Jules Birch launched health food supplement company Works with Water Nutraceuticals in 2006 and now the business turns over around £1.2 million.
What does the company offer?
We are the first company to pioneer a range of 100 per cent natural, soluble food supplements containing ingredients that are scientifically proven to help maintain healthy cholesterol and blood pressure and have a positive impact on skin.
What were the early days of the business like?
Originally, the product was in a soft-drink based format. I got it into Waitrose, Tesco and Morrisons in the first six months, but machinery problems in the manufacturing plant we used meant that production was compromised. After an unfruitful search for other manufacturers, I realised that the product could be separated from the water and consumers could add it to their own beverage. So after repositioning the product we got it back into several major retailers as well as Boots, with whom we developed a good relationship.
How was it financed?
After a fair amount of trading my skills for the help of others, I secured investment of £100,000 through the Small Firms Loan Guarantee Scheme where the government essentially underwrites a portion of the debt. I realised I needed more money later to cover production costs and found investment from the Walker Trust which took a sizeable equity chunk but I still retain more than half of the business.
How is it marketed?
In the early days it was just PR; I was trying to get as much as I could for as little as possible by talking to journalists and getting advertising space at rock bottom prices. Then last year for the launch we committed to two national print campaigns, spending more than £500,000 in advertising, and we saw a 225 per cent increase in sales as a consequence.
We’ve reformulated the product to get it cheaper and already we’re seeing a bigger uptake. We’re also launching two new products in August which are gel sticks that are eaten, one citrus for cholesterol and the other raspberry and rose, a skin product. The retailers are excited because they say there is nothing like this on the market.