the only ice cream with an EU authorised health claim. We are also one of a small number of ice creams with a prestigious Great Taste Award. Oppo appeals to the customer looking for indulgent ice cream, the parent after a sugar-free treat for the kids, the diabetic searching for an ice cream they can actually eat, and many more. Oppo represents innovation in a category which has always, mistakenly, believed there must be a compromise.
And if innovation which meets customer needs is necessary for us to be able to compete, then that suits us just fine!

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

The product is everything. You need to make your product remarkable. ‘Remarkable’ means ‘cool’ to most people, but it actually means ‘worth making a remark about’. As a start-up with zero marketing budget, word of mouth and an epic product is key.
You’re small – great! Remember who you are, and act like David rather than Goliath. Don’t conform to the norm, but excite and surprise. If you’re a David, embrace David. Don’t try to emulate Goliath.
Ask questions and network – I used to go to a monthly branding agency meeting and through this, met some key people without whom we couldn’t have got Oppo to where it is today – one of these people is now our Non-Exec Director. Ask questions. People really do want to help. You’ll never know where a conversation may lead.

What are your future plans for the company?

Oppo is built on a mission. We believe you don’t need to compromise. The most indulgent foods can and should be healthy, and being healthy doesn’t mean less indulgent. We’ve proved this with ice cream, and don’t want to stop here. New product development is a key focus, and we want to bring healthy indulgence to other categories.

How is Oppo healthy? Consumption of foods/drinks containing erythritol and steviol glycosides instead of sugar induces a lower blood glucose rise after their consumption compared to sugar-containing foods/drinks

48: Embroidery – Interview with Chi Vears from Harmonic Homes

Today we feature my friend Chi Vears who runs Harmonic Homes – an embroidery business. Chi is from Vietnam and lives in Kent, UK.


What kind of business do you run?

I run an import and retail hand embroidered and hand made homeware called Harmonic Homes.

When did you start it and where is it based?

After two and a half years of preparation, researching and developing the idea of the company, I launched the business on 11 June 2016 and it is based in London.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background!

Born in Vietnam, I spent most of my career in Kent and London. After early work in the beauty sector, I founded Harmonic Homes with Thuy in 2015. I have owned and operated two small businesses over the last 10 years – bringing experience in business management and customer relations into the business. I live in Kent, with my husband and two daughters.

DUC19352 (2)

What inspired you to start this business?

What inspired me to start this business was the plight of the Vietnamese women, who are skilled and have great ability being forced to move far from family to find work. Our mission is to give the women a chance to live close to their family and provide them with a good safe working environment, whilst providing beautiful items for the British homes.

Does your business generate enough money to support you?

Not at this moment but we are working on it.

What keeps you motivated to keep working on your business?

To be able to help the Vietnamese women and to improve life for all.


Do you have a Unique Selling Point?

Yes, our silk-filled duvet quilts are naturally made by letting the mulberry silkworms produce and bind silk threads together without any human intervention. This production method is totally unique and is only done this way in Vietnam so far. The duvets are finished with a hand stitched silk cover.

How did you come up with the name of the company?

The collaboration of husbands who have thought the name that covered what we do.

How many people are involved in your business?

Three people.
Myself – Chi Vears – Managing Director
Thuy Lam – Creative Director
Duong Nguyen – Production Director

In your view what are some good industries to go into right now?

Renewable and low carbon footprint products.

To learn more about Chi’s business please visit Harmonichomes.co.uk.