Tailor-made nutrition. That is the tagline of Nourished, a company dedicated to personalized nutrition supplements that are vegan, friendly, not to mention, delectable, and are made through patented 3D printing techniques and sophisticated encapsulation gel technology. Its CEO and founder is Melissa Snover, a seasoned entrepreneur who has founded multiple companies. In fact, in 2019, she raised the highest female founder seed round in the history of the UK, so there is definitely a lot that can be learned from her.
In today’s episode, Melissa talks about why she was set on solving a problem that she herself experienced, the world of 3D printing and nutrition, how she’s made her businesses stand out from the rest, and key advice for early stage founders on having the right mindset when facing problems, choosing investors, and building a support system. Listen to this episode to find out Melissa’s investor horror story that will make you think twice before accepting money from just any investor!
Maiko Schaffrath 00:00
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You are listening to Impact Hustlers, and I am your host, Maiko Schaffrath. I have made it my mission to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs to solve some of the world's biggest social and environmental problems.
And for this reason, I am speaking to some of the best entrepreneurs out there who are solving problems such as food waste, climate change, poverty, and homelessness.
My goal is that Impact Hustlers will inspire you, either by starting an impact business yourself, by joining the team of one, or by taking a small step, whatever that may be, towards being part of the solution to the world's biggest problems.
In today's episode, I speak to Melissa Snover, CEO and founder of Nourished startup offering personalized 3D-printed vitamin gummies to combat nutrient deficiencies, something that most of us actually struggling over whether it or not.
Melissa is an experienced entrepreneur who has built multiple companies in the sweets and the vitamins markets. And she was actually featured in Dragon's Den in the past and has now for Nourished raised more or close to $16 million in funding.
So we'll talk about that and her journey, building different companies. It's great to have you on the show. Melissa, thanks so much for making the time.
Melissa Snover 02:49
It's a pleasure to be here. Thank you for having me.
Maiko Schaffrath 02:52
Yeah, real pleasure for me as well. So, you've been or you are a serial entrepreneur. You've built multiple companies. You've sold companies, mostly, I think, in the sweets market and vitamins market. First of all, I want to go all the way back. What drove you to become an entrepreneur?
Were there any role models in your life that inspired you? Why are you an entrepreneur and why did you choose these markets or did they choose you?
Melissa Snover 03:22
Yeah, it's a good question, and I get asked it a lot. I accidentally became an entrepreneur is the answer. I was actually studying pre-law. I came to Lancaster in order to do additional studies in the UK in business.
Actually, as part of my school program there, I started a company as part of the dissertation project. That business did really well, so I started to run it, and this was nothing to do with FMCG.
It was really based on the project parameters at the time and was a financial business around getting advice for people who, at the time, did not have access to money supermarket or crowdfunding, etc. And so, that business did quite well.
At the time, it was more money than I thought I'd ever see, but it's funny how money and perspective change, but I didn't love it. I had done it really as a means to an end. When I had an offer to buy it from me, I took that person, I snapped their hand off, basically, and I had that money sitting in my bank and I thought to myself, "What are you going to do?"
And it became very clear to me what I wanted to do, and I wanted to solve a problem that I had as an individual right away that I felt was not singularly being felt by me, and that was I could not find any gummy candy not made with gelatin or that tasted like wax.
And so, as a vegetarian since I was 18 years old who doesn't like chocolate, this was a major issue for me. And so, I just started to develop products in my house and do research about the marketplace for these types of ingredients and for people that would find it beneficial, and it became really clear to me that not only were people trying to avoid gelatin for a very huge number of reasons, whether it be religion, whether it be vegetarianism, veganism to a much smaller degree at the time, but for other reasons as well.
And then, there was this huge, huge amount of people trying to avoid ingredients that were "allergenic," and this was really the beginning of the "free from" movement. And so, at the time I was developing the product, I decided, let's make it vegan, let's make it free from everything.
It was free from gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, nuts, tree nuts, grass, grains and wheat, and let's see if we can go to market with an inclusive confectionery option that's natural.
And so, despite the fact that I was laughed out of the offices of several very large supermarket chains here in the UK, and I was told to take the word vegan off the packaging, I actually went to America, was able to get a listing with Stop and Shop and Giant [Food], which is about 800 stores on the northern seaboard.
And on the back of that, I went on to build a business that ended up being over 40,000, stores selling our product within two years, making it one of the fastest-growing consumer brands on earth.
When I was making that product, I was making it in massive factories and not factories that I owned, and very few brands are made in a factory that they own. That's something that a lot of consumers don't know.
And so, I started to suffer and really become extremely frustrated by the limitations of large-scale manufacturing at the time, and this was down to my empathy. I think all good entrepreneurs have a highly developed sense of empathy, because only when you have that can you actually develop solutions that are going to be fit for purpose and actually create meaningful value add and solve problems for people.
It bothered me immensely that I couldn't create enough flavor varieties for everyone, that when I would do sampling in Whole Foods Market, ten or a hundred people would come over the course of a week, and 90% of them would be happy, but the other 10% would be like, "Oh, you don't have that flavor?," and they would be very disappointed.
And so, after I had the chance to sell that brand, which was called Goody Good Stuff, took out a PLC in 2014, I decided I wanted to find a solution for that, and I thought about a zillion different ways. What if I could make 1,000 varieties?
I mean, that's a humongous undertaking. It would also not be profitable, but what if I could find a way? Well, even if I could, no store would need merchandise of 1,000 varieties of one item, and even an Amazon warehouse probably would not take 1,000 varieties of one SKU.
And so, my brain's way of working around that problem was to think about, what if we could actually put the creation process in the hands of the consumer?
And so, I started to look at ways that that would be possible. I actually drew on a napkin on my way home from Germany one day what I wanted it to look like, and I started doing investigations about technologies, including 3D printing. Now, at the time, I had never used a 3D printer before.
I actually bought 3D printers off the internet, took them apart, put them back together, learned G coding. I read every single book I could find on 3D printing and developed my first prototype from scratch in six months and secured three really powerful patents, and that really started me into this world of 3D printing.
Maiko Schaffrath 08:32
Sorry to interrupt you, but was there anybody doing 3D printing of food at that stage or food items or consumables in some way? How widely spread was it? I mean, it's still not really that widely spread, right?
Melissa Snover 08:49
Yeah, you're absolutely right. There [were] people doing what I call PR 3D printing. So There [were] people doing really cool designs with sugar, for example, in the shape of a skull and stuff. Hershey's was certainly trying to do it at the time.
They were never successful up until, I think, very recently. But in the end, the difference with our products and what I created and what they were doing was there is a humongous amount of regulation around food.
The Food and Drug Administration is regulating both food and drugs. It's almost as high level as pharmaceutical regulation when you think about food regulation. So, to make something with a 3D printer that's really pretty is one thing. To make something that's food-safe, that you can actually sell legally that's compliant with regulation is a very different thing.
And so, the creation that I came up with was easy to use, so it was pretty much human-proof. I created the UX so that anybody could do 3D printing without understanding CAD design and decoding and slicing, because no one's going to learn that, and then to create a system with closed cartridge delivery, which is a food processing technique that we have a patent on, which allows for 100% integrity of the product to be maintained and the hygienic nature of the product to be maintained throughout the process of production.
And so, that's where we started to do something that nobody had ever done and where it actually started to get legs. I think, when you look around the world of 3D printing, you see people like Barilla, for example, did a really fun project with 3D-printed pasta, but it's not a business model.
It was more about exploring new technology. And as far as I'm aware, my businesses are the only ones that have ever really made profit off of 3D printing of food as far as I'm aware, yeah.
Maiko Schaffrath 10:44
Got it. And then, for anybody that's been into or has seen a 3D printer, at least those scrappy consumer ones that are definitely not as sophisticated as what you're using, everybody knows that those consumer ones are pretty slow actually, right?
Melissa Snover 11:01
Maiko Schaffrath 11:01
Now, I'm thinking on an industrial scale, how can you 3D print things at speed or is there a trade off to be made of speed versus customization?
Melissa Snover 11:14
It's such a good question, and it's one of the things that I often get, really, a barrage of firing questions when I'm doing investment, because everyone is afraid that, yeah, personalization is lovely, and yes, you can get a premium price for it, but it's not scalable is always the concern, and I agree with every other 3D printer other than the ones that we make.
When we created our first printers, it was all about the theater of the creation, so live in front of a customer, lots of open sides, really pretty, loads of colors. It had a camera inside of it that took videos and time lapses of your creation being made, so you could have it after, and that did what it was supposed to do, but the Nourished printers now have to make tens of thousands of orders a month, and so that would never work.
Our printers today have seven extruder heads, conveyor belt system transitions, fast drying times, automatic dosing, spectrometry. There's a lot more technology that goes into it, and it allows us to make 28 unique stacks for you in a couple of minutes, which is much faster actually than the processing time of a mainstream factory, when you think about it end-to-end, so yeah.
Maiko Schaffrath 12:31
Hmm, interesting. So, do you think there's use cases for other companies? You talked about Barilla. I'm just imagining Barilla doing this. It's probably more efficient for them to just stick with what they're doing currently rather than 3D printing the noodles, I assume, but do you think this type of technology applies to other industries or is it specifically interesting for vitamins and sweets?
Melissa Snover 12:56
Yeah, it's a really good question. I think we have to be really serious in our own business, and I'm sure other businesses think about this as well, about where our technology is best applied.
We get asked to do partnership things with people all the time, and one of the things I ask as the first question is, "How is 3D printing the incremental value adder?," or, "How is personalization the incremental value adder?"
And so, once in a while, we get these inquiries like, "We want you to make a million of the same thing," and I'm like, "That's so funny. Why would you use a 3D printer to make a million of the same thing?"
The whole idea of our printing technology is, it costs me the same to make a million different things or a million of the same thing, so surely, we should utilize it for where there's a value in making a million different things, because that's what we've optimized for, and that's what we've solved for.
When I think about Barilla, you know where I can imagine they use it? For prototyping shapes to test out on their actual production equipment and for survivability in a bowl and things like that.
You don't want them to fall apart in the middle of the bowl if it's a shape. That's a really good use for them, but I'm sure that, of course, they are probably still mass-producing most of their product, which is their core business, which is fine.
And do we think that a custom shape will really change someone's life in the pasta? Probably not to a measurable level where it would be worth developing hugely, but it will make it more fun, and it will help them be more variative. Whereas with our concepts, both with Nourished and Scripted, we are personalizing health.
And of all the things that really will demonstrate an incremental benefit if they are personalized if our health is seriously the top of that entire list, you don't need custom trainers and you don't need a custom car. You don't need any of those things to be custom. It's nice to have.
But actually, you do need medication that's suitable for you. You do need the right nutrients that are specifically going to help you in order to get the maximum benefit and really to be able to live the best life that you're trying to live.
Maiko Schaffrath 15:12
Got it. Yeah, let's dive deeper on that. I love that you brought up [that] there needs to be an actual value of using 3D printing. If you look at certain overhyped sectors, 3D printing definitely was at some stage on top of this hype cycle. I don't know where it is now, but it's exciting to see it being applied for businesses like yours that do well and have a real use case.
But what I'd be keen to understand is, even the problem of customizing vitamins can be solved in different ways, so there [are] some companies that take capsules, and then they use powdered vitamins, and they mix it and fill it into the capsules for you. They don't 3D print anything. They just mix the vitamins.
I mean, I'm completely I'm not sure in this sector, but as powder, so to say. How does 3D printing help you be better than that, and what's the value for the customer in the end? Let's talk a bit deeper on that.
Melissa Snover 16:14
So, to make a product the way you just described would cost you a fortune and it would not be efficient in any way. I can't imagine a way that that would be efficient. It would be very difficult to imagine, because what you'd need to do is small powder blend batches, and then miniature filling for 60 units.
I mean, that would be really difficult to do profitably. What I have seen much more frequently is companies selling this personalized approach and then just taking pre-made vitamins of different things and putting them together in a sachet, "Here's one of omega, here's a B12, here's a D3, whatever, and these are what you need. We're going to buy them in bulk. We're going to put them in a little sachet for you. We're going to make it more convenient."
But really, that customization is very pseudo in my opinion. I think there's that. But when it comes to why our product is better than that, I think there's a couple of things that people don't realize that are side benefits, I guess, or fringe benefits that you get from our process in itself.
The first one is, our product is the freshest vitamin that money can buy. If you ordered today in the UK, you will have it no later than the third day, and that is the freshest vitamin you will ever eat. Vitamins, just like produce, lose nutrient efficacy from the day that they're manufactured.
So, if you're eating or taking a tablet that was made a year ago across the world, and then shipped into boots, and then shipped into so and so, and then shipped into so and so, and then it's at your house, and then the last 90 days, the chances of the efficacy being even more than 50% are quite low, and the BBC did a huge documentary on this that you can find online if you just Google it, and a lot of the products that they shelf-tested had as little as 10% of what it said on the bottle for that exact reason. Never mind the environmental impacts of that supply chain.
But, the second thing is, by encapsulating certain nutrients inside of hydrocolloids, ours is a very specific pectin that comes from apples, that we have a patent on as well, we're able to make it so that the encapsulation is so robust, and the 3D printability of the product is quite crucial for our process, so that by the time the second layer is printing on top, and this is split seconds between layers, the layer underneath is fully dry, and the encapsulation layer is set.
And so, that means that we can put certain ingredients that would not be able to be together in a mix together on top of each other that would not be possible in a traditional vitamin, and which is why you often see the Centrum product has layers on it, and if you've ever seen that Centrum- I can't remember the name of the full product, but when you look at it, it has little layers where you see micro beading. Micro beading is for that same reason. And so, our encapsulation gel technology allows us to get around that.
And then, the last thing is, when you take vitamins in a tablet form, you are basically not telling your body that they need to go into digestion mode. Even 50-100 years ago, nobody had vitamins. All of the nutrients came from food.
And so, your body's evolutionary process is, food comes into the body, digestion begins, macros and nutrients are pulled out of that fuel, and then taken to the parts of the body that need it the most. When you take a tablet, your body doesn't realize that it needs to go into that digestion mode.
And so, there [are] a lot of studies not just about our product, but about gummy in nature that by encapsulating or enclosing nutrients inside of a food, in this case, gummy, you actually get up to 70% or more increased absorption rates. And then, yeah, of course, customization.
We can make 60 billion different products today at any given moment. I can push a button. I can set the thing, and I can make any number of 60 billion products. And so, it's not pseudo customization. It is fit for purpose customization, and also, it moves with you as you go forward.
We encourage people to change their stacks at least every three months, because this idea that you need the same stuff all year round is also highly flawed. Your life changes. The sun comes out. Your exercise habits change. Your goals might change. You might decide you're going vegan for January.
You need to be sure that you're getting what you need, not just once a year, but all year round. And so, we don't charge different prices for different things. You can change it as many times as you want, and I think that's why we have such good customer loyalty and why we've seen such a good response.
Maiko Schaffrath 21:00
Hi, it's Maiko here. I want to interrupt this episode briefly to make you aware of two exciting things that are going on here at Impact Hustlers.
First of all, if you are a founder solving social and environmental problems, and you're looking to connect to like-minded founders like yourself, you're looking to learn from some of the most experienced entrepreneurs, experts, and investors in the world, and you want some support and actually fundraising for your startup, we've built the Impact Hustlers Community.
We are now about 100 entrepreneurs and founders, and we're growing every month, with more founders from all over the world joining us, and we're really here to support each other. Our goal is to build the most supportive ecosystem for impact-driven founders. So, if you're a founder, head to impacthustlers.com/community to learn more.
And if you're not a founder, but you want to work for impact-driven companies, we have also recently launched something really exciting for you, and that is the Impact Hustlers Talent Collective.
This is a group of some of the most ambitious and talented individuals in the world that want to use their talent to make a difference in the world and work for some of the most innovative impact-driven companies.
If you're keen to join the Talent Collective, this is all free of charge, obviously. You can submit your application to the Talent Collective on impacthustlers.com/jobs, and what will happen as a result is that companies will start approaching you through our Talent Collective and share job opportunities with you.
We'll also share our Weekly Jobs Update with you where you see relevant jobs in the field of impact, including from all the previous podcast guests, so you will actually see opportunities from companies that have been covered here on the show and also companies that are members of our Impact Hustlers Community.
So, go to impacthustlers.com/jobs If you're looking for a job, or if you're a founder and need some support, go to impacthustlers.com/community. Okay, let's get back to the episode now.
What's the feedback loop there to see, first of all, on your website, you have a bit of a quiz that people can fill out to optimize and customize their vitamins. I haven't submitted my order yet, but I will.
I've been through it. What I'd be keen to understand is, what's the feedback loop for people to realize, "Okay, this is working. These are the right vitamins for me, but maybe now, winter is coming so I should take something else"? How do you close that loop?
Melissa Snover 23:43
So, what we normally do when the customer's first recommendation is put forward, we explain the benefits of the different ingredients that were recommended.
And then, once you have a subscription with us, you actually receive regular, again, 100% personalized emails for you about the nutrients that you're taking, the benefits that are going on in the inside and the outside, and any new research that comes out about the products that you're taking and/or one of the pain points you told us that you have.
For example, if a new research report comes out about an ingredient being really beneficial for something you told us about, and we didn't have it at the time, and we decide to launch it, and we launch a new ingredient probably every three weeks, we'll say to you, "Hey, you might want to check this out, because this research actually which has just come out with 100,000 people and humongous amounts of peer-reviewed validation has really shown that this could make a big benefit.
If you'd like to switch, push here," and you just go onto your account page and you can change. The other thing that we say to people is, like you said, you're really rightly so.
We remind people during the seasons, and then we automatically remind people around three months, "How's it going? Is there anything extra that you need? Are you enjoying your flavor?," because that's the other product. I forgot to mention, we have 16 flavors, so people change their flavor all the time too, because it's fun. Yeah. Yeah.
Maiko Schaffrath 25:07
Amazing. I'll definitely try it out. I'm taking another actually successful startup supplement, but it's not customized. I'm trying to supplement what I'm taking now. Let's see how it goes. Yeah, I'd love to check it out. So, let's move a little bit entrepreneurial lessons learned, because yeah, you have loads of experience, and it's amazing to see your success over the years, and especially now with Nourished.
But, spending a lot of time with entrepreneurs, I know every success has lots of failures behind it as well, hard stories, difficult stories. Let's talk a bit about it. When you reflect on your entrepreneurial journey so far, what's been the hardest challenge for you to overcome?
Melissa Snover 25:58
I think it's difficult for me to pinpoint something like that, because I really believe that every difficult thing that happens is really an education that prepares you for the next step, and I've really adjusted my perception to view it that way. The sooner you do that, the better you will be for the rest of your life.
Because now, when something quite challenging happens, and certainly, things that happen all the time, things are happening today, right now that are quite challenging, instead of looking at it like, "Oh, my gosh, the world is ending.
This is going to be it. It's the end," I think to myself, and this is the God's honest truth, I think to myself, "I wonder what I'm going to learn. Imagine how strong we're going to be after we come through this."
I think I really try to instill that in my team, and I think one of the other things I would mention to people who are either starting their journey or in the middle of it, when I was young, when I had the first big FMCG brand, I grew that thing to a crazy size in a very short period of time.
I did every buyer meeting, I designed the brand. I packed Amazon boxes. I did the social media. It was insane. And at the time, I felt like it was a punishment. I was in the edge of a nervous breakdown for, I don't know, four years. And every time something bad happened, I felt like it was going to be the end of me, the end of my career, the end of my business, the end of my dream, etc.
It really made that time in my life, where I could have actually had a really fun time, very difficult, really, really challenging. And now, I think only through experience can you really get this, but I've gone through so many more things with my team, and we have overcome every single one of them. And so, now, when something comes up, I do obviously take it seriously, but we face things that are 20 times harder than what I used to go through.
Now, I think it's my confidence in mine and my team's ability to overcome it that makes it less stressful and more enjoyable along the ride. I think 99% of your life is the ride, not the destination, and you have to find ways of getting comfortable with that failure, and the eventualities of what the impact of that might be.
That has really helped me, but I can't pinpoint a single thing that went really wrong. We make mistakes every single day. We change things literally every day. We have something on my wall in my office that says "Always in beta. Nothing is broken. Everything can be improved forever."
Maiko Schaffrath 28:41
That's the way to go. Yeah, absolutely. I can so relate to this point on the mindset as well. I'm nowhere near your experience at all, but I've had my experience of entrepreneurship, set up a company before Impact Hustlers, bootstrapped it for two years and had probably the most painful mental health challenge as a result of not making it work.
So, that's one thing that doesn't get talked about. And then, I think sometimes, when you're in the rut, and you're like, "Oh, my life is ending. This company's [not] working out," and you're in this mindset, even when people tell you, "You've got to change your mindset. Just be positive," it feels ironic. You're like, "Oh, God, everything is ending."
Melissa Snover 29:29
Maiko Schaffrath 29:29
Do you have any advice for founders that are currently in this space that are like, "Oh, God, everything is crashing"? There's a bit of a crunch time happening now with a lot of startups as well letting go people and so on with the macro developments that are out there.
So, yeah, your advice for any founder that is in this place right now and is like, "Oh, God, the world is crashing. I know that I should be just thinking positively and see it as a learning," but is there anything practical they can do?
Melissa Snover 30:03
It's such a good question, and honestly, I wish I would have learned some of this stuff earlier, because I've never really had a mentor. I've had business partners that were a lot older than me, but I never had a partner sitting next to me, in the mud with me, dragging the business through the mud uphill in the snow hole with me.
It's super lonely at the top, and it's really scary, especially when you're encountering things you've never been through over and over again. It can be quite nerve-wracking, because how in the world are you meant to know what to do, especially if you're doing something no one's ever done before, which is what we do and what I have been doing for quite some time.
There's no playbook. I can't go back and look at a case study of what someone else did. My advice would be, find other founders, more experienced, less experienced. There are tons of meetups. There are tons of different groups, depending on where you are. They can be online. They can be face-to-face.
It doesn't really matter anymore whether you're face-to-face with people, and just start to talk to other people that are in a similar position, so that you understand that you're not alone, because I really felt, for most of my early career, that I was completely alone, and I had no idea who to talk to. I think that solidarity with other founders would have really helped me to calm down and focus on the path in front of me, as opposed to freaking out and really struggling mentally. Yeah.
Maiko Schaffrath 31:35
Yeah. I absolutely love what you said, and it made me smile a little bit, to be honest, because you just provided the best advertisement for one of the key things we're doing at Impact Hustlers, which is community for founders that solve social and environmental problems, so I'm going to put a shameless plug in here for any founders.
If you're at this stage, check out impacthustlers.com/community. We're about a hundred founders now that are supporting each other exactly like this, different experience levels.
And yeah, it's so crucial. It's helped me a lot, especially dealing with impostor syndrome, dealing with all these challenges, and having founders around you that can support you, it's so important, so thanks for making that point. Love it. Yeah.
What's been your support system over the years? Have you created like, your support system around you? How does it look like? Did you get advisors? Do you use your family as a support system? What is it?
Melissa Snover 32:43
My mom and dad are massive supporters of mine, and my mom has talked me out of many trees. So yeah, she's a good woman. She also gives me incredibly good advice, which has really seen me through a lot of difficult times and a lot of difficult decisions. I often quote her when I speak to young entrepreneurs. Yeah, she's a legend.
But in addition to that, I have my best friend, over 30 years, is a massive supporter of me and has been with me on the journey and is very understanding about my ridiculous inability to message her back all the time, because I'm always very, very busy, but loves me anyway.
My family, I mean, honestly, if you can find a partner that will understand, accept, and support, and be proud of you for doing something like that that's going to require 90% of your focus, attention, energy, blood, sweat, and tears, then you should never ever let them go.
That is an absolute lottery ticket win, and that really makes a lot of the difference. But even in times when I didn't have all that, I certainly didn't always have all of that at my fingertips, again, I look back at my mom. My mom is a wonderful woman.
She always says, "The easy way and the right way are never the same way. They're never the same way," and she is right. It is annoying, but she is right. That has really helped me. I don't want to take the easy way. I'm not looking for a shortcut, even when it gets really weary, and sometimes, you're so exhausted, you're traveling 200 days a year, you're killing yourself 18 hours a day.
I always do this little mind game with myself which is, "Who do you want to trade with? Who in the world right now do you want to switch places with, would you rather be?," and I have never ever wanted to be anyone else, and as long as that's the case, then I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing, because this is where I should be.
Maiko Schaffrath 34:46
Love it. Love it. In preparation for the show, we spoke briefly about the importance of surrounding yourself with the right people, especially in your company if you're looking for investors, business partners, co-founders, team members, and you've had some experience, let's say, with some rather detrimental partners, so to say, or investors.
Give us a bit of an view on your journey with that and your advice for founders to make the right choices to get the right investors on board, the right partners on board.
Melissa Snover 35:22
Absolutely. So, yeah, I think one of the things that I've had a very fast learning curve on in the last two or three years is, how does venture fund work and how is it to go out to people you've never met before, get them to give you millions of pounds, and what does that look like? I've seen it from many, many sides.
We have seed investors. We have really, really top level VCs, and we have strategics, and we have a whole mixture of different things here. I started raising capital in, I think it was, yeah, the end of 2019. I raised the highest female founder seed round in UK history.
And at that time, I was literally going to market begging people to invest in me, my idea, my execution, previous experience, and a really pretty deck. You're like, "Please, please give me money."
I went into a lot of these meetings feeling like they were doing me a favor, not the other way around, and I was so scared that I wasn't going to be able to raise the money that I took money too quickly.
I didn't do due diligence enough, and I brought people into our cap table and even into my boardroom that I didn't take the time to vet in the same level and due diligence that they took the time to vet my company, my idea, and me as an individual. That was a massive mistake and one that I have remedied now, but gosh, it took a lot of hard work to get to where we are.
I think one of the things I see a lot of entrepreneurs do is they go out and they raise money, they give people too much access, they let people push them around, people asking for meetings at nine o'clock at night, calling you at all hours of the day, WhatsApping you all the time, demanding that you give them your full attention at any given moment.
That's not a respectful investor. That's not a partner. That's not somebody who wants you to do well. That's somebody who wants to feel important, and that's what I really had to learn from a lot of these guys. I think probably the funniest story that I tell when I do these talks is around an investor that I had who came in as a seed round investor.
The amount he invested was tiny in comparison to what we look at now. It was absolutely tiny, but he had a lot of feedback, and his feedback was never positive, not even once in two years. He used to barrage my team across the board, marketing, production, CRM, everybody, and he used to call me out of the blue at any given moment. And if I did not answer, he would call me back over and over and over until I picked up the phone.
And on this one occasion, which is the kind of topic we're talking about, he called me over and over again, and I didn't answer the first three times. I picked up the phone, and he starts immediately, "Blablabla, the website, blablabla, the image," as normal, and I said to him, "Thank you so much for that feedback.
I appreciate it, and I would love to talk to you about it. However, right now, I am standing in water up to my waist on the roof of the building, trying to throw bucket loads of water off of the roof, because there is a hole in the roof. All of the equipment downstairs is getting wet. There's electrical damage, and all the raw materials are being ruined."
And his advice was, "Well, that's easy to solve. Shut the roof." "Why didn't I think of that? Thank you so much. I'm so glad that you're here. Gosh, I knew that you were going to give us some support that was going to be game-changing at some point," and then his second piece of advice was, "Get a tent," a tent, and it just showed very clearly how little he knew about our company.
Our building is 20,000 square feet, and I remember thinking, "What? Is there a circus in town that you know about that I can go and ask them to borrow their tents?," because that's how big the building is.
But yeah, and that's just an example. I think you have to be really careful, and you have to remember that these people, even if you're awesome and if you are best in class in what you do, you're talking about a five-year journey minimum, and usually, it's longer. It's 10.
And so, you want to make sure that when you are going to raise money, that you give yourself the same amount of time and diligence on them as they are doing to you. It will result in a better outcome for you.
It will also make them respect you more, and I think that that's something that I have never made that mistake again, but something I always try and impart on people who are just coming through that journey for the first time. Yeah.
Maiko Schaffrath 39:48
So, from now forward, how are you actually vetting investors to make sure you're getting the right people on board, especially given that your goal is also to close the round, close the funding, they have some money, and how do you say no in that situation?
Melissa Snover 40:05
We say no. We say no a lot, actually. I say no to a first meeting, actually, quite a bit, because I think if somebody contacts me, and they are sending a junior analyst to speak to us, then they obviously don't think it's that big of a deal.
Oftentimes, they're just doing research on our marketplace and just looking to collect information, and I'm very busy, and that's a waste of my time. So, that's something that I do immediately.
The second thing we do is we look who else they've invested in, and if we know anybody that they've invested in, or even if we have a seven degrees of separation way of reaching somebody, we will do a dark reference on them before we go very far, usually after the first call. And then, we look at their investment approach.
So, where have they done well? Have they exited a company that we might know about or that we can read about on CrunchBase? Was it positive for everyone? Did the founders actually take any money out of the deal? Which is another thing, which you often don't see.
Founders are always the faces of the business, but oftentimes, they're forced to raise so many times, they walk out with pennies on the dollar, and that's something that I put a humongous part of our business into a share fund for my team. I'm not going to allow that to happen. We have to make sure that the people who built this thing get rewarded for their hard work.
Maiko Schaffrath 41:28
Love it. That's such good advice that you've just shared. Amazing. One resource that may be useful for anybody listening to this as well, especially if you're in the UK is a website called landscape.vc. They're relatively new. I think they've been around for a year or so.
They're basically the Trustpilot for VCs. It's already quite interesting to read the reviews on some of those funds, and they also are running an anonymous founders community, which is a bit of a back channel, I think. Melissa, if you're not part of it already, I don't know if you're planning to raise again, but if you are, it may be an interesting community to join.
It's a free community for founders. I know the founder, and it's a good resource for anybody listening to this to look at anonymous reviews from verified founders on VCs out there. Alright. With that, I'd love to actually move into my last question. So to say we've already covered quite a lot.
What I'd like to cover still is a bit the future of the company, the future of Nourished. If you think about 10 years from now, how does the future look like if Nourished continues to succeed, I have to say?
Melissa Snover 42:56
Yeah, sure, I think our goal is to personalize health and wellness on a global scale. And so, if we are successful, our technology and our innovations will result in the personalization of both curative and preventative solutions across adult humans, children, pediatrics, animals.
And I think if we're able to do that, and we're able to also work with big partners to utilize our technology for things like drug development and the optimization of manufacturing on a global scale for reduction of wastage, then I would be extremely proud. I think we are on our way there, and we have a very solid plan, so we don't really have any intention of stopping until we get there.
Maiko Schaffrath 43:48
Love it, Melissa. Thanks for sharing so many valuable lessons, and congrats as well on setting the record as a female founder to fundraise as much as you have and, more importantly even, built a company that you have despite all the odds, so well done. Thanks for joining.
Melissa Snover 44:07
Thank you so much for having me. That was a lot of fun.
Maiko Schaffrath 44:09
Thank you very much. I really hope you enjoyed today's episode and learned some valuable lessons from today's guest.
I want to share two things with you. First of all, if you're a founder and you're solving a social or an environmental problem with your company, there is something that we've launched recently to support founders like you and to introduce you to more founders that are like-minded and that are solving very difficult problems in the world, and that is the Impact Hustlers Community.
It is a community of over 100 founders that solve problems like climate change, education, the crisis in health care, and really pushing the boundaries on what's possible. And what we do as a community, we connect to each other, we run mastermind groups where you can connect to other entrepreneurs and founders.
We bring experienced investors, entrepreneurs, and experts in to run workshops and ask-me-anything sessions, and you can also connect to others in our online community. And we have something for those of you that are actually fundraising.
We have an investor matching tool where you get introduced to relevant investors based on the startup that you're building. But, it may be the case that you're not a founder, and you just want to be part of the change, and you want to join some of these companies that you've learned about here at the Impact Hustlers podcast, and we've got something for you as well. We've recently launched the Impact Hustlers Talent Collective.
This is a group of some of the most ambitious individuals in the world that want to make a change and an impact with their careers, and you can join the Talent Collective, obviously completely free of charge. You can apply to it, and we will introduce you on a regular basis to companies recruiting people like yourself. You'll get access to exclusive job opportunities from companies that have been on the podcast but also beyond that.
So, make sure that you go to impacthustlers.com/jobs if you're looking for jobs in the social impact space. Even if you're not actively looking right now, you should still sign up and be part of our Talent Collective. And if you're a founder, don't forget, go to impacthustlers.com/community. Okay, thanks very much for listening and bye. See you at the next episode.