Founder of the palm-oil free and sugar-free nut butter brand that was inspired by the need to fuel her marathon runs, Pippa Murray believes sharing knowledge between companies large and small is the best way to help businesspeople of all backgrounds towards success
Q: Why do you think it’s important to speak at events like the First Women Summit?
A: I think it’s super important for all business owners to give back and help other people get off the ground. Sharing knowledge between big brands right the way through to start-up brands like my own is really interesting - when you’re small, you are typically under-resourced, and getting access to information about strategies larger businesses use is harder. I think women are strong at reaching out and asking for people’s advice, we’re not shy.
Q: When you first set up Pip & Nut, did you ever think being a woman might be one of the challenges you’d face?
A: If I'm really honest with you, I was quite naïve about what the industry was like. I wouldn’t say FMCG [fast moving consumer goods] is completely male-dominated - I think it’s actually relatively diverse.
Realism can be an advantage for things like crowdfunding, where everyone has access to your business plan
But there are elements that have been challenging. We manufacture products, and manufacturing is very traditional and male-orientated. I think it’s sometimes harder to build credibility in those sorts of environments, where business practices are quite old-school. Even though there are female dynamics there, being quite young can mean you perhaps don’t get taken as seriously.
Typically I think women tend to be a bit more practical and mindful of what’s realistic, whereas sometimes men might be a bit more bolshie in the language they use about their vision for their brand.
That realism can be an advantage for things like crowdfunding, where everyone has access to your business plan people can pick it apart - and they will, they’ll be questioning your numbers and assumptions. So you shouldn’t say you’re going to stay as a kitchen table business for the next five years. But a bit of reality is useful.
Q: Is understanding your target market more important than other aspects of your background as an entrepreneur?
A: I think it helps that we market to consumers that are essentially like me - I am our example consumer, or at least one of them. It does help to understand the mindset, particularly in food and drink. You are looking for an opportunity within a category that is perhaps niche, but has the potential to go mainstream. You want to catch that wave early on. So it does help being close to your consumer, so that you see the trends before they’ve really caught on.
You are looking for an opportunity within a category that has the potential to go mainstream. You want to catch that wave early on
What the brands that we’ve partnered do really love is our authenticity. Selfridges approached me when I was crowdsourcing. They love supporting independent, small brands and being on the pulse of food trends that they can shout about and say they were the first to launch.
We’ve worked with Sweaty Betty, Movember, Made.com, and Nike at a lot of their running events. I run marathons and that’s a big part of the reason why I started the brand. They loved that connection and the way we could support the nutrition element at some of their 10k runs with things like gourmet toast bars.
Q: Do you think sport will continue to be important to your expansion?
A: Our mission is to become the nation’s favourite health food brand. And so we do want to continue to play in that health and wellness space that’s absolutely booming at the moment. But we prefer to play in a more lifestyle space rather than too functional in terms of serious nutrition.
If you have a richly diverse company, you’ll probably be more balanced in the way that you approach challenges
We’ve got the core range of nut butters but we’ve still got a lot of work to do in terms of getting them into more stores over the next couple of years. We’re looking where else can we go beyond nut butters – whether there are other areas in the supermarket that we could expand into and add value by disrupting the category in the same way that we’ve done already. So it’s all about innovation and new product development.
Q What will be the biggest challenges ahead for you in that plan?
A: People are the core of any business and so it will be about making sure we retain the right culture. When you’re small it’s really easy to communicate - you can just lean around your desk. But we’re looking to grow the brand and that will mean managing that internal culture. If you have a richly diverse company, you’ll probably be more balanced in the way that you approach different issues or challenges along the way.
Get a mentor. Why not email someone and see whether they’d be willing to spare 30 minutes
It’s hard, everything takes way longer than you think it’s going to. But my biggest piece of advice to other entrepreneurs is just to start small. I didn’t work in the industry that I launched into, but if you don’t know how to do it, start small.
Get a mentor. You do need a fair bit of support when you’re getting everything off the ground. Why not email someone and see whether they’d be willing to spare 30 minutes and ask some constructive questions. Then if there’s an element of rapport it might evolve into being actually something that’s more formal, whether that’s a mentor or even an investor.
I started at a market stall and did three months of testing by selling there. That enabled me to build my own confidence and see whether or not it was what I wanted to do. The key thing is the start. Just doing it, you get some feedback, and it drives you forward.