Our next hero is Louise Disley, founder of health drink company Bliss Juice.
Launched in 2013, Liverpool-based Bliss Juice produces healthy fruit and vegetable-based drinks with significantly lower sugar content than many of the market leading brands. Today it sells more than 2,500 bottles every week via its website and through a network of independent retailers.
1. Tell us a bit about Bliss Juice
I launched Just Juices in our kitchen back in 2013 and have recently re-branded as Bliss Juice to coincide with an exciting new chapter of our business. Initially an online only company, we have experienced tremendous growth, particularly over the past year, and have expanded into the retail space, a move which will include some major supermarket launches in the coming months. We’re all about finding the right balance between fruit and vegetables, we really want to help educate the public about the dangers of a high-sugar diet. Our juice drink is conveniently bottled, ready to go and is low in natural sugar and calories but full of taste and goodness.
2. What’s your role at Bliss Juice?
I am the founder so wear many hats depending on the needs of the day. This can range from general tasks central to the running of the business, developing the strategy for the future, making sure our online side of the business is growing or measuring our success.
3. Why did you start Bliss Juice?
I always used to make my own natural juices at home to take out and drink on-the-go, mainly because it was incredibly hard to find a truly healthy natural drink with no added sugar or additives. I started making juices for friends and family and that’s really how it started. It was something I was passionate about so they encouraged me to make a business by doing what I loved.
4. What’s been the biggest challenge that you’ve faced as a small business?
The biggest challenge we’ve faced is cash flow. It’s really tough as a small business to scale up, particularly when outgoings exceed income and we’ve sometimes waited up to 60 days to receive payment from retailers. This has taught us to ensure negotiations work on our terms and it is something we’ve really taken control of. We now push for payment within 14 days.
5. What barriers to growth have you experienced?
Earlier this year our production unit was at 70% capacity which meant we had to move to a larger site to ensure we could continue to grow. The increasing demand across the online and retail sides of the business was exciting but we needed to be able to scale up. This all comes at a cost. We have been lucky enough to have a strong customer base that has enabled us to fund this growth ourselves. The business started off with £500 in the bank, but by planning and preparing for growth from the outset, we have managed to stay on track.
6. How digital do you consider Bliss Juice’s business operations?
Digital is built into the heart of the business. We started as a pure play ecommerce company so digital was at the forefront of everything we were doing.
One of the things we’re particularly good at is getting to know our customers on a one-to-one basis which is all down to the customer insights we gain from a range of digital tools. These have been invaluable as we have started to expand into the retail market. It means we are in a good place to say we know who we are and we know where our products should be placed. The online side of the business is also something that I continually push forward.
We want to be recognised as the number one place to go for online juice deliveries. The way we have gone about securing this is by encouraging people to connect with us online and via email.
7. How much time do you spend on admin?
On average, I spend around an hour a day on admin which has been reduced since we’ve implemented some key automated processes. For example our website is now linked to our accounts package which means we’re able to instantly pull live reports. These can then be printed seamlessly and effortlessly with our Canon MAXIFY printer. The cloud functionality of the device has truly transformed the way we work as documents can be printed from anywhere at any time. If a member of our team is out with a potential customer, they can send through product requests directly to our printer without me even knowing at the touch of a button. It’s so easy to use and has had such a positive impact on our day to day operations.
8. What’s the one piece of tech you couldn’t live without?
I would say my Chromebook. It comes with me on the train, in the car or to the factory, giving me easy access to all the documents and programmes I need. As a full time team of only four people, mobile technology like this is essential to ensuring we are as flexible as possible.
As we’ve grown, we’ve also needed to outsource some of our operations which has meant that collaboration through cloud based tools such as Google Docs has become a priority for us. This means we can see detailed information about our inventory and share updates in real-time, whether we are with a customer, at the factory or in the office.
9. If you could give one piece of advice to other small business, what would it be?
Be confident in your product. This is what we learned when Canon paired us with small business Guru Sahar Hashemi, co-founder of the coffee chain Coffee Republic and confectionery brand Skinny Candy. If you have a great product and are passionate about what you are trying to achieve then you are already one step ahead. Sahar also helped us realise the value of flexible working practices such as leveraging the benefits of the cloud in order to grow and this has really changed how we operate. We would encourage other small businesses to really think about implementing flexible working practices to maximise productivity.
10. What does success look like for you and Bliss Juice?
We want to be the trusted healthy drink of choice and a recognised on-the-shelf brand. We will continue to grow in the UK and expand our retail presence in particular, but we also want to be exporting to other markets by 2017.
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