Here Terence Chung, founder of cosmetics start-up FRUU, discusses how he achieved a grant from the Shell LiveWIRE programme for his cosmetics start-up FRUU.
What is your business?
We are FRUU. We are a young British indie cosmetic start-up specialising in sustainable fruit-derived skincare products. We produce them mainly from organic fruit and plant ingredients taken from processed fruit products. By using waste materials, our business is diverting food waste from landfill sites, helping to mitigate the amount of greenhouse gases released during the decomposition processes. According to WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme), the UK wastes the equivalent of £150 million worth of fruit juice and smoothies each year.
I own and operate the company with help from my girlfriend and some close friends. The idea for the business came to me when I was working as a teacher in London. I realised that young people are really intrigued about cosmetic products and sustainability. However, there are not any cosmetic brands with sustainability ethos that resonated with millennials. Although I had no background in cosmetics, I was able to use my knowledge as a biochemist to develop our first cosmetics range using the by-products of fruit. It was a process of trial and error – 27 prototypes, to be exact – to get to where I am today. FRUU was nearly entirely funded out of £2,000 of our savings until we came across the Shell LiveWIRE programme.
How did you find out about the programme? What did you need it for?
I came across the Shell LiveWIRE programme after watching Dragons Den and found out that one of the successful companies had won the award. Although I have always wanted FRUU to be as sustainable as possible as a business, I did not realised there were grant supports available specifically for sustainability enterprises. The programme was of particular interest to me as it provides funding and advice even to businesses in the concept stages of development. Shell LiveWIRE also gives its winners access to networking events and business advice and support, which is crucial for any young business.
What was the application process like? What did you have to do?
Comparatively the process was very smooth. The judging criteria was very clearly laid out. We simply had to show how much of an impact our business could have in reducing waste and the use of a resource that is currently not sustainable. We did this by creating a business pitch and defining the potential environmental effects FRUU’s products could have. We pulled together statistics that explained why FRUU is a unique business model and highlighted the environmental issues we sought to address – such as that most cosmetics products are made with crude oil or petroleum based products and, as a result, are unsustainable. I think it was particularly crucial that we provided a compelling business case to show that our business model is profitable and scalable, as many of the sustainable initiative have failed to produce profitable results.
How much money did you seek? What were the conditions of the grant?
The Shell LiveWIRE programme offers its winners £5,000 as well as the opportunity for all monthly winners to compete for the annual title of Shell LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneur of the Year, which has an additional prize worth £25,000. We were overjoyed when we became the August Shell LiveWIRE winners. The main condition tied to the award was that we had to invest the money directly into the company – which was fine with us! The great thing about the Shell LiveWIRE programme is that it is open to businesses at the very earliest stages of development, often with their ideas at an embryonic stage. It would have been very hard for us, at the stage FRUU was at when we applied, to find this level of support and opportunity elsewhere.
When you got the money, what did you do with it?
As a new mass consumer brand with a completely new product, Shell LiveWIRE’s financial support was essential for some of the latest marketing and advertising efforts we have launched recently. We have recently been active at vegan festivals which have been excellent for generating publicity. In March we will be featuring in a prominent beauty subscription service. Each month it selects five beauty products, packs them into signature pink boxes and deliver them to subscribers. In addition to marketing efforts, we have used the award money to upgrade our manufacturing facility. This will be crucial as we just found out that we will be stocked in Ocado soon!
What advice would you give to other companies seeking grants?
There are many funding options and competitions out there for companies with sustainability at the heart of their mission and I would encourage everyone to apply. Shell LiveWIRE is particularly good for two reasons – you always get feedback and you also get the opportunity to reapply every month which allows you to perfect your application. Generally, however, it’s not easy to come by grants unless you have a sustainability mission behind your business or unless there’s something very unique about your business’ technology. It is always a good idea to speak to your local Chamber of Commerce or council to find out if there are specific regional grants available to you.
Further reading on grants
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