Oliver Dickinson and Rory Paterson founded healthy drinks brand wow chia back in May 2014 after discovering the health benefits of the chia seed.
Prior to launching the business, Oliver had set up his own guerrilla marketing company at 16 years old, before moving on to start his own software company two years later.
Rory had previously worked for a law firm and an NFC start-up in Germany, gaining experience in sales as well as marketing.
The duo dreamt up the idea for the business when Oliver decided to take some time out from work to refresh and visit Rory in Germany who, at the time, was working in marketing for Bayer.
While Oliver was staying with Rory, they began trying out various juice recipes using chia seeds, having both discovered the health benefits for themselves.
The pair trialed various fruit and vegetable combinations using only the freshest ingredients and quickly realised they’d stumbled across something that really worked.
Speaking about how they brought the idea to life, Oliver said: “We both knew we were onto something by combining chia seeds with cold pressed fruit and vegetables so we dropped everything and decided to fully invest ourselves into wow.
“Our first task was to get the ball rolling on the grueling process to secure wow as Europe’s first chia seed based drink.
“From August 2014 to April 2015, we worked and ran the business out of our flat, trialing various balances of fruit and vegetable combinations and sourcing the right suppliers to work with.”
Registering their invention as Europe’s ‘first chia drink’ brought with it a series of challenges however, as the duo quickly found out.
“The biggest challenge we’ve faced to date has been gaining FSA approval for wow as Europe’s first chia seed drink.
“In total, the process took us 17 months from start to finish. It’s a grueling process and last year only three novel food approvals were granted in the entire EU.
“As a result of that process however, we’re now the first company in Europe to have approval to produce a chia seed based drink!”The duo self-funded the project initially but with big plans for the business, they knew they would need to bring in some extra helping hands.
Oliver said: “We funded the first stages of the business but we quickly realised that this is an incredibly competitive industry and to compete effectively within it you need firepower.
“In February 2015 we brought on board our first investor. It can be easy to jump at the first offer of investment but we placed a real emphasis on finding and only accepting funding from investors who already shared the honest and transparent ethos of our brand.”
The 17 months of intense R&D and tussling with the FSA however paid off and the duo’s determination to make the business a success paid dividends.
With their investors on board providing extra advice as well as capital, the product officially took to market in November and it didn’t take long for it to make an impact.
Not only did it attract the attention of health fanatics from across Europe, but it also caught the eye of some of the continents top retailers.
Rory said: “Aside from actually creating one of the most complex and advanced fruit drinks on the market, our biggest success has been the speed at which we have been able to expand in to major supermarkets internationally - Germany, Austria and in October France too.
“We quickly discovered that there was a pull demand for our product in these territories, so we quickly set up the infrastructure and team to enable us to supply and build our brand beyond just the UK.
“We’re very proud of our success in the UK too and we’ve been able to secure space on some great shelves including Whole Foods, Selfridges and Harrods and have recently launched online with Ocado. On 29 August we will also be launching in one of the UK’s major supermarkets.”
When asked what advice he would give to a budding entrepreneur looking to bring their business idea to life, Rory added: “It’s extremely hard work. You have to be brave and tenacious but above all … you have got to enjoy what you’re doing and be doing it for a legitimate reason which goes far beyond just wanting to make money.
“Our advice to any entrepreneur would be to always be honest, transparent and true to your brand. Whatever you’re launching should reflect your personality and who you are as a company.
“Don’t try to mould your business into something that isn’t you because if you don’t believe in your brand, neither will your audience!”
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