Clean eating has transformed the food industry, its popularity fuelled by Instagram influencers such as Deliciously Ella and Joe Wicks and the millennial yearning to lead healthier, more conscientious lives. Indeed, a 2016 PWC report suggests that nearly half of 18 to 34-year-olds had made a change to their eating habits to pursue a healthier lifestyle.
With that in mind, it's no surprise that there's a growing industry of young startups pushing products that embrace natural ingredients and reject additives and chemicals. We've featured the likes of TreeVitalise and TRIBE on this blog, two fast-growing companies that place their natural credentials pride of place.
Carley Jones, founder of Kettlebell Kitchen, can also boast of her company's incredible growth. In the space of just a few years, she's grown her Manchester-based clean-eating nutrition brand into a multi-store, multi-product venture, garnering no shortage of media coverage along the way.
It's easy to see why the media are drawn to Carley's story. With the drive and get-go spirit of a true entrepreneur, Carley left behind a well-paid call centre role (with a company she part-owned) to pursue her longstanding passions of sport and nutrition – and set up Kettlebell Kitchen in 2016. We caught up with Carley to find out more about her journey and Kettlebell Kitchen's #eatcleancheatclean philosophy.
How would you sum up Kettlebell Kitchen in a sentence?
Health crazy nutrition brand focusing on redefining the food we consume, proving that healthy eating doesn’t need to be so bland and boring and that fast food doesn’t need to be so bad for you.
Can you briefly summarise the background to Kettlebell Kitchen and what you did before?
I'm from a call centre and sales background. I'd worked in a variety of management roles over 10 years and, although I was very successful, I realised I wasn't passionate about what I was doing.
What was the inspiration behind Kettlebell Kitchen? Was there a lightbulb moment when it came to you?
I felt I belonged in the sport and nutrition industry as that was my passion. Struggling to eat healthy after long days in my call centre and gruelling CrossFit sessions later on at night, I realised there was a huge gap in the market for fast, healthy food. Being a busy businesswoman, I really struggled to keep my nutrition on point, to eat clean and fast food on the go. Kettlebell Kitchen was born!
Most people said it was a 'mad' idea but I was determined to prove them wrong. I made the leap and it worked!
What were the challenges around launching the business?
The fun challenges were to develop clean recipes for dishes that are normally full of additives and chemicals. A katsu curry, for instance, normally this dish will contain a range of chemicals, sugars, salts, preservatives etc. We created a very healthy, clean and fresh version. All our Kettlebell Kitchen sauces are ‘clean’ – meaning they're free of chemicals and refined sugars.
And the not-so-fun challenges? Where did you find your time being spent?
My time is stretched across the business. I have to do the job of 7-8 people at once but I wouldn’t change this. I love being involved in so many things: accountancy and finances, social media, graphic design, overall management leadership, being the head troubleshooter, menu creator and developer, running all lease negotiations, project management of unit fit-outs, business development AND marketing. I will also still jump on tills to help out if I can see a store is too busy. I love rolling my sleeves up and getting stuck in!
How has the business evolved since your launch? Have there been any particular milestones?
The business now sits at three stores in Manchester: Spinningfields, Ancoats and First Street. We're soon to open our headquarter unit near Media City and a flagship store in Newcastle.
As there are quite a few elements to your business – events, supplements, restaurants – how have you developed those and how do you manage them?
My management team are the developers, we’re always thinking out of the box with R&D stuff.
It’s a challenge managing so many different things but having a brilliant management team that understand each other and are motivated is key.
Thinking about social media and marketing, what are your tips for boosting brand awareness and ultimately sales?
Be different and quirky with it. Think out of the box. Collaborate with people and do things to gain you more and more followers and shares, such as competitions etc.
When we first opened we selected a few key people in Manchester that we wanted to give our black VIP cards to; influential people with no pressure to post for us. Free will, no payments exchanged – just friendly posts. This helped us massively.
We've also enjoyed constant media attention. We’re different, gym-themed and people pick up on this. The brand is strong, bold and you cannot miss it or not know what it is. We have never involved a brand company to help us – it's all done by us, and me personally for the first 14 months.
What are the challenges on a personal level running a business?
I hate the financial side of the business – paying bills, running various accounts, VAT management, cash flow etc. Our accountancy company, Sedulo, has been a huge huge help getting things in order and helping me run all of the financial sides without having to bring in an in-house financial controller.
What are your proudest achievements?
My proudest achievement is opening the Ancoats store in the first place and stepping out of my comfort zone – taking the risk and leaving my well-paid role before this.
We've also run BIG events with bags of exposure such as Manchester Pride. We had a big parade float and food serving area in 2017, plus Bodypower 2017, and this year we have Parklife and Bodypower 2018. We are 20 times bigger this year and plan on serving over 50,000 covers! A huge feat to pull off. I will be majorly proud if all goes to plan.
What are your tips for someone looking to launch a clean-eating/nutrition-based business?
Be inspired and unique. But DON’T copy off anyone or any business. Be creative, inventive and make it your own – like we did. Create your own brand, try not to work off someone else’s creativity. Be obsessed with it but don’t start celebrating too early, work incredibly hard. Treat your staff well and ensure they can see a good future with you.
For a comprehensive guide to getting your business up and running, download our how to start a business in 20 days eBook.
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