Julianne Ponan, owner and CEO of multi-award winning superfoods brand Creative Nature, took the reins of her company at just 22 years old. But it wasn’t all smooth sailing: “I took over the company when it was in losses, to the tune of £56k+, so our first year was trying to right a sinking ship,” she says.
Wasting no time putting her degree in Business Management and Finance into action, Julianne brought the company back into profit within 18 months, raising the brand’s profile and launching new product lines – all with only two members of staff. Fast-track three years, and Creative Nature is recognised as the first UK superfood company to crack the ‘Big 4’ supermarkets, with Tesco signing on as a stockist, joining high-end retailer Ocado and a host of natural organic outlets across the nation.
Here Julianne shares some of her top tips for righting wrongs and building a business…
1. Look at what you have to work with.
We all know that there is that diamond in the rough; it just takes time to find it. In order to do this, it takes research. It’s important to look at each aspect and product line of the business individually before making any rash decisions to cut product lines or launch new ones.
For me with Creative Nature I felt there was a gap in the market for healthier snack bars that did not all contain nuts because of my allergies. Creative Nature already did some superfoods, so I thought what a great combination to make a nutrient rich snack on the go but catering for people who also had various allergies. Don’t just keep it because you think it looks pretty, it needs to have a market and a focus.
2. Manage your time; don’t let your time manage you!
Reacting to the 100 emails coming in is not always the best way forward. Prioritise them and make sure you complete what is going to push your business to the next level.
3. Find your target market whether it be niche or mass
Ok, so you want to target everyone right? Well it would be nice but it’s just not going to happen. One – because not every single person in the world is going to like your product or service, so you need to find a happy medium of people that do. For example, Creative Nature Superfoods are loved by people who are active, healthy, many of whom are vegetarian etc. Two – when you’re starting out, cash flow is very tight so you’re not going to have a huge marketing budget to target everyone which is why being selective makes it so worthwhile.
4. There is nothing wrong with asking for help
Surround yourself with knowledgeable people in your industry to allow you to see what you could be missing in order to steer your business in the right direction. You are never going to be able to know everything so taking advice is only going to widen your knowledge.
5. Make realistic to-do lists!
Yes we would all like to be superwomen but realistically we cannot do one million things in a day. So when you make your to-do list, make sure it is a realistic one so that you can tick them off in a day. I found with Creative Nature, being able to cross-out one thing at a time made me more and more motivated each time.
6. Team work
Sit down with your team and thrash out your ideas, it is always good to have other team member’s perspectives. Having a good debate on what can be done to improve your business can really benefit the team all being on the same page. This can also be known as building the ‘Yes Gene’ Team; it’s very important to be building a team around you where everyone is focused in the same direction and have same enthusiasm. Two people with the ‘Yes Gene’ are better than five people without.
7. Juggling cash flow
When you are a growing a small business, making sure that you know what is going in and out of your business can be critical. Try doing a daily forecast to start with, as well as your monthly one that you look at. I know it can be time consuming but it can really help when you know you are short on cash, so it can help prepare you if you need to talk to suppliers to extend your credit terms or secure funding elsewhere.
8. Don’t spend all your time worrying about your competitors
I love this quote: ‘The person you should be trying to be better than is the person you were yesterday’. Yes it is important to see what your competitors are doing in the market you’re in, however if you are spending all your time worrying about them, you are not focusing enough on how to get your own business out there.