- Finding a manufacturer and the right supply partners that would work with a start-up in the early stages
- Managing cash flow and the rate of growth
Words of Wisdom:
- Make sure your product is great, take time on this in the early stages
- Be patient
- If one door closes, another door will open
Links and Tips
- Visit Pip & Nut
- Turn off notifications on your phone
- Write down everything that is in your mind at the start of the day and build a to do list from here
AO: Hey everybody welcome to this episode of She Owns Success, today I’m thrilled to be joined by Pip Murray, founder of Pip & Nut, the nut butter brand that’s packed full of nutrients and energy. Having been sold at Maltby street market in London Pip & Nut’s nut butters now can be found stocked in Selfridges and other leading stores. So really excited to hear about your journey.
PM: Thank you so much for having me.
AO: Thank you so much for joining us. Before we get started then the first thing we would like to know if what inspired you to start your business.
PM: So I guess starting up a nut butter brand can sound quite niche and obscure when you first tell someone that is what you’re going to do. My inspiration behind the brand and where the spark came from initially is actually because I run a lot and have ran lots of marathons and have always been really interested in healthy eating and eating food that will give me energy. For me, I was completely addicted to peanut butter, I would eat it pre and post-training all the time and I think it was at some point I noticed that most peanut butters on the shelf always contained palm oils and sugars. For someone that was interested in healthy food it sat badly with me, I felt that the products on the shelf were not transparent and a lot of them were dated. I felt there was room in that area of the supermarket for a challenger that would bring it to life, with more exciting flavours, but make of product that was also nutritionally credible. So it came about through a love of the product first and the brand wrapped around it later.
AO: I love the brand. Once you decided this was what you wanted to do and this was your mission, what were the first steps and actions that you took to get started?
PM: It took me about 2 years to get the brand launched. It was a long and painful two years. My background is not in food and drink at all and I think at least for the first 6 months it was about understanding what the first actions I needed to take were. So, my first foray into food and drink, into this product was making it in my own kitchen. I started making the product using my own blender at home and I developed a range of flavours that I thought were tasty. I then started making them more on bulk, 100 jars at a time and taking them to Maltby street market which is in Bermondsey in London and I would sell them there. I did this for about 3 months and still had my day job so I would do this at the weekends. I would consider this my market testing, not using consumer focus groups but going out and testing it out on the public. For me that was an important first step. While I knew I wanted to build a supermarket brand and household name, getting the general public to try it and buy it as really useful as I wanted to get some genuinely honest feedback. I spent a lot of time doing that and tweaking it on a week by week basis. That was my first step, quite low level, rudimentary trialling. Then after this I went about the journey of trying to scale up. You need to scale up in order to sell into supermarkets. You either outsource to a manufacturer or you build a big manufacturing site and get the right health and safety accreditations. There is no half way house when it comes to food and drink, there is a point where you have to scale to get the benefits of economies of scale and also the health and safety things around supplying products for consumers.
So that is a whole other story, that scaling point.
AO: We need to know that story. What was that tipping point and how did you go about that?
PM: I guess the tipping point was that people really loved the product so I started scoping for manufacturers. It honestly took me about eight months, it was one of the hardest things in terms of that start-up phase, finding the right supply chain partner. Surprisingly most manufacturers don’t really want to work with a start-ups, you have no experience, no customers and no volume, so we were actually quite an unattractive offer for a lot of companies so I spent quite a long time knocking on doors and getting loads of rejections and really feeling in the dark. So that was a challenge.
So, once you have the product and you know it tastes good and you have started developing it, you can do some of the really exciting stuff which brings your brand to life. The branding, your packaging and start to think about raising money for the launch this is what I did. Thinking about how you will go to market developing a sales strategy and marketing strategy
The thing about starting a food product is that it’s quite slow moving in the first year it’s not very glamorous and you have to get through that first year which is crucial in order to get to the other bits that are much more fun and why you start something like this in the first place.
AO: Exactly, but your story is such an exciting story already, look at where you are now Selfridges, huge retailers, the likes of Tesco’s, competing with really big players and the journey has obviously been really long, the fact that it took two years, lots of people after all those no’s would have thought I have had this I’m out of here but you really persisted and carried on the journey
PM: That is really important, being persistent. You do have to be in for the long haul, but once you get there, and this is what I mean when I say it took 2 years to set up, that was mainly because if you set things up in the right way you can be really quick when you’re out of the door. We are in about 2500 stores at the moment and they are anyone from Sainsbury’s Holland and Barrett right through to Whole Foods Selfridges and Fortnum and Mason so we have really premium stores but also really big stores national supermarkets you need both. But if you set it up in the right way, you can scale really quickly when you are ready to.
AO: Such great advice build that really good strong foundation in order to get started, and you talked about the challenges we obviously need to hear about those challenges so tell us about the most difficult challenge that you had to overcome
PM: There are loads of things that throw you off kilter. They come all the time. One morning you could be having the best morning for life and then in the afternoon it’s all terrible and things are crashing down around you, there’s no happy mediums.
We have been quite lucky in that our sales have been great right from the start because we had a product that filled a gap in that category, it has not been easy but we have got some big listings quite quickly, for us the challenge is growing at a rate that’s sustainable for your cash flow. when you get these massive orders from someone like Sainsbury’s they are buying in a lot of stock from you on that initial order so its managing your cash flow so you can afford to supply them because you can almost grow too quickly and you have to be mindful. Even if we wanted to we can’t supply every supermarket at the same time if we’re launching straight into it, so for us it has been making sure we grow and nurture our accounts while managing our cash at the bank. So it’s not a particularly exciting thing to say but is key and crucial in making sure you’re not running dry of cash that has been our biggest challenge managing the growth as we scale.
AO: The cash flow piece is what I hear so often across so many different Industries but especially people in this particular industry it seems that you need to be prepared for that. Do you have any things that have helped you in terms of managing that or that you could advise people on that front?
PM: It goes back to having the right partners on board in your business, for example all your ingredient suppliers and all your manufacturers, those sorts of people have really got to work with you to give you good payment terms in order so that you get paid by your customers and then you can pay them, so it’s working with them to make sure they are on board and they give you good credit terms for instance. Little things like that can be helpful. Obviously another way to finance is raising equity with equity finance, it’s about having enough money to get you to the next stage in your business, you don’t need to raise all the money straight away but you need to raise it in stages as to when you expect to be at cash flow Break Even point. I would say get the right partners on board and you can use them to help you grow your business and the right investors who understand your business.
AO: Thank you so much I’m just thinking as you talked about getting good payment terms, with these retailers I can imagine when you are just starting out and you have the likes of Sainsbury’s, Fortnum and Mason all knocking at your door or keen to get your product stocked, it’s easy to throw those thoughts out of the window
PM: Exactly it is really hard, when we have had to turn down deals or bits of business because it just did not work for us at that particular point the margins were too high and we could not meet them it is a really hard decision when you turn down bits of business which on the top line revenue front looks amazing but on the bottom line looks rubbish so it is being mindful and not getting too excited and running with it in the moment which is hard when you do have those big customers knock on your door.
AO: Definitely, keep your head. You also talked about that roller coaster, one day is the best day of your life and the next day you feel like everything is crashing down around you so you do need a strong stomach
PM: Yes a little bit of resilience but it is fun I am probably painting quite a negative picture, but I do like the fact that you have those extremes it’s exciting and when you have a really bad week of it the following week can only be better you have to experience the lows to experience the highs and you know those lows will be temporary, so you have to just have to dig your heels in and Plough on through.
AO: Give us a brief insight for anybody who might be thinking they have a product and want to end up in retail what a great day looks like once you get there
PM: I find the best days are ones where I am not in the office at all, let’s say we have a big event that we are organising, or something we’re about to launch those are the best days for me. It’s about seeing the brand come to life. When you see or hear your customers loving the brand or walking passed your stand at a trade fair and saying “we love the brand” that feels amazing and never gets old. For me that is the best kind of day when I’m out face to face with consumers but no one day is the same. You might be signing off some packaging or doing some of the more boring things but when it comes to your own business everything is interesting because it’s something that you have created the diversity that you get is fantastic.
AO: Moving on, we’re going to shift onto motivation and productivity because we can all struggle with this sometimes. What two habits have you developed for Success?
PM: For me one of the best things is doing something active. If you have something that you’re thinking about in your head there is something great about moving. Whether that’s going for a run or going for a walk some sort of movement or activity I think you should always build into your day. The second thing is sleep. Getting enough sleep. Sometimes you might want to go for a night out with your friends but you don’t because it’s better in the long run to get good sleep. It defines your mood for the next day. A good night’s sleep
AO: …and are you an early bird?
PM: I am, yes my alarm goes at 6:30 and I might go for a run or go straight to work so I’m a bit of an early bird but less so when the mornings get dark but in summer I’m up and about very early
AO: I do also love it when you get up so early and get so much done before everybody else gets up you feel like you have achieved so much. Can you give us 2 hacks or productivity tools that save you time in your business?
PM: The first one is something I started just recently and that is turning off all the notifications on your phone. I find you get so much work done without all of those little interruptions it is amazing how that can disrupt your train of thought when you are trying to think deeply on something, so turn off notifications would be one. My second one would be writing down everything that’s going through your mind at the start of the day and that includes both personal and work stuff in terms of putting it in a to-do list for all those little tasks that need to be done you get them out of your head and into an app or a to-do list, you will then be able to focus more on what do you need to do. So empty your mind and then organise that information. We use asana as a tool to do those sorts of things
AO: Great tips thank you so much. So fast forward, what exciting things are coming up for you in your business?
PM: We have loads of exciting things some of which annoyingly I can’t really talk about, but one big piece of news that we will be announcing in about 2 weeks time which is a cool thing we are launching in January which is annoying things to say but it is coming soon. We are also just about to launch a new product range, it’s a range of kg tubs of our popular flavours that will be going into Holland and Barrett. We also have a whole new product range launching a the new year which has nothing to do with nut butter, so that’s something we’re working on that I’m very excited about as it will expand our product range into a different area in the supermarket
AO: That’s fantastic and by the time this airs we will be able to find the kilo tubs in Holland and Barrett
PM: For all you nut butter addicts
AO: That’s me, I actually eat it straight out of the tub without spreading it on anything
PM: You’re not the only one, I think it’s the main way people are eating our product with a spoon and jar!
AO: So words of wisdom you touched on the fact that you have learnt so much on your journey already, what is the one thing that you wish someone had told you when you were starting out that you think every single entrepreneur should know?
PM: For me I would tell myself 2 years ago to just be patient. Whilst things can grow really quickly sometimes at the same time sometimes things don’t go your way and things will get in your way that you did not anticipate, you have just got to learn to be really patient and accept that when one door closes there will be one that opens and if there is a problem sometimes a good thing can come out of it. When I first started I thought I would be in Waitrose in 6 months’ time and then another store and then global actually it does take longer than you first think so don’t be disappointed by that but be accepting of it.
AO: When was the moment that you realised that it takes longer or has it been an overtime realisation
PM: I think it has been over time even when I set a deadline for a launch it always takes longer than planned just because other people might not have the same time lines as you so it’s a gradual thing that I have come to be aware of, things take time.
AO: And what final words of wisdom do you have for people who may be thinking of creating products?
PM: My number one tip or two in tip – one is spend time on your product before getting it out, a lot of people think about the brand first the logo the packaging but fundamentally what is in your product is more important. Make sure that it tastes amazing particularly the food product is the one thing that will mean consumers will come back to your product if it tastes amazing you won’t need to worry about whether or not your business will grow or spend time developing it but then once you have got to that stage you invest in making sure your brand is really top notch and stand out on shelves because with food and drink on the surface it is quite a emotive and with some of the independent brands they are quite beautiful, so you do you have to make sure it stands head and shoulders above everything else because it is so competitive and buyers are bombarded with products every week. that’s why I did take 2 years to get the product out of the door but it was dealing with all the little details and paying attention to the little details it’s worth spending the time and investing the time at that early stage to get it right from the start.
AO: Thank you so much Pip, so many people do focus on branding but forget that it’s about that product, creating a great product, great service and people will come back
PM: Exactly and people do love the brand. People will come back for the product, that word of mouth is something you can’t pay for, if you get it, it is so valuable particularly in the early stages when you’re trying to build up your reputation and get your brand out there if you have other people saying this stuff is the best you can’t pay for that, that comes down to having an excellent product.
AO: …and is that one of the things that has worked well for you from a marketing perspective
PM: Yes it’s fed into our digital presence. We have just over sixty thousand followers across all of our social media feeds and lots of that comes down to the fact that other people take photos of their breakfast or lunch or just taking pictures of your products in general and just saying it tastes amazing. So it’s about having a thousand loyal fans instead of hundreds of thousands who think it’s alright.
AO: To summarise, be really focused on creating that wonderful product or service that your customers will just love. With that please tell us where can we find you and where can we connect with you
PM: You can find Pip & Nut in Sainsbury’s, Holland and Barrett and lots of lovely independent stores and do Instagram us. Our website is Pipandnut.com
AO: Thank you so much Pip, it’s been a pleasure.
PM: Thank you