One of the best things about this job is that we get to talk directly with inspiring entrepreneurs. And even better than that, we get to steal all their great ideas. This week we’re chatting to Hayley Gait-Golding; founder of the healthy snack-attacking Bear Nibbles – talking inspirations, frustrations and the importance of a picnic table…
On a mission to get you looking forward to your five a day, Bear Nibbles was founded to make healthy eating fun. It burst into life in 2009, after creator Hayley Gait-Golding was brave enough to gamble it all – including the house she lived in – on this idea. So how do you go about making an idea like this a reality? And what does Hayley look for in the team members she calls family? We sat down with her to find out…
Bear’s been going since 2009 – what was it that pushed you take a gamble on a business of your own?
I’ve always been excited about helping people lead healthier lifestyles. While I was at university I got my personal training qualification and started working around my lectures. I got a buzz from seeing the transformation in people’s health and happiness that came from making positive lifestyle changes.
What kept coming up over and over again with all my clients was that snacking was a major problem area. At home they had access to healthy food but out and about they were eating rubbish and not managing to keep up with their 5 a day. All the nonsense in snacks, even the so called ‘healthy’ ones gave me the guts to gamble it all on my idea to make BEAR, a delicious 100% fruit snack that could replace your chocolate bar and help you squeeze in an extra portion of fruit.
What was the hardest thing about beginning a start-up company?
Being a start-up comes with plenty of challenges. At BEAR one of our toughest challenges has been the fact that we’re totally self-funded. We sold our house to start the business and went up against giant snacking companies with endless marketing budgets, it really has been David vs. Goliath battle for us. The positive side of that is that it forces you to be so much more creative and resourceful.
And the most rewarding?
The thing I find the most rewarding is positive customer feedback. It’s so easy to complain about a product or service when it’s not right, but how many of us take time out of our busy days to stop and tell people when they are doing well? At BEAR we’re so lucky, we have the most amazing customers who get in touch with us all the time to tell us they love our snacks or just to join in whatever fun stuffs going on on Facebook or twitter. We still get excited about all our letters and emails and always start our weekly team meeting around the picnic table with reading out our favourite ones.
What do you look for in prospective Bear team members?
There are 17 BEAR’s now which is amazing as there were only 7 of us a year ago. It’s such a change having a full cave, we all have lots of fun but work really hard too. We look for bright talented people who are as passionate about our brand and values as we are, people who we feel will be instrumental in helping us achieve our growth.
What do you think the most important things to consider are when thinking about starting a business of your own?
Consider what you are passionate about, what gets you out of bed in the morning. You’ll need boundless enthusiasm and energy to inspire others to believe in your product or idea as much as you do. At the recent NatWest Everywoman awards I was really inspired by Dame Mary Perkins, the founder of Specsavers who set the business up 31 years ago because believed in providing quality eye care at an affordable price to people nationwide. It’s such a simple vision but her passion and tenacity has made her Britain’s richest women,pipping even the queen to the post. Another really important consideration is whether having your own business is really right for you. It’s a complete life changer and although I never regret it I am sometimes very envious of people who look like they can just switch off for a day and have fun. It totally takes over.
What does the ideal future look like to you?
We measure our success at BEAR in how many 5 a day fruit portions we’ve helped people have. Last year we provided 15 million portions and in the future we’d love to provide the equivalent to 1 per every person in the country. That would be a pretty rosy future for us as we’ve got our hearts set on becoming the nations favourite healthy nibble.
Looking back on the path you took to founding Bear Nibbles, if you were emerging from University/school right now, how would you go about finding the right career path for you?
I think it’s so important to start working as early as you can to build experience. Even while you are studying the skills you pick up working alongside your degree will give you a head start on your peers. While you are working you are learning about what you like and don’t like so you have a much clearer picture of where you want to be. You can try things out without the risk of a mortgage, bills and all that extra fun stuff that’s still to come. While I was still at school, I worked during summer holidays for my dad’s packaging company in marketing. It made me realise I really disliked anything and everything corporate. I knew then I’d have to either peruse an alternative career or work for myself.
Any last words of advice for prospective innovators like yourself?
If you have a great idea or product don’t let anything hold you back. Sense check your idea with a few friends and family to make sure you’re not totally crazy, ask them to give you brutally honest feedback. Its great training for what lies ahead and will thicken up your hide. Good luck x
By Hayley Gait-Golding