Pippa Murray won a competition to live rent-free in a shed for three months. From that, her hugely successful nut butter business – Pip & Nut – was born. Now stocked on shelves everywhere, we find out how she did it and what she’s learnt so far.
Please can you introduce us to Pip & Nut – where the inspiration for the brand came from, how you launched and what makes you special?
Pip & Nut came about through my love of two things: running and food. For me, peanut butter on toast was my go-to running fuel and, as someone interested in fitness – and, by default, healthy eating – I hated the fact that most peanut butters contained palm oils and refined sugars. Those that were healthier always seemed like the more boring option.
Nut butter is such a delicious product so I wanted to create a brand that properly reflected this, as well as bringing a ‘cleaner’ product that just contained nuts to the table. We also looked to introduce something new to the category by playing around with flavours and launching our on-the-go nut butter squeeze packs for snacking.
As a brand we’re still pretty new on the scene. We launched just over a year ago and we’ve been going from strength-to-strength. You can find our squirrels nesting in Sainsbury’s, Ocado, Holland & Barrett and Wholefoods.
When you started Pip & Nut, you moved to live in a shed in order to cut your monthly outgoings and pour all your cash into the business. What would you say were the key sacrifices you made and greatest challenges you faced during this early stage of the business, and how did you overcome these hurdles?
When I started working on the company I said to myself that I was willing to give up a lot to get the business off the ground, but the one thing I always held on to was staying in London. My sisters all live in London, as do most of my friends, so for me it was important to stay here. When ‘Escape the City’ came along with a competition offering one start-up the opportunity to live for three months in a garden shed, I jumped at it.
It enabled me to keep my overheads low as I went full-time on the business, whilst being able to stay in London too. In terms of other sacrifices, I would admit that I do work quite long hours, which can be a bit anti-social and money can be tight as I’ve had to take a significant salary sacrifice. In doing so, I’ve had to cut down on some of the niceties that you treat yourself to when you’ve got a more stable income, such as holidays and new clothes, for instance. On the flip-side, running your own business is one of the most gratifying things and one of the best things I’ve ever done.
I’ve had to cut down on some of the niceties that you treat yourself to when you’ve got a more stable income, such as holidays and new clothes, for instance.
How did you go about launching your product into the high street and onto supermarket shelves? Any advice?
The key thing is to ensure that your product stacks up against your competitors. I spent months developing the flavours and then, once that was nailed down I heavily invested in working with a top design agency to create a really engaging and emotive brand. If the product is amazing you’ll inevitably get the attention of buyers… which is half the battle.
As well as this, when we launched we were really focussed on making sure we got our product onto the shelves of the best stores in the UK in order to build a premium brand. Only later down the line did we start turning our attention to supermarkets. This strategy was important as, not only do you naturally end up in the hands of people who we’d class as ‘influencers’, but it also helped in terms of building our credibility with supermarket buyers who get bombarded by brands on a daily basis.
When we launched we were really focussed on making sure we got our product onto the shelves of the best stores in the UK in order to build a premium brand. Only later down the line did we start turning our attention to supermarkets.
When you were looking for your commercial food kitchen to start manufacturing Pip & Nut products, what key things did you look for – and learn?
From the very start I took the decision to outsource our manufacturing to a manufacturing facility. In doing this it enables you to comply with food safety standards required by supermarkets, but also allows you to scale into stores quickly thanks to the fact that they have the machinery to do so.
As someone who was new to food and drink, learning how to deal with manufacturing was a massive learning curve and I’d suggest to anyone that you should look to find a manufacturing partner who genuinely believes in your brand, who has the capabilities to scale with you, plus the expertise in your product to ensure that it’s of the best quality.
You have pitched for a government-backed loan and various grants, including at the HRH the Duke of York’s Pitch @ Palace event, and you’ve also launched a crowd-funding campaign on Crowdcube in the past. In what ways does this route of financing help start-up businesses and what advice would you give other entrepreneurs looking to raise investments and capital to launch or grow their business?
Product-based businesses have a tendency to be pretty capital intensive. You have large minimum order quantities, long payment terms and you need to invest in brand and marketing early on, even if you’re not making a profit. By raising external investment, it will help bank roll the start-up phase in order to get to a more stable position with the business.
I decided that Crowdcube – an equity crowd-funding site – was a good option because it enabled me to pool together a number of different angel investors who were interested in putting money into the company. The key thing with these sorts of platforms is to line up investment beforehand, have a clear, concise pitch and a business that’s ready to take on external finance.