From left: Guy Hacking, Tom Stancliffe and Rob Martineau
£1m funding boost as marathon men start TRIBE brand
Three lifelong friends have raised £1million in one day in their battle to become the biggest sports nutrition brand in Europe.
It was while they were on Run For Love, a charity run involving 39 marathons in 30 days across Eastern Europe, that London schoolfriends Guy Hacking, Rob Martineau and Tom Stancliffe were desperate for added nutrition, but found that mainstream products were too full of refined sugars and chemicals.
Guy told BQ: “There wasn’t exactly a Eureka moment, but we just couldn’t understand why there were so many ingredients on some of the bars we looked at. I have scratched my head about that for a while, why there are emulsifiers and preservatives, refined sugars and chemicals in our competitors’ products.
“When we were doing the Marathon Des Sables in 2012 (known as the toughest footrace on Earth) we had to carry everything on our backs and we thought we had better make sure everything we have does its job. We worked with a nutritionist to make some of our own bars and trailmixes and became our own consumers.”
They also took over the kitchen at Rob’s mum’s house and began to develop TRIBE, adapting recipes based on feedback from family and friends. Now a pitch to Crowdcube has raised the £1million in its first day, with more than 80 per cent coming from close friends and supporters – the ready-made community they had gradually grown from their running and sporting exploits and who are now physically and emotionally investing in their brands - so their business acumen is firmly in place, which is no surprise given their backgrounds.
Guy was an investment banker working as a private equity fund manager, and Rob and Tom were both qualified lawyers, with Tom moving on to be a legal and commercial director and Rob ending up in corporate intelligence. There is only one word that sums up why they would give up such lucrative careers to run their own business – passion.
“We care deeply about eating the right things, refuelling correctly and taking on exciting challenges,” said Guy.
“As a trio, we like to push ourselves and see what we are made of, and having a business is the professional embodiment of that. But also, we just saw a massive opportunity, with sport nutrition being the fastest-growing sub-segment within the nutrition space and we saw this avalanche of people taking on everything from Tough Mudders to Parkruns and yoga. Health and Fitness was being rammed into the mainstream.”
The company has already made impressive progress, from neon pink, plastic pouches sealed with a pair of hair straighteners to 20 innovative natural products – from vegan protein shakes to performance energy and recovery bars, all packaged into TRIBE’s tailored subscription packs for members.
In the past 18 months since the founders quit their jobs to form the business, the customer base has grown to 25,000 subscribers, and over 10,000 outdoor event attendees. With a revenue run rate in excess of £600,000 and consecutive month-on-month growth of over 20% since Q3 2015, TRIBE aims to be the European leader by 2025.
Having three friends working together could put a strain on relationships, but for Guy, Rob and Tom the hours they have out in together running all over the world has paid off, as Guy says.
“We are not just mates – we had toiled together on the projects we had delivered in the past. We now know what we are capable of, not only in our work ethic when we are up against it, but we understand how people behave under stress and where their pain points are.”
The £1m (so far…) will help to aid product development (more due later this year), improve e-commerce tech, invest in digital marketing and support future participation events.
Guy added: “Community has been at the heart of TRIBE, and it’s crucial that our community is part of this stage of our journey. We want the runners and riders who we build our products for to own the business.”
As TRIBE Chairman Robert Leechman, the former global CCO of Coca-Cola, puts it: “When you’re talking about investing in a young brand, you want to know that it’s in the right sector, growing rapidly and the foundations are being put in place. The thing that really excites me about the next few years, is that after one year we’ve barely scratched the surface.”
When that surface does start being scratched and the business grows, two key things will keep the core of the business with these three friends. The recipe for their products – they very thing that is making their customers pay for the business and the bars – will be as pure and natural as it is now, and people will still be the heart of the TRIBE.