Smoothie Cloud creates smoothie machines that offer everyone access to fresh fruit on the go. Creator Bjoern Graeser tells BQ more about the business ahead of its appearance in If We Can You Can 2017.
What did you do before setting up your business?
I studied part-time for a degree in industrial engineering & business management in Germany, before moving to the UK. Then I was working as project engineer and (still) doing my MSc in mechanical engineering.
What inspired you to set up your business?
I’ve always wanted to run and drive my own business, seeing my hard work pay off, but also having to resolve issues and concerns within the business and taking ownership.
Being able to directly impact the success or failures of the business is very motivating and inspiring.
What makes this business different?
We are delivering value to not only the customers we are serving, but also all business and individuals we are working with. Besides a sustainable business, we can also look at great growth and scalability potential.
What inspired you to enter the If We Can You Can Challenge?
We are continuously interested in growing awareness of our current start-up, and we enjoy meeting other like-minded entrepreneurs. I enjoy sharing knowledge and experience to support others and learn from their mistakes.
Where do you see your business in three years’ time?
We will hopefully have many machines up and running in different areas and locations, mainly around the UK but hopefully starting to expand in other areas.
I hope to have a complete supply chain set up and starting to break even, and generating revenue and profit.
What has been the most rewarding part of your journey so far?
The first great success we had was during our “proof of concept” stage, using a card-board engineered mock-up to research consumer engagement in various locations.
Also, we’ve had a very positive and successful feedback on the Launchpad FUEL program (Teesside University) and were invited to present our idea to the Willan Trust Board members, as they are interested to support us on our journey going forward.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Our biggest challenge has been, and still is, the initial funding for the very first vending machine, as we initially have to get the business up and running. After we are past this stage, we will be able to provide real market data from the first operational machine to prove the research and generate further investments for more machines.
Who/what gave you support or advice?
We’ve had brilliant and great support from:
o Andy Price (Teesside Enterprise Development)
o Steve Dougan (LAUNCHPAD Fuel / StartupTeesside)
These 2 stakeholders have linked us to further mentors and advisors to support and validate our business and get this to a stage where we are confident.
What advice would you give to someone looking to set up their own business?
I’ve worked on multiple ideas and business proposals. The most important thing, besides never ever giving up, is to not give up at 80% or 90% and share and communicate ideas and proposals to friends.
“Get out of your comfort zone” – go to the market and validate your idea, if you do not do this, the best business plan and proposal might fail as the concept is not suitable in the market.