Posted: Wed 8th Feb 2017
As professional swimmers, Lee Forster and Charlie Turner learnt a thing or two about the importance of nutrition, so after retiring from the sport they decided to put that knowledge to use. Ahead of speaking at The Wellness Exchange in London on 10 March, Charlie shares the story behind high end protein supplement brand, Neat Nutrition.
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How did you come up with the idea for Neat Nutrition and turn that idea into an actual business?
We met as international swimmers, where we represented Great Britain for a number of years. Lee went on to become a successful commercial strategist in the healthcare sector while I spent my time brokering high profile partnerships for international film studios. But we both knew our true passion lay elsewhere.
After years of being on the athlete side of sports nutrition, we knew we could create a great, simple product. From a shared passion and commitment for quality, our key objectives were showing provenance, removing ambiguity, embracing simplicity and helping to educate consumers. The culmination of this was creating a product that was well sourced, cleanly produced and tasted great; Neat Nutrition's range of protein powders and health supplements.
What start-up challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?
The unknown. We are fortunate that we never know what opportunity is round the corner and staying flexible and able to action quickly is a huge asset that allows us to really enjoy that challenge and make it work for us.
What lessons did you learn from your careers as professional swimmers that you've applied to running your business?
Having first-hand experience of the protein and supplement market through our sporting backgrounds, we saw a gap and knew we could offer something different. We realised we had this amazing wealth of knowledge that we could share, and wanted to promote 'nutrition for every lifestyle' targeting not just gym-goers but time-poor and health conscious consumers looking to refuel after exercise.
How did you do the deal with Net A Porter?
A key part of Neat's success has been recognising the importance of building a brand and community. We always aimed to build up a network of like-minded companies operating in the lifestyle and fitness business, and this was the case with Net-a-Porter and Mr Porter. We were invited to their 'Market Week', where potential suppliers are given the chance to pitch. We went in confident and passionate about our product, and stressed we knew that the right retailers enhance value because customers are prepared to pay more for quality and that we wanted to be part of their community.
What are your three top tips for starting a business?
If the benefits outweigh the risk, go for it. There's a big difference between understanding that there are obstacles in your path and letting that overwhelm you, and acknowledging these obstacles but still knowing what makes your business great. Far too many people spend too much time writing long and detailed business plans, but some of it is about rolling with the punches. You learn how to evaluate risk well as you go. There are definitely issues that you need to be mindful of, but I always ask myself if the benefits outweigh the risk, and take it from there.
Get experience. Having set this up in our 30s, we've found that some time and experience of working in other big and small businesses can help.
Don't always say yes. At the time, you might want to say whatever it takes to get that deal, but don't be overenthusiastic about it. In terms of the partnerships with fitness studios, for example, we've said no to three times as many businesses than those we've worked with. It keeps you knowing who you are, what you're about and what you want to achieve. Saying no doesn't mean you're missing an opportunity; just that that particular opportunity isn't right for you.
Why do you think people should attend the Wellness Exchange?
It's a great platform for new businesses to get in front of an audience of buyers. It's also a great opportunity to meet brands from like-minded industries and develop both tactical and strategic partnerships.
Join inspiring retail buyers, entrepreneurs and experts from the wellness industry for the one day extravaganza in London on 10 March. Find out more here and book a ticket below.