Charlotte Bailey and Sean Ali met as students and set up their business, Super U, not long after graduating. They talk to BQ about why they have entered this year’s If We Can You Can challenge
What did you do before setting up your business?
We both studied at Nottingham Trent University from 2014 – 2017. I (Charlotte) studied for a law degree and Sean studied business management and economics. We both graduated in the summer of 2017 with 2:1s.
What inspired you to set up your business?
I was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease around five years ago now and whist studying at University I would rely on processed gluten free food and ready-meals to keep me going. This was not only making me feel more unwell but was also increasing my anxiety surrounding my condition. Since being diagnosed, I suffered with iron-deficiency Anaemia, and was advised to take multi-vitamin and mineral supplements. I generally felt unwell most of the time, which was a serious problem during my studies.
When I met Sean, he was a keen cook and was always experimenting with new and interesting ingredients. For an assessment during his time studying in America, he developed a business plan based on running a healthy fast food restaurant with superfood smoothies. This required a lot of research surrounding the scope of the market within America and the nutritional benefits of superfood ingredients to support his project.
When Sean returned from America for our final year of University, we pretty much lived together and he began to notice how unwell I was feeling and how I would struggle for energy throughout the day. This lead him to introduce me to the power of natural nutrition and superfoods to see if they helped my condition… and I have never looked back! This is when we decided that we wanted to share our story and create a product that could help other people out there.
What makes this business different?
What makes our business different is that we have found a gap in the market for more convenient superfood products that not only deliver on nutrition but also on taste. From our market research, a lot of people found existing superfood products unpalatable and not enjoyable. We are confident that our products are the best tasting superfood blends out there, as they include a mix of greens, berries, fruits and grains to create the most balanced blend of natural flavours.
We have also been working really hard on redesigning our packaging, from Kraft pouches to cardboard tubes. Within the market space, wholefood/superfood products are mainly in pouches or plastic tubs – which aren’t very eco-friendly and as a new product it is very hard to stand out within this crowded space. So we wanted to redevelop our packaging to be more eco-friendly, sustainable and to be something different and unique on the shelves.
What inspired you to enter the If We Can You Can Challenge?
As this competition is based within the North East and Sean’s home, we had to apply. We now work within Newcastle city centre so it was the perfect opportunity for us.
We would love to win an award for our hard work so far and something like this will really help with brand exposure and credibility, which is something very important to new start-ups.
Where do you see your business in three years’ time?
Our ultimate goal for Super U is to become a worldwide wholefoods brand. We have always envisioned the business being successful abroad, especially in certain parts of Europe, America and Australia – so we want to make this happen. We want to dominate the UK market first, be listed within high-end retailers and have a substantial online customer base.
What has been the most rewarding part of your journey so far?
It is extremely rewarding creating your own business and your own brand, but when customers come back and buy more and more products off you because they genuinely love them, is honestly the best feeling ever! We know for sure that we are helping more people out there improve their health and wellbeing by the power of superfoods, so we never want to stop spreading this awareness.
What has been your biggest challenge?
To begin with, we had no idea where we would source these ingredients or how we would even make our products. This was our biggest hurdle because we knew we had a great idea – it was just figuring out how we would formulate these products and actually create them.
We had a lot of help from our University and were lucky enough to work with food scientists and food nutritionists to formulate our products. From here we approached a UK supplier, who could manufacturer our products for us, so this was when we felt we had a real business.
Who/what gave you support or advice?
In the early stages, prior to launching the business, we had a lot of support from The Hive at Nottingham Trent University, which is an enterprise hub for students and alumni who are looking to start their own business! We also had a lot of support from Nottingham Business Venture, as we were assigned a mentor here who really supported us and advised us throughout the launch process.
We moved back up to Newcastle just before Christmas, so we were without any support for the first few months, which we did find really hard. However, we applied for the Entrepreneur Accelerator programme ran by NatWest in February and we have been part of the programme ever since. We have a professional mentor within the hub, office space and access to many professional contacts whom we have brought on board to help us scale the business.
What advice would you give to someone looking to set up their own business?
DO IT. Just go for it! Yes there is a relative amount of risk involved, but that is like anything in life! Think of the future and what you really want for yourself as a career, for your family and keep that image in your mind everyday and you will make it happen.
Deadline for entries is 16th October 2018, to be in with a chance of winning, go to www.ifwecanyoucan.co.uk
Tickets are now online for our ‘Ones to Watch’ live final on 26th October at Teesside University, click here to regsiter.
Our BQ Bulletin emails will land in your inbox at 7.30am, Monday to Friday, with a mix of the latest local business news, national news, and features to inspire you. Sign up here!
Click here to read our privacy statement