When Pippa Murray was training for a marathon she would often turn to peanut butter as a post-run snack. Like most runners, she wanted a quick protein boost, however, she didn’t want all the nasty sugar and preservatives that come along with most high street brands.
The theatre producer quickly noticed a gap in the market for a nut butter that was delicious but healthy too.
Fast forward to 2018, Pip & Nut products have now been around for three and a half years and they are currently stocked in 5,000 stores around the UK alone. In 2018 the company is estimated to sell a whopping 1.6 million jars.
We caught up with Pippa to learn more about her journey to date and to find out about the setbacks that ultimately lead to her success.
No formal training
While Pippa has many of the character traits that make a good entrepreneur such as independence and ambition, she did not receive any formal training in food or business.
”Prior to starting Pip & Nut, I was working as a theatre producer for the science museum in London. When I first went to university I thought I was going to pursue a career in the arts so I studied anthropology.
”I actually love the fact that I work in an industry that I haven’t really had any formal training in. I have had to learn it all on the job.
”University for me wasn’t a path to a career. I studied something I found interesting but I didn’t really think about what I wanted to do when I was older. For most of university, I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do.
”I’m a firm believer that you learn by doing. I think it is great if you have done a business or marketing degree before, that can only help you but sometimes I think it is all quite abstract when you learn it in theory and most of the learning comes through the various different curve balls that a business will throw at you. I have no regrets about not having formal training.”
With the idea for Pip & Nut firmly cemented in her mind Pippa was faced with one major problem, how on earth was she going to get the business off the ground?
Thankfully her mentor emailed her a link to the Escape the City competition. The competition gave one lucky budding entrepreneur the chance to work in London rent free in order to get their business off the ground.
Pippa won! But she soon realised that it was hard to schedule downtime when you could not escape your work.
”Stopping work is still a challenge. I think work ultimately feels a lot more like something you really enjoy, so it’s easier to let it creep into your evenings and weekend. Back then, in particular, it was sort of 24/7. It was partly because there is only one of you so you’ve got to set up the supply chain, sort the products out, do the branding, do the marketing plan, raise the money, sort finance and do legal. You are basically doing seven people’s jobs in a short space of time. It is quite full-on at the start.”
Not having a co-founder
Looking back on her journey Pippa admits that having a co-founder might have made her life a little bit easier.
”I have always said if I was to do it again and start a new company I would like to do it with a co-founder. I think It’s slightly less lonely and you’re not quite as isolated and in the early years, in particular, you would at least have someone to ride the highs and the lows with you. It shouldn’t be a barrier to someone starting a business. If you haven’t got a co-founder you can definitely still do it. I just think there is a little bit more pressure on you when things aren’t exactly going to plan.”
Finding a manufacturer
Securing a deal with a manufacturer was a major obstacle that Pippa had to overcome in the early days of the business.
” It was probably the hardest thing about setting up the business. It took about eight months to find the right manufacturing partner who could make the products in the way that we wanted them to be made. It’s a massive sell because most manufacturers don’t want to work with small suppliers. Ideally, they would love to work with a big customer like Tesco or Sainsbury’s.
”When you’re a startup you don’t really have any volume at all so you basically have to do a massive sales pitch to them and persuade them that your product is going to be the next big thing. The process of getting it up and running can be fairly expensive. Sometimes it feels like you’re just feeling around in the dark. You just kind of work it out as you go and probably make some really big mistakes in the process.”
Struggling to find investors
Like most startups, Pip & Nut needed to find investors in order to grow the business. Unfortunately, it wasn’t easy in the beginning.
”We’ve done a few rounds of investment now but our first one was through Crowdcube. At the time I’d never run a business before and I had never worked in food and drink. I was a risky investment if you look at it in black and white. I remember I pitched to quite a lot of angels for around 100k to get the product into production.
”When I was pitching most investors weren’t willing to put the full amount in but they were willing to put a portion of it in maybe 10 or 5k. So I figured that crowdfunding would be a great platform to be able to put all those different investors together and use that to fill the round up.”
Hiring the right people
Recruitment will always be a stumbling block for new businesses. Pip & Nut now have a close-knit team of 12 people which is expected to grow in the future.
”Hiring the right people is incredibly hard. To find people with the experience that you need but who also have the appetite to work in a slightly chaotic company is difficult. Startups are super fun and exciting for some people but other people find them terrifying. You have to find the kind of personalities who are able to grow in a startup.”
What are the plans for the brand going forward? New products and even more stockists. Just watch this space.