Company: Radiance Cleanse
Interviewee: Christina Agnew and Clare Neill
Interviewer: Cordelia Hawkins
Photo Credits: Radiance Cleanse
www.radiancecleanse.com | www.radiancedaily.com | @radiancecleanse | @radiancedaily
Founded in 2009 by Christina Agnew and Clare Neill, Radiance Cleanse was the first high quality nutritional and organic juice cleanse program to hit the market in the UK.
Transitioning from their previous corporate careers, Christina in law and Clare at a private equity fund, they embarked on their own entrepreneurial venture together. Both founders are balancing motherhood and a business; they discuss their top tips to approaching a happy work/life balance and their best advice for setting up a business.
Radiance Cleanse juices are raw, unpasteurised and cold pressed from organic ingredients, Radiance Cleanse is the first Soil Association certified organic juice cleanse in the UK available at www.radiancecleanse.com
Please can you both introduce yourselves?
Clare - I’m 33 and married with a little girl called Eve who’s nearly 2. I grew up in Edinburgh, which is where I met Christina, but I was born in England and I’ve been in London for over 10 years.
Christina – I’m 33 and I’m married with 3 little boys, aged 4, 2 and 8 months. I’m originally from Edinburgh but have lived in London for more than 10 years.
What was the catalyst, which inspired you to leave your old jobs:
Christina: Looking back, neither of us was very well suited to the corporate world and therefore we weren’t enjoying it much either! We were doing very long hours and although we aren’t work-shy it felt very restrictive and ultimately not satisfying. I had done a BSc in Nutritional Medicine for personal interest as much as anything and Clare had started radically changing her diet to overcome some health issues, including by going on a juice cleanse retreat. The professional and personal interest in nutrition, and juicing in particular, coincided quite naturally and as we were young-ish (and a bit naïve!) we thought we would give it a shot starting up our own business. We have been best friends since school so that helped hugely in giving us both the confidence to leave secure jobs for a much more uncertain future as entrepreneurs.
Can you tell us about the process you took in setting up Radiance Cleanse?
- How long was the gap between leaving your job and launching Radiance Cleanse?
We actually got some of the basics of Radiance in place before we made the leap, including having done a huge amount of research – mostly into the juice cleansing options available in the US since there was virtually nothing like what we were trying to do in the UK at that time.
-Did you seek business advice from other entrepreneurs?
We are lucky enough to have a few close friends who run their own businesses and so we did bounce ideas off them from time to time. But mostly we just went with our gut instinct and crossed our fingers!
-Did you follow a particular business model?
We based our core juice cleanse programmes on successful models from New York and LA, since they are usually several years ahead of the UK in health-focused trends. However we added our own personal spin and also made changes to accommodate the UK market and customer.
Getting your first customers?
-How did you go about marketing Radiance Cleanse when you first started in 2009?
As we were the first juice cleanse delivery service to launch in the UK we were lucky to receive a lot of press interest. That is much harder for everyone in the juice market these days as it's a lot more saturated.
-How did your first customers discover you?
Once we received one or two press reviews the customers who tried our service based on those reviews quickly started to recommend Radiance to their friends. Even from the early days word of mouth has been a major growth factor for us. We put a lot of time and effort into customer service and maintaining personal relationships with our customers. We make sure that we find ways to reward our most loyal customers as the company grows.
-How has the company developed between 2009 and now?
We have learned a lot about delivery logistics! When we first set up Radiance we thought it was mostly about creating juices. Now we are older and wiser we know that's the easy bit. We make the highest quality organic and cold pressed juices, beautifully packaged with full cleanse guidance and supportive accessory products like bath salts and bespoke herbal teas. The trick is to ensure this complete package arrives with the customer in exactly the same condition it leaves us, and that it arrives precisely when and where it is meant to. That is much easier said than done! So over the years we have got better and better at that side of things and built up a team who are second to none.
Juicing and healthy eating is a very prominent area of interest at the moment. New products are reported in the media everyday.
-How do you make Radiance Cleanse different from other juicing brands?
What continues to mark Radiance out in a crowded market is that we put a lot of resources into customer service. We really believe that there's a huge difference between buying a cleanse and buying a lot of juice – from a juice bar or wherever – and the difference lies in our expertise in managing the cleanse process, our willingness to go the extra mile for our clients and our attention to detail.
-Can you tell us about your values and strict organic guidelines?
We were the first company of our kind in the UK to become certified organic by the Soil Association. We are really proud to have set the standard on organic. No-one should be claiming to be organic unless they are certified (it's actually against the law). We felt that saying to our customers 'we will use organic ingredients where possible' simply wasn't good enough. That isn't a reliable external standard for a customer. Yes it's expensive to be certified but it's such an important criterion for many customers buying juices that we wanted to give it the same value.
-You use a Norwalk Hydraulic Press Juicer, could you explain what this is and how it differentiates from a household juicer?
We use a combination of Norwalks and a larger commercial cold press juicer. The important point of difference is whether a juicer is a cold press. Heat degrades nutrients. Most household juicers are centrifugal and therefore create heat when you operate them. This actually isn't such a big issue if you are going to drink your juices straight away (although additionally a centrifugal juicer normally produces a lower yield and doesn't juice so efficiently with leafy green vegetables) however it becomes really important if you want to store your juices and drink them later or over a longer period like a cleanse.
-There is a lot of science behind the power of juicing. Could you tell us more about how juicing benefits the body in addition to eating a healthy balanced diet?
Juicing is such an easy way to consume a vast array of quick to absorb nutrients. It's like the ultimate nutritious fast food. In our view, it's so much better to get your Vitamin C, for example, from a fresh juice distilled from natural ingredients that your body recognises than it is to pop a synthetic supplement.
Balancing a career and a family:
-As entrepreneurs and as mothers, how do you manage to keep a successful balance between your business and family life?
That really is the million dollar question, and it honestly is a challenge each and every day. We are so grateful that we both have young children at the same time as it gives us a similar perspective and a lot of empathy. It also means we can laugh about the harder days, rather than cry! We both spend as much time with our children as we can and try to work around them. Babies come to the office (before they can crawl and cause mischief) and we will leave early to do a school or nursery pick up before logging on in the evening again once children are in bed. It's easier said than done, but we make a concerted effort to be present with our children and not distracted by work. We also try to take time off which is dedicated family time and ensure that the team at the office do their best to respect a 'do not disturb' policy, unless it's something genuinely important and time-critical.
-What would your best advice be to other working mothers, that you have learnt from personal experience?
Make sure you have really good childcare and that you know how it's going to work in all situations. What will you do if your nanny or childminder calls in sick, or your child is sick and can't go to nursery, and you're meant to be attending a critical meeting? Who will be your back up? What will you do during school holidays? Don't engage the minimum amount of childcare so that whenever you are not working you are looking after children. We have both done this – it's natural to want to spend as much time with your children as possible, and probably also as little money as possible on childcare. However it's vital to find some me-time, otherwise everything becomes too exhausting and you don't give your best at work or at home.
Clare, you suffered from a stomach condition whilst working in London at a private equity fund. Could you tell us what measures you took in transforming your body back to health, through the benefits of juicing and your change of career?
It was a pretty radical lifestyle overhaul! I was lucky to be under the guidance of a fantastic nutritional therapist, who gave me a strict set of guidelines for eating for six months, and this included giving up wheat, dairy, sugar (in all it’s forms, bar an apple a day), yeast, any fungus or mushrooms, alcohol, reducing my meat intake and avoiding any processed or ‘white’ foods. It was really tough to start with but after a couple of weeks I could see and feel such dramatic change that I didn’t mind, and it opened up a whole new world of food for me. I was also lucky that Christina was training as a nutritional therapist, so I had great support from her too, and she suggested that I go on a juice retreat in Spain for a week. That week long juice cleanse was transformative and really helped me deal with a lot more issues. It also helped me to decide to make the leap from finance to working in the wellbeing industry.
How are you planning on growing Radiance Cleanse in the coming years?
We have just launched a new range of retail juices, cold brew coffees and nut mylks called Radiance Daily. This has been more than a year in the making so we are super proud of it. Daily is the lifestyle arm of Radiance. Where you would use Cleanse for a seasonal reset or after an illness, that is to say with a more remedial approach, Daily is your everyday maintenance. We've designed it as a range that encompasses a healthy upgrade to pretty much all the drinks you might get through in a day. The website is www.radiancedaily.com or check out our Instagram on @radiancedaily.
What would your main advice be to others who are looking to start their own companies, leave their current jobs and follow their dream careers?
-What were the most valuable lessons you learnt along the way?
At a certain time you just have to be brave and go for it. There's a point you reach where you're thinking that you have to stick in your current job to keep financing yourself to build up the new business, but on the other hand the new business will never grow big enough for you to leave your current job unless you give it your full attention. That isn't a sum that will ever add up, so save as much money as you can and then take a calculated risk. One of Clare's favourite quotes is “take fear out of the future and put passion in the present”. Be brave, especially because if you have a good idea for a business the harsh reality is that it won't be your idea only for long, so it's a case of act now or live to regret it.
Our other core piece of advice is don't set up a business solo if you can do it in partnership with someone you trust. We both bring such different skills to Radiance and there have been so many hurdles over the years that supporting each other has been the only way we've survived. When you're down, you need someone else to pick you up. And when you're thinking something is impossible, you need your best friend and business partner to remind you that it always seems impossible until it's done.