Kate Davies

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Roisin Meredith – Roisin’s Water Kefir

There has been a lot of coverage in the media in the past few years about people’s changing eating and drinking habits and the move towards a healthier diet as well as the growth in demand for non-alcoholic drinks. One woman who is definitely part of this movement is Roisin Meredith, who produces water kefir, with its range of health benefits. 

“I never set out to run my own business,” Roisin makes clear at the start of our interview, “the business came out of necessity after my baby daughter Florence became ill and we struggled to find out how to help her get better.” 

Initially Roisin’s daughter was a healthy, bouncing baby but he suddenly began to lose weight, could not sleep and was continually crying and despite a barrage of medical tests by doctors, neither a diagnosis nor a treatment could be found. 

Roisin was a chemistry teacher at the time and her background in science became a major factor in the eventual good health of her baby. Roisin had initially worked in the corporate world for FMCG companies such as L’Oreal but she realised that she was not ideally suited to a desk job and she retrained as a teacher. “I suppose that I have always been a little bit entrepreneurial,” states Roisin, “alongside my traditional career I ran events, set up a hat company and had a whole range of ideas but fear of failure prevented me from taking those all-important steps to self-employment.” 

Roisin describes how her upbringing, with both parents being doctors, led her to follow the traditional career path and she soon became frustrated, feeling that “she was not living in the now.” She remembers how running your own business was not an option for most young people, with the exception of perhaps being a plumber or hairdresser, but that she felt deep down that one day she would run her own business. 

When her young daughter became ill, Roisin’s scientific background led her to believe that the issue was related to food and she initially put her on a FODMAP diet to restrict what she was eating and drinking. Roisin engaged the services of a nutritionist and a more holistic approach to her daughter’s diet helped her dramatically, “Realising that the antibiotics that I had taken whilst pregnant with my daughter, had destroyed her microbiome which meant that she couldn’t digest any food, was a key moment for me,” comments Roisin. 

Within two weeks of taking a powdered probiotic, her daughter was back to good health and this dramatic change “fired off the science part of my brain and my lightbulb moment happened as I could see that this was a way that I could help others also struggling with similar digestion issues,” Roisin says. She started to research the subject of microbiomes and discovered that many medical conditions appear to be linked to the bacteria in our bodies. 

Roisin started to ferment food and drink, starting with milk kefir and kombucha and her business idea was born. She moved to making water kefir and selling it at local markets in September 2018 as well as making it for family and friends and describes the production process as “very therapeutic.” She admits that at this point she was worried that what she was doing would not pass the requirements of Environmental Health and Trading Standards. However, having engaged with them, she soon realised that by having a dialogue with these official bodies, they were actually very helpful to her. Roisin describes it, “I had a mental block about this but when I recognised it as such, I was then able to deal with it and move forward.”

rosins water kefir

Roisin found that she really enjoyed talking to people at markets about the products she was making, and connections made with other small businesses really helped her to build confidence including a pitch she made to a local gin distillery. Whilst she didn’t win her pitch, they did put her in contact with organisations who could help her business. Having successfully been awarded a Start Up Loan, she left her teaching job to dedicate more time to her business but then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and all of her potential sales outlets such as festivals, events and markets all closed. 

Roisin approached GetSet for Growth Coast to Capital who provided her with coaching and 1:1 support and she describes this as the point where she finally felt she had stepped into a business owner mode. GetSet for Growth Coast to Capital encouraged her to apply for an Invest4 grant to help make the most out of the money from the Start Up Loan as well as pay for a sales and marketing consultant to take her business to the next level. 

Support from Jonathan and Nicola at GetSet helped her to develop a full business plan, together with three-year cash forecast to plan for the future. “I had never done these plans before, but they helped me to really think about the details. They had lots of suggestions and I felt that they really wanted to understand my business and go through everything, particularly with my Invest4 grant application which I was successful in getting.” 

Roisin describes the support she received from the GetSet team as an “elevating experience” which made a tremendous difference to how she approached her business. She is now working with a family who are bringing land back into their stewardship where they have a vineyard and micro-brewery and plan to set up a community of like-minded businesses. “We have a dream of offering people the best of food and drink in Sussex and to become a destination for people looking for healthy, local products with a strong provenance,” says Roisin. 

Post COVID-19, Roisin envisages that more people will give more consideration to the products that they buy and that the experience of lockdown has opened their eyes to the benefits of buying from local suppliers. 

Roisin advises anyone thinking of starting their own business to set aside their fears, to take advantage of the support available through the GetSet for Growth Coast to Capital programme. “The GetSet team helped me to really develop my business and to create a strong foundation on which I can build – it was brilliant!” states Roisin. 

For more information about Roisin’s Water Kefir click here or on Instagram here

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Mike Ethridge – The Design Print Distribution Group

Mike Ethridge

“GetSet For Growth helped to provide clarity to my ideas and put the structure in place to make the plans happen.”

It could be said that Mike Ethridge has a certain well known search engine to thank for his now successful company. Having been made redundant around six years ago, he turned to the internet to look for ideas for businesses that you could start without any outlay. Leaflet distribution was the suggested idea and so Mike set about researching the potential demand and what competition existed in the marketplace. 

What started as a part-time business for him, through his hard work and energy has turned into a very successful design, print and distribution company, with a HQ in Bristol employing six people, a team of forty self-employed staff and franchises in Reading and Sheffield. The company now focus principally on distribution and they work for a range of clients including estate agents, gyms, political parties on direct mail campaigns. “Many of our clients want to implement campaigns which are data driven and we can help them with that, locating good, reliable source data for them which can be targeted by their requirements,” said Mike. 

Mike describes the past year as “interesting” with many of his clients having to close their businesses and cease their marketing activity during the lockdowns. At the start of the first lockdown in March 2020, their client base disappeared almost immediately, and staff had to be furloughed until May. However, things did start to pick up as some businesses opened again and by August, all staff were back at work. “We used the time during lockdown to take a good look at our systems and processes and to try to improve everything that we did so that we would be in good shape to react when the country came out of lockdown,” explains Mike. 

One of the key changes that we made to the business was to set up contracts with clients rather than operate on an ad hoc basis as we had done previously. This gave the company more security and by adding new product offerings as well, they have managed to grow business despite the subsequent lockdowns which took place. They recently had their best month ever and demand is continuing to grow for their services, which Mike describes as “fantastic.”

print services

“It was Andy from the GetSet for Growth Business Resilience programme in South Bristol that helped us to get back on track when the situation was looking challenging,” said Mike, “He listened to my ideas and gave me feedback which we then worked on. Through 1:1 sessions, he helped me to focus on ways to improve the business strategy including the franchise model which we have now put in place.” Mike describes how Andy helped him to develop more structure to their growth plans and to introduce practices to the business which have had a really positive impact on the team. 

Mike stated, “I have started to carry out 1:1 sessions with each member of staff, which is a great way for them to provide input into the business growth through their ideas, but also helps to set targets for their own personal development within the company. By planning the schedule for these sessions for the whole year, the team realise the importance of their contribution to our success.”

Mike also spent time with Sally from the Bristol team who provided insight into their marketing plan as well as talking through ideas particularly around the support of the new franchisees. “I liked the coaching model that they used,” said Mike, “It helped to provide clarity to my ideas and put the structure in place to make the plans happen.” 

Going forward, Mike is continuing to put into practice what he learnt from the GetSet Business Resilience programme, looking at training and development for his team. He is also keen to focus on building the franchise programme he has across other regions but wants to take time to put the right model in place and to choose the right locations. He states, “selecting the right people to take on the franchises is key to our success but thanks to the GetSet for Growth team, I now feel in a better position to find them.”

Whilst many of their previous clients, such as restaurants are still not open to the public, other businesses have taken their place and Mike is optimistic that they will return in the coming months which will generate even more demand for their services. “We help businesses create targeted campaigns which integrate with their other marketing activity which in turn helps them to be more effective in their overall business promotion, and this is even more important as they return to trading following a period of closure,” stated Mike.

door to door distribution

His advice to any other entrepreneurs considering starting or growing a business is to realise that you don’t need to know everything and to get advice from others. He admits that in his enthusiasm, he has sometimes tackled tasks that in hindsight, he should have employed other professionals to do. This experience has taught him which areas of the business he excels in, and which he should leave to others, which he rates as invaluable. 

He encourages other entrepreneurs to network with other businesses and to surround yourself with people who can be mutually supportive to each other. He reflects on the business that he has created, stating that “I always did make a terrible employee, so it was inevitable that I would start my own business at some point.”

His advice to his younger self would be to access the coaching available such as the GetSet for Growth programme earlier in the development of the business but to maintain that enthusiasm for what he was doing. He comments, “As a business owner, you have to relish the rewards and tackle the challenges with resilience – you might not get everything right, but you should always be proud of what you have done!”

For more information about The Design Print Distribution Group, click here

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