Tom and Zoe have set up business in Notting Hill working on their start-up Wunder Workshop. An Ayurvedic inspired health food brand.
They share how they have kept their business going over the first year of its fruition and the highs and lows of start-up life. Selling a product in today’s market isn’t easy for a new brand or company; Tom and Zoe tell us how they have managed to get stockists such as Selfridges behind Wunder Workshop and reveal their key pieces of advice for anyone looking to set up a business.
Wunder Workshops products are inspired by Ayurveda and focused around the powerful spice turmeric. Both Tom and Zoe have backgrounds in medicine and nutrition. With Tom studying pharmacology and working in the medical industry and Zoe learning about the importance of nutrition from her mother who has worked in the health food industry for over 40 years. Wunder Workshop buy their main ingredient Turmeric from an organically certified farm in Sri Lanka and they continue to be kind to the environment through their commitment to only ever using eco- friendly packaging.
Hi Tom and Zoe! Please can you both introduce yourselves?
Z: My name is Zoe, I am 27, I am Dutch but born in Australia and raised in Germany. In my free time I love photographing architecture, conducting research in relation to health and international politics, and more recently I have worked with homeless people and refugees.
T: I'm Tom and in my 25 years I have lived in London, Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town. Apart from researching how our bodies are influenced by food I love to surf, run and generally be outdoors.
Please tell us about your company, Wunder Workshop and your roles there?
Z: We are a Notting Hill based food brand focussing on health promotion and disease prevention. Wunder Workshop is inspired by Ayurveda – which translates as the “Science of Life”, its principles are based upon a preventive approach to health. Turmeric plays a fundamental role in Ayurvedic medicine and we use functional ingredients to maximise turmeric’s benefits in order to help people to feel as good as they can. We want our products to be good for our customers as well as the planet and the people who provide our ingredients. That’s why we import directly from an independent Sri Lankan farm and only use the finest organic ingredients where possible. We try and minimise our environmental impact by using eco-friendly and recyclable materials and methods in everything that we do.
I spend 24/7 on Wunder Workshop, and at the moment still do everything from accounting, sampling, making the products, marketing, to importing admin and so on. As Tom still has another full-time job, he helps in the kitchen whenever he can and focuses on finding new partners we can work with.
How did the partnership come about?
T: Wunder Workshop is Zoe’s brainchild and she really is the health freak amongst the two of us. What interested me was the science behind the ingredients and how they benefit our bodies. So the partnership formed naturally as we complement each other’s skills and interests.
When and where did you think of the idea? And what was your next step?
Z: I have been fortunate to have visited Sri Lanka a couple of times with my mum. We stayed at very traditional Ayurvedic retreats on the south coast, where we stayed for over 3 weeks and had the privilege of spending a lot of time with Ayurvedic doctors. I learned so much about so many different herbs and the power of food. Turmeric is one of the most powerful herbs, it was there at the source of its heritage that I learned the most about it and decided I wanted to create products with Turmeric. Shortly after returning I went back out there to find a farm that was organically certified and treated the farmers fairly, fortunately I found one, which enabled me to start importing their turmeric and quit my interior design job in London. That was just over a year ago and now I fully concentrate on spreading the turmeric message.
How did you go about the process of setting up Wunder Workshop? e.g. investment? Were you working at a different company before hand? When did you take the leap and leave?
T: we put aside money each month whilst working in different jobs, which enabled us to make the initial prototype products and set up the brand. With that in place we approached investors and managed to get investment to get the ball rolling for our first product, the fresh Golden Mylk.
Z: We continue to develop other products based on turmeric from the money we have generated and from our initial investment. I took the leap and left my job in October 2014 when I decided to focus all my energy on Wunder Workshop and set up the brand for its launch in January 2015.
How did you get your first customers?
Z: We were lucky to have a small market stall just before Christmas last year on the Penny Market at the top of Portobello Road and at Partridges Market in Sloane Square, which created our first opportunity to sell and promote Golden Mylk. We didn’t even have labels yet, but we just wanted to use the opportunity to be on a market and see what people thought of our product. We had a really positive response, which encouraged us to push it further and approach shops and sell it online.
What are three of the most valuable lessons you have learnt during this time of setting up and launching?
Z: The biggest lesson for me has been that you can plan as much as you want but things will never go exactly as you expect them to. I really had to learn how to rely on other people, and let go of being a control freak. Even though I’d like to think that we are in control of the outcome and deadlines, it is never the case. I found and still find it hard to cope with other people not sticking to deadlines or that things go wrong that have had an impact on us. We have had almost every single disaster on a little journey so far: faulty labels, missing deliveries, broken fridges - you name it. In learning how to be initiative and spontaneous we have been able to develop the ways to respond to these challenges.
The other thing that was new for me was being able to delegate tasks to people without feeling bossy or weird about making people do something for me.
T: For me a third lesson has been understanding the power of social media which has had a huge impact for us. So many people have come to us through Instagram and Facebook its crazy.
Stockists- how did you market your brand to your stockists?
Being real and honest. We are still a very small company and instead of making out to be some big player in the health scene we admitted to our vulnerabilities as a small start-up. Fortunately people have really supported us and our idea, shops like Selfridges have really given us the opportunity to spread our message and are constantly supporting other start-ups like ourselves. The key is to just keep pestering them, in the most un-annoying way possible ;)
What would your advice be to others looking to also start their own businesses?
Z: Go for it. If you have the idea and the passion, just do it. We live in a world full of opportunities, and if we really want something and put out the right energy and attitude, you will reap your benefits for all your hard work. Of course there is a lot of hard work involved and life will be an emotional rollercoaster but it is so rewarding. Of course we sometimes lose the will to continue when it isn’t going as smoothly as we hoped it would, I always think about the analogy that as long as you can hold your breath and keep swimming under water, you will eventually break the surface and can enjoy the fresh air.
T: Also, what I would advise anyone who is starting a business to get out there, speak to as many people as you can in your field or even in any kind of start-up industry and ask questions. We are all in the same boat, and I can confidently say that whoever we have contacted has been incredibly helpful and keen to share their knowledge. It’s a cyclical world and giving back is as rewarding as getting the advice!
What are your next steps for the growth of Wunder workshop?
We are launching one further product in January 2016, and then we will focus on spreading the word about our turmeric products. We hope to expand internationally and have some incredible people spread across the world who want to help us spread the turmeric message.
Please can you explain Ayurvedic medicine and it’s principles?
Z: Ayurveda translates as the ‘science of life’, which we think just on its own already has a beautiful and powerful meaning. The lifestyle and medical system sees every human being as an individual with a unique constitution and therefore offers a different approach for every single person, which is so different from our one size fits all approach in Western medicine.
What we have learned from Ayurveda is that it isn’t merely about treating illnesses but rather about having a balanced dynamic between our environment, body, mind and spirit. Therefore a focus on “prevention rather than cure”, which forms the basis of Wunder Workshop’s ethos. We do not offer a quick fix, but we offer products, which if taken on a regular basis and are introduced into your daily routine can aid in preventing and aiding certain ailments.
Bringing different approaches to medicine is very necessary in our ‘over-prescribed’ western culture. And your brand is offering this alternative perspective and education. Can you tell us more about turmeric and it’s role in disease prevention?
T: There are currently already over 4,600 studies proving turmeric’s incredible potency when taken correctly. Despite already being used for over 4,000 years, research has recently found that the active ingredient, curcumin, can be beneficial for a number of diseases. The research has focused on a few main areas:
- Its anti-inflammatory properties, where it has shown it has the ability to help alleviate symptoms of autoimmune diseases, such as irritable bowel syndrome and for the treatment of osteoarthritis, where it has been described to have comparable effects to commonly used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs but without the side effects;
- Treating cancer, where curcumin has shown to be beneficial in slowing cancer cell growth and preventing new cancer cell development;
- Happiness, where research has shown it to be as effective as Prozac in treating showed depressive disorders
Could you tell us about some of your products and what they’re particularly good for?
We make fresh Golden Mylk that is ready-to-drink and Instantly Golden an instant version made from coconut milk powder, turmeric and more herbs to be mixed with hot water. They are both designed to increase turmeric’s bioavailability and contain a healthy fat (coconut) and black pepper, which increases the amount of turmeric absorbed into the bloodstream.
We also make organic Golden Turmeric Tea, which is a soothing combination of turmeric, ginger and more to create a lovely warming drink. Ginger also helps turmeric’s absorption so it is no less functional than the others. And finally, we also sell the 100% organic, single-origin turmeric powder that we source directly from the farm in Sri Lanka which is great because it is so versatile and can be used in smoothies, porridge, cooking and for facemasks.
What have been your best sellers? And what do you most recommend?
Our best seller so far has been our Golden Turmeric Tea, so much so that we are out of stock and awaiting a new batch to arrive from the farm in Sri Lanka.
For those who live in London I would recommend our fresh Golden Mylk, as it is a potent yet soothing drink made freshly in London every four days, you can pick it up in Selfridges.
Do you have/use an inspiring quote to keep you motivated during the ups & downs of entrepreneurial life that you can share with our readers?
Z: “Stress is caused by being ‘here’ but wanting to be ‘there’.” – Eckhart Tolle