When Mark Tallon trains for Ironman triathlons, nine hours of exercise makes very specific nutritional demands on your body – but where do you keep your food? When he couldn’t find a good answer, he invented it…
What did you do before you started this business?
Before I started FlowCell I was involved in European regulatory affairs, specifically the marketing, labelling and formulation of food products. As MD of Legal Foods I did a lot of work on sports nutrition products, both in their formulation, and by providing guidance to companies and athletes about how they could be used. Prior to that I was an academic and taught exercise physiology and nutrition to degree and master students.
What inspired you to start up?
I am an active triathlete and cyclist, and my experiences in competing in and training for Ironman triathlons (swim: 3.8km/Bike: 180km/Run: 42.2km back to back) resulted in me looking for a product that could hold the food I needed for about 9 hours of exercise.
The products on the market may have been aerodynamic when on your bike (don’t slow you down by catching the wind), but the storage space for food was too small and you had real issue getting the food that was in them back out. So, we wanted a way to avoid restrictive tiny openings or a shape that would prevent you storing enough food.
In general, we wanted a product with easy access to the quantity of food you needed, but also retaining the aerodynamics cyclists and triathletes look for.
Tell us about your business in 100 words
FlowCell is a company dedicated to engineering effective solutions for endurance athletes. We are 100% British company, using British designers and manufacturers to ensure fuelling during sport is delivered in a functional as well as aerodynamic format.
FoodCell is the first of three products that relies on high quality materials and leading edge designs that have been tested in both lab and real world conditions to ensure all products are only of the highest specifications.
How would you describe your business to your grandma?
We sell very high quality products that help cyclists get the food they need in a products that are lightweight, effective, and look beautiful.
Where do you get advice, support or help?
We have searched out the best product developers and designers to develop our products and hand in hand with athletes we ensure the products deliver what they say on the tin. But we also invest heavily in protecting our ideas from trademarking our product names to patenting novel designs.
Finance is one of the most common barriers to starting up. How did you access the finance you needed?
So far I have funded the launch of the company and the design of the product and prototypes out of my own pocket. It’s been expensive, but sometimes you need to take a risk. We looked for government and private funding, but until your product has already been launched and you have some sale data then it’s almost impossible to get access. That’s why we chose the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter as our initial launch site.
But if anyone reading happens to have £100k, just send it over…!
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
Having a real-life product that I can use in my daily training and competitions, that works.
How do you differentiate your business from others?
We’re patenting our design – the materials, it’s opening mechanism and design shape are unique.
At this point we are also 100%, British from material supply, manufacturer, designers, patent attorney, etc.
What’s it like to be your own boss?
I have been my own boss for over 15 years and it comes with its pros and cons. The pros are you control where the company goes and it’s exciting to achieve new goals. Its also great when you get feedback from clients you have exceeded their expectations. The negatives are often staff related and even when you may put your own time and happiness on the line to make sure they are looked after, they may not realise it.
Where do you see your business in 5 years time?
I would hope we have made the FoodCell successful, and it - and a few other similar products - are being sold across the world. The main aim is that these products actually make a difference to the way athletes perform and how they fuel is key to that goal.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Never give up. People love to tell you that your goal is impossible or you will never be able to make it. I have learned that if you want something enough, persistence is the key to success.