New week, new learnings! We’re back with Episode 4 of our podcast, Work.It. If you don’t already know, Work.It is a podcast all about entrepreneurship, hosted by journalist, Angelica Malin. The podcast explores the myriad of routes people take into business and shares unique founder stories, giving real-time advice on how to make your business a success.
This week, Angelica sat down with Huib Van Bockel, founder of all-natural energy drink, Tenzing.
Huib launched Tenzing after discovering a traditional recipe for natural, plant-based energy created by Himalayan Sherpas, whilst trekking in Nepal. It’s now stocked throughout Nepal and even on Mount Everest itself: “All the way up to basecamp in Mount Everest on the little drinks stall, you’ll find Tenzing!”
Huib shares with Angelica his vision of creating a plant-based, healthy, low-sugar drink and found inspiration in the Nepalese people. He talks about business intuition and explains that when you start a business, “it’s all clouded in doubt, so you have to look for a sign”. Sometimes, you just know when the product and brand is right.
Having worked for 8 years as Marketing Director for Red Bull in Europe, Huib knew how to build a big brand and one that speaks effectively to its consumers. He’s a serial entrepreneur, having also launched an award-winning sock brand whilst working at Unilever. He learnt a lot from those days and worked out that it’s easy to launch a business but the real hard graft comes in maintaining it and making it a success. His work ethic also developed during this time as he learned how much easier it is to throw yourself into your work if you’re passionate about it.
He says that you have to know the industry you’re launching really well – and you have to go all in, it’s hard to run something on the side of a full-time job. Find an extra source of income so you can mentally commit to one project.
Huib explains that one of the hardest things too cope with emotionally when you’re a new founder, is how doors won’t necessarily open for you, despite how much you love your product: “When I was at Red Bull, I could get a meeting with anyone I wanted”, but that changed when he launched Tenzing. Huib found no-one at Selfridges would answer his emails, and he’d turn up at their offices feeling vulnerable.
Huib also touches on risk. He was naturally forced to down-size his office and risk his family income. To keep overheads low, he advises keeping your team small and lean. Tenzing’s biggest cost was buying the stock, so having a side income to cover some of this cost is ideal. Huib advises not letting every source of income go before launching a business, the company isn’t totally dependent on investment with its back against the wall.
When it comes to building the brand itself, Huib encourages making sure the product speaks for itself and not only relying on good branding- “it has to taste amazing”. Building a banging sales team scores high on his list too, as well as nurturing your talent when you have it.
Have a listen here to find out more about the highs and lows of building Tenzing, as well as some top tips when it comes to resilience and leaning on other entrepreneurs for advice and support.