After spending the last 8 years working in Marketing, Adam French finally decided his ambition running his own business outweighed his desire to remain in the corporate ladder. Taking the plunge earlier this year Adam launched whey’d, a nutrition brand whose main product whey’d Protein Sachets offers a perfectly convenient way to take whey on the go.
Read the full interview below.
Hi Adam, thanks for agreeing to share your story on YHP. Can you give us some background information about yourself?
My name is Adam French, I was born in the West Country and now live and run my new start-up, whey’d, in London. I’ve spent the last 8 years working in marketing however I have always wanted to start my own company so took the final plunge earlier in 2018.
I wouldn’t say I’m a complete fitness junkie but I’m not far off! I regularly play football, go to the gym and I love nothing more than going outside running. I also love trying new adventure sports – my recent favourite is kitesurfing!
Over the last 5 years the link between nutrition and how we perform during sports has become a great interest of mine which led me to where I am now - running my own sports nutrition brand, helping other people hit their nutrition goals and ultimately improve performance.
How did the idea for whey’d come about?
I started whey’d to answer problems that I personally faced and saw other people facing. I was frustrated with the overcomplicated, poor-quality and hard to transport whey protein available on the market. I’m regularly travelling and going to the gym at lunch or straight after work, so I wanted an easier way to transport my whey.
And previously there was no easy option to do this. I’d have to decanter whey into a Tupper-Ware container or carry around large bags which a) I didn’t have the time to do each day and b) it just wasn’t practical when constantly on-the-go.
On top of this, even with a knowledge of sports and nutrition I still found it hard trying to work out which whey to take from the many available on each brand’s sites. A brand might have 7-10 different types of whey protein for sale and typically I, like many others would just opt for the cheapest but never liked the taste or effects these had.
After years of facing these problems myself, that no-one was solving, I decided to solve them myself. And whey’d was born.
Tell me about the early days, the type of challenges you initially encountered?
Even though whey’d has only been officially trading for 3 months, ‘the early days’ of bringing whey’d to market seem a long way off! Coming from no experience in creating a product, I didn’t really know where to start, so working out who to speak too was a huge challenge.
I think everything I wanted and set out to do went wrong in the beginning. If I wanted something to look a certain way or have a size preference, then someone would always tell me it wasn’t possible. The problem wasn’t if it was possible or not, it was that I was too small. I wanted to launch whey’d at the smallest possible scale but with minimum order quantities and the manufacturers just didn’t want to give me the time of day.
But perseverance, being personable and friendly helped me find and work with 2 different manufacturers and I can’t say I’d want to look elsewhere – they’re amazing!
What is whey’d? And what are you trying to solve with it?
whey’d is the overall brand of our current main product – whey’d Protein Sachets. Our sachets offer a perfectly convenient way to take whey on the go. Sourced from the highest quality, sustainable, grass-fed, GMO-free dairy in the world means our protein powder is not only convenient but the best available.
It’s simple to understand, as its been portioned into 20g protein servings (the ideal amount of protein per serving) and we’ve done all the hard work finding the ONE whey that is the highest quality rather than offering 10 different whey proteins.
For these reasons, whey’d helps meet these unmet needs perfectly.
How have you been able to fund it so far?
I originally went down the route of Kickstarter, however after only achieving 80% of my target I wasn’t successful. Crowdfunding takes a lot of time and you only really get one chance, it’s also expensive (despite no fees from Kickstarter for not getting funding) – you’ll still need to get professional help with videos and the page to make it look good.
I was however able to convince people that pledged to continue to pre-order whey’d and I got the rest of the funding from a credit card. I’ve never seen the point of going out and giving away a 50% equity stake for funds before you’ve even started. Having the risk of needing to pay back the money definitely keeps me motivated to succeed!
About the first few months, how excited were you, tell us about how those months felt, what happened?
I fully launched in January 2018 and it was amazing! I set up order notifications to come through to my phone and was celebrating each individual one. When you’ve spent so long wanting to start a business, doing all the hard work and getting a product to market, there’s something special about seeing someone physically purchase it. It’s almost like justification that the hard work pays off. And then when I received the amazing feedback and repeat orders – that’s really where it makes it all extra special!
How did you initially get traction?
My marketing budget started at £0, mainly because all my money went on getting the product made. That said, I had a product and because I spent a long time making sure it was branded to look and feel great (and that the quality of the whey was the best) I knew that I just had to get the sachets into people’s hands! I therefore allocated my marketing budget to the number of sachets I gave away.
I launched on Instagram 6 months before I even had a product, sharing content about our missions and beliefs which paid off as I had 1.5-2k followers before I even started selling.
My earliest traction channels were 3rd party subscription boxes (where people get a monthly box of health snacks), posting daily on Instagram and referrals. 30% of my traffic now comes from Direct and 30% from Instagram so goes to show people have either heard or seen whey’d or have seen us through Instagram.
Working with my PR agency, Prezzroom, has also been a very successful way of getting whey’d in front of as many relevant people as possible. Events are also another great way of meeting people.
What are the most crucial things that you have done to grow your business?
Keeping the momentum going is definitely key. People think they just because they launch a new brand the site will crash on the first day as people flock to the site and buy the product. I don’t think any brand has ever had this. It took Nike 10+ years of hard work before they were even looked at.
I can’t remember where I read it, but someone said that “you’ll probably be personally responsible for ALL of your first 100 customers” and I would have to say this is mostly true. In the first few months I exhausted all channels and each sale that came through I could tell that they came from a channel I’d been actively pushing. Now I’ve got past this mark, I’m starting to get inbound requests and the halo effect is starting to kick in.
If I forgot to post on Instagram or went quiet for a couple of days, I noticed my traffic and sales dipped. It’s hard, but you just need to stay persistent when people are engaging with your brand otherwise they’ll forget about you and the moment has passed.
What would you say has been the highlight of your entrepreneurial journey so far?
All of the positive feedback for sure. Hearing people go out of their way to tell me how much they love the product has been amazing. I never started whey’d just to add another mundane brand to the oversaturated sports nutrition market and the fact we’ve had amazing traction and are now working with the likes of Claridges Hotel and exclusive gyms across London is crazy!
What should we be expecting from yourself and the whey’d team for 2018?
We’ve taken on a lot of great feedback from our customers and people that I’ve spoken to so we’re going to be extending our product range. We’re launching larger bags of protein for people to have in addition to their sachets – mainly to use at home, as we’ve seen that a combination of sachets and larger bags is the most convenient option for all situations.
We’re also launching a completely raw range with just 100% Hydrolysed Whey and nothing else – another popular request. Both in sachets and bags.
There are a few other great additions coming soon, but you will just have to keep your eyes peeled for them!
Lastly, what three pieces of advice would you offer entrepreneurs starting out today?
1. Make sure your product or service genuinely answers an unmet problem better than what’s already available. Nobody needs another company just doing the same thing! I found that answering one of my own problems helped (and so did Richard Branson)
2. You have to enjoy and be passionate about the sector you’re going into. It’ll be on your mind 24/7 – that’s right you’ll even have nightmares about it! So, if it doesn’t interest you, then you won’t be able to able to make a remarkable product or service!
3. Keep it simple. It’s a little cliché but if you overcomplicate it, it’ll be harder to explain. If people can’t understand the benefits of your product or service within 10 seconds of going on your site or speaking with you, then it’s too complicated. FACT.