Hayley Gait-Golding of BEAR Nibbles has one clear goal – to be the nation's favourite healthy snack company. Hayley has always been passionate about healthy eating and her determination to influence it is exceptional. She judges her success on how many portions of fruit and vegetables the country is consuming and last year alone, she fed the nation more than 15 million portions of their five a day - this year she hopes to double it. Hayley shares her inspirational business story, her strengths, weaknesses and how she meets her goals.
What is BEAR Nibbles?
BEAR Nibbles are perfect healthy snacks and offer a truly delicious snacking alternative. They are great for people who want to give up chocolate and crisps, and have nutritional value as well – each packet has at least one of your five a day.
How did you get your idea for your business?
With my background as a personal trainer, it was sort of a natural progression. I enjoy making and seeing changes in other people’s health. When I was a personal trainer, I looked at diet plans and made positive recommendations but it soon became clear to me that asking people to switch their favourite treats for apples, carrots etc just didn’t excite them. I decided that I wanted to start a company that takes the hard work out of eating healthy and puts the fun back into it. This is where the business idea stemmed from.
When did you start your business?
I thought of the idea of BEAR in 2008, and the product launched in 2009. I developed all of the recipes myself so it took a while to make them. I travelled the world to find the very best farmers with the best fruit varieties and then did the rest of it on gut feeling – I tested my products on friends and family, which was a brilliant way of getting honest feedback. Feedback is really important to us at BEAR and we never forget we only have a business because of the great people who buy our snacks every day.
How easy was it to set up BEAR Nibbles?
All of the creative stuff comes naturally to me – thinking up delicious new products, branding, design etc. It’s the practical side that I find more challenging. Creating proposals, dealing with banks – these are all things that I didn’t enjoy to begin with. I do find though that when you push yourself to do things you don’t necessarily love, it really allows for you to develop as a person and in business. It’s a crucial element of owning your own business – pushing yourself. Things you don’t feel comfortable doing – I’d always say go for it.
How did you come up with the name of your business?
At the time we were looking for a name that described the nature of the company, naked, natural and totally bare. A study was published about bears that had drifted into cities to forage for their food, it compared the city slicker bears foraging for food from behind fast food joints and dump bins to wild bears living off fish and berries. The study revealed some scary truths showing that the city bears' processed diets and lack of exercise resulted in much greater obesity levels and sadly much younger mortality rates. I felt this study paralleled some of our own eating habits and so I picked the name BEAR to be a symbol of nature in our busy modern lives.
What have been some of your highlights since starting your business?
Winning the 2012 NatWest everywoman Demeter Award was a big highlight, seeing the product in supermarkets and independent shops all over the UK is always very exciting. One of the most exciting things of all for me is reading all the great letters of praise we get every day from customers or just the random ones from kids who want to know exactly how old BEAR is and whether he has a middle name.
Have you had any struggles during your business?
It’s been a very fortunate and very positive journey. The business was completely self-funded. We sold our house and bet it all on BEAR. The only difficult thing is spreading the word. Our marketing budget is modest compared to the huge brands we are up against. Still we seem to be doing really well, which is very exciting.
What do you find is the best way to promote your business?
Word of mouth is a very powerful tool. I also find that bloggers are a great way to spread the word - marketing has changed over the years, it’s really taken a snowball effect. People really tend to believe what people say, which is why I think getting people to blog about your product is a great way to spread the word. I also attend a lot of events and ensure I leave plenty of products there. It’s important to make sure you get the product into new people’s hands all of the time.
Do you have any business routines which you couldn’t live without?
I go running and do yoga– it really is my way of dealing with the day. When I run I find that it’s my only way to think of my best and most creative ideas – when I am de-stressed. I think you should always take time out to do something that allows you to take your mind off of the bigger picture, this will allow you to focus and meet your goals.