Movers and Shakers: An Interview with CleanShake's Rachel!
Nothing gets me more excited than successful and dynamic women in business. Wait, scrap that, nothing gets me more excited than successful and dynamic women in business, who like cats and fresh smoothies. Rachel of CleanShakes (she's the co-founder and managing director) is just that!
The story of how her brand got off the ground was an interesting one to hear, she explained how she recruited a group of scientists to help them find ways to keep their smoothies as fresh as possible for as long as possible, which is far more exciting than the average 'I just registered at Companies' House' narrative. I think the world needs a new smoothie giant, after Innocent sold it's soul and CleanShakes could be the one to fill that gap in the market.
CleanShakes is still a start up, but with the trend for clean eating and fitness showing no signs of slowing, one that can only keep moving forward! (Also I must point out, I have actually tried some of the rangeof drinks on offer, and they were delicious. Absolutely ideal for a breakfast on the go and surprisingly filling for a drink!)
Please enjoy my brief interview with Rachel below and be sure to check out CleanShakes on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook and give them a like to show your support for an amazing North East start up!
How did you get started in Business?
I’ve always been involved in enterprising activities – as soon as I could I had a job, I ran micro businesses, I made money, I saw opportunities. I didn’t really connect that to business as such, and saw it more as a “hobby” or a way to add value to a project or problem solve. I’ve taken steps into the business world over the past 15years – gradually pushing myself out of my comfort zone into the next phase of learning.
I always knew I wanted to start a business, I just didn’t think I had the skill set to do so, so I’ve surrounded myself with people, experiences, learning, businesses and a rich network in order to transform myself and my confidence into someone who is empowered enough to run their own business, highly enterprising and making their own way in the world, on their own terms.
What makes entrepreneurship so exciting for you?
It’s all about self-determination, empowerment and it’s one big challenge. I think the thing I love the most is, I get to frame and reframe something – I’m building something and it takes you on a journey. When I’m doing business, there is a real fire in my belly and I feel like “this is it, this is what I’m supposed to be doing and I absolutely love every second”.
I also love the constant learning and seeing myself evolve through-out the journey. The me that existed ten years, five years, two years, 6months ago is completely different to now and I love that fluidity. It’s so unpredictable!
If you told me, I’d be mentoring food start-ups about how to get started and about the microbiological side and food science, two years ago, I would have laughed. Yet, that’s what I’m doing and I’ve got a lot of knowledge in that area now – knowledge that other people are eager to have. So I love the community aspect, the giving back and sharing too!
Where did the idea for CleanShakes come from?
CleanShakes has been a long process! I wanted to create a new gluten free product and did a lot of research into the free from market and then Poppy, one of our founders returned from Camp America saying about how fresh fruit smoothie bars are a big thing over there and Alice, the third founder came up with the name. It was a real mixture ideas, research and excitement!
But in all honesty, we had this feeling there was some kind of idea in this area, but we kept it pretty fluid and it was through market testing and speaking to literally thousands of customers, that the idea really evolved. So who had the idea really for CleanShakes, well it was our shakers themselves!
Who stocks CleanShakes, where can I find them!?
We are currently stocked in The Cycle Hub in Newcastle and Urban Bakery in Low Fell on a regular basis. But we are in lots of discussions to expand our outlets. We do a lot of one offs at places – we are about to partner up with Gringos, for a pop up foodie event. We also cater networking events, attend events with a pop up stand, Friday office deliveries and you can order directly from us through social media which a lot of people do!
What was your biggest obstacle when you were setting up CleanShakes and how did you overcome it?
There have been SO MANY obstacles; setting up a food start-up is very challenging. So many regulations, barriers, gaps in knowledge etc. Also it is not something you can just go to a business advisor about, as that is not really in their remit of knowledge. So overcoming things simply came from asking questions and strategically building a network; I spent a year speaking to manufacturers, bottlers, the competition, regulators, local authorities, food scientists, nutritionists, microbiologists, potential customers, pitching to the likes of Waitrose and absorbed as much information as possible.
Problem solving is in my nature; it’s fun and confidence building. I can’ tell you how many “oh bliddy heck!” moments we’ve had with CleanShakes. But it’s those moments that mean we really know our markets, our products, our operations!
A silly example is that, if we hadn’t had an exploding bottle in our office, then we wouldn’t have realised that our bottles needed to be properly tested for appropriateness and durability. This may sound completely obvious to some, but if you’re learning as you’re going then things can be missed!
What makes this region of the UK (The North-East) such a good place to set up a business?
There is a female entrepreneurial rebellion in the North East at the moment and I’m excited to be a part of it. I’ve noticed in the North East, more women jumping ship from their jobs and setting up and more women with entrepreneurial ambitions. This creates an exciting, vibrant and thriving community to be a part of! As an all-female team, this is quite empowering!
In terms of food start-ups, the North East is actually one of the worst places to start, as there is a lack of food start-up support and incubator kitchen space. This is why so many food start-ups go to London to launch or abandon the idea all together, which is sad! I’d love to push for a real foodie community up here but we need a little investment into the entrepreneurial infrastructure to make this happen and to reduce the food start-up boundaries.
What's in store for the future of CleanShakes?
Growth! Expanding our range, expanding stockists, new product lines. We’re also about to launch our website which is quite exciting! We’re working with Laura Swaddle from Swaddle Creative and it is really exciting.
We’re also plotting how we can take this onto a much bigger level and what potential options lie ahead of us!
What would you say to any young women who are thinking of pursuing starting a business?A lecturer of mine, Michael Fowle, has an infamous saying – “JFDI! – Just fucking do it!”. This is imprinted on my brain for life – it’s the dare, when I falter or suddenly feel the fear. The scariest moment is launching the business and everything changes one your start to sell – it’s like a sky dive jump. You’ve just got to jump and go! You can spend all day thinking, planning, plotting, constructing, testing, researching etc, but you just have to eventually do all those things
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