Despite possessing “the endless to-do list of a full-time mother”, Melanie Lawson ignored the “odd looks” friends and family gave her upon hearing the budding entrepreneur’s plans to start fish oil business Bare Biology, and put her trust in fate to take the business to the next level.
The parent-cum-entrepreneur revealed her grand business idea back in September 2013 and said she received “stilted attempts at encouragement” from her nearest and dearest when explaining the concept to them.
Lawson had no doubts in her nutritional venture though, even when receiving “odd looks”, as she discovered that fish oil varies in quality. When it came to finding products, she decided that the existing offerings weren’t up to scratch and went on to develop her own.
Describing the product’s importance, she said: “Omega 3 really is one of the most critically important nutrients we should – indeed, have to – consume. Without it, for example, our brains can’t function properly and when you’ve had three children and are in your forties – you need all the help you can get.”
The research process took time and Lawson spent a year looking for what she considered the best oil manufacturer in the world, which turned out to be in Norway. Bare Biology was born and products have been created there since.
Explaining to Business Advice what makes her business idea different to the rest, Lawson detailed: “Our omega 3 fish oils are the best quality on the market bar none. We have the highest concentrations of omega 3 available and our oils are 100 per cent pure and clean.
“We provide our customers with evidence of this by having each and every batch independently certified by the International Fish Oil Standards (IFOS), and we publish our own laboratory test results for every batch in full on our website. We’re the first and only British omega 3 brand to do this. We also have beautiful, luxury packaging, which makes our products a pleasure to buy and gives them great stand-out on shelves.”
The IFOS certification tests for strength, purity and freshness, and Lawson is proud to say products are “completely free from any heavy metals or environmental nasties and spankingly fresh”.
And in case you’re worried about “fishy burps”, Bare Biology ensures that oils do not repeat on consumers, with Lawson describing ones that do as “most certainly rancid”.
She initially spent much of her time working alone and didn’t have anyone to talk to about the company.
“It’s very easy to turn into a bit of a hermit when you’re a solopreneur or micropreneur and it’s good to get help and opinions from other people who aren’t connected to the business,” Lawson said. “I believe if an opportunity presents itself, you have to go for it and, within reason, I say yes to everything as you never know what you’ll learn.”
That’s where startup incubator Entrepreneurial Spark came into the picture. Both Lawson’s accountant and UKTI adviser attended an Entrepreneurial Spark event and emailed her on the same day, saying she should investigate the company to help with the business idea – which Bare Biology is now a member of.
“I thought it looked really interesting and I’m a great believer in fate, so I applied there and then,” she said.
Upon joining, Lawson revealed that she became keen to consolidate the work she’d done and expand the products available. It meant admitting she needed to grow the team to delegate and she now has one full-time team member, and noted that growth was a key factor of working with Entrepreneurial Spark.
“The ‘enablement’ makes you accountable and forces you to work on growing the business rather than the day to day running of it. It’s hard to force yourself to look to the future and work on the longer term goals when you’re juggling hundreds of balls,” Lawson explained.
“It’s also great to have opportunities to get out of your comfort zone; recently I did my ’60-second pitch’ to 400 RBS bankers and also to some of their very senior executives. It’s also great to meet and collaborate with the other chiclets [startups], helping each other and learning.”
She detailed that the key challenges as a small young business were being taken seriously by suppliers. Additionally, there was a struggle to find businesses that would accept low minimum order quantities, while time was also an effort.
“Suppliers would put you at the bottom of their list so it took forever to get anything done. I’ve also pretty much learned everything the slow and painful way; making mistakes and failing to predict things – although I think this is crucial, and it’s the best way to improve,” Lawson admitted.
Perseverance was the key to leap the hurdles in her way, however, and she built personal relationships with all suppliers, including the Norwegian oil manufacturer and a capsule firm in Wales.
“If people meet you and make the human connection, they are far more likely to help you. Sounds obvious, and simple, but it’s so true and something people forget. I also accepted early on that I was going to make mistakes and as long as I learned from them and didn’t make them twice, I could forgive myself,” she said.
Despite the challenges, and worried glances from family, Lawson is seemingly onto a winning formula now. Indeed, she can rest easy as Bare Biology was praised by Coleen Rooney – wife of Manchester United striker Wayne – on Twitter to her 1.2m followers.
Other highlights include the product range growing from one to four to support children and pregnant women, while goods can be purchased from the likes of Whole Foods, Liberty and Space. Turnover has also grown threefold over the last year.
Looking ahead to 2016, Lawson said: “We’re working on a new and improved website with a comprehensive SEO and social media strategy – we have a target of tripling online turnover.
“We’re also going to be expanding into Europe and the US, recruiting two new members of staff and adding new retailers to our already impressive list.”
Business idea inspiration can come from the oddest places, as Business Advice found out when we looked at Starbucks, eBay and FedEx.
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