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The Incredi(ball)y Audacious Plan: Shaking up the beverage industry

Now, that's what I call Business

In this second episode of 'Now, That's What I Call Business', Brianne West, serial start-upper and professional disrupter, fumbles her way through the origin story and grand ambitions of her latest venture – Incrediballs.

This is a transcript of the latest episode of 'Now, That's What I Call Business', my podcast. You can listen here.

Kia ora and welcome to Now That's What I Call Business. I am your host, Brianne West. You may know me as the founder and former CEO of Ethique or more recently as the founder and CEO of Incrediballs, which is of course what this podcast is all about.

What are Incrediballs? Well, we're changing the way you drink. Do you know that the beverage industry produces 480 billion plastic bottles every single year? And obviously, of course, we know that 9 percent of all plastic ever made has ever been recycled. So that's an insane amount of plastic that is simply entering our landfills, our oceans, our waterways. And that is what Incrediballs is here to stop. I want to disrupt Coca-Cola. Can I say that? I've said it now.

Incrediballs are concentrated drink tablets. Yes, there's nothing new about concentrated drink tablets. They're just like a Berroca. But what is new is the packaging. As it stands today, it is impossible to package effervescent tablets in a home compostable package. Because effervescent tablets react to the moisture in the environment and if you package them in a box or something, well, they'll just gradually dissolve and you'll be left with ick when you want to avoid that.

That's why I'm off to the UK today. I'll talk about that more shortly, because we're going to resolve this packaging issue and get started because I want to launch this product by the end of this year.

So stay tuned because we will be putting a call out for testers. Let's say in a few weeks.

A lot of people have asked me about my Eureka moment for Incrediballs and they did about Ethique too, but I don't believe there was one. To me, it has always seemed completely bonkers that we have packaged stuff that's like 95 percent water, whether this is shampoo, the spray wipe, whether this is a drink we package in plastic and then we ship it around the world. Think of the carbon footprint alone associated with the freight, let alone with the plastic.

I mean, what sense does that make? Obviously these decisions would be made entirely on profit alone, but that is no longer enough for businesses. We need to consider so much more than just money when we are building businesses. Not only because it's the right thing to do for people and the planet, but because that's what our consumers want us to do and if I hear one more person tell me that you can't have a profit as well as purpose in the company, I will go mad.

Ethique is a perfect example of how untrue that is. It first made a profit in 2017. Back when we were definitely still a startup so there you go. It is totally possible. I don't want to discuss Ethique an awful lot in this podcast, right? But it is impossible to talk about where I'm going without talking about where I've been.

A lot of people ask me how to embed mission and vision into a business. Now, if you're starting from a purpose-led place, this is nice and easy, right? You know what your mission and vision is, or if you don't, well, you should. This is one of the most important things you need to do with the very beginning of your business, particularly for a purpose-led business. And if you want to know how to go and do that, I actually have a module on, which will walk you through it, this is a free education hub. It is not a sales pitch. I am not trying to sell you anything. It's not even a scam. I promise. It's just an easy to use education hub that will walk you through these basic business foundations.

So picture and envision the world you want to see in five to ten years if your business is successful beyond your wildest dreams. The mission is how you're going to do that. And the purpose is why you are doing that. Why does that matter to you? A lot of people get those three things mixed up. So if I was talking Incrediballs, what's our vision? A vision is a world where there is a multitude of plastic free options for all products. And we're starting with the drinks industry. Our mission is to unleash the power of delicious and protect our planet through the creation of plastic free taste, health boosting drink concentrate tablets. We are committed to transforming the beverage industry one step at a time and leaving a positive impact on our planet for future generations to enjoy. Our purpose is to protect the planet by revolutionising the way people consume their favorite drinks. By offering plastic free concentrate tablets that taste amazing and promote well-being. We reduce plastic waste and create a more sustainable future for all. We are passionate about making a positive impact on the environment and dedicated to leaving the world in a better state for future generations.

That is an example of a mission and vision statement. It's one of the first things I did for Incrediballs because, well, it is important, particularly as you build a team. These are the kind of things you need to embed in people and I'll tell you why. Years and years ago, probably 2019-ish pre-COVID anyway, which is how I judge time now, pre and post COVID… we were offered a really big deal with a retailer in the US. Now, to give you context, we were doing about half a million dollars a month on Amazon, but we weren't really big in the States yet. We certainly weren't in any retail. So this was a big deal and it was very exciting. I don't know. I had this weird bad feeling about it the whole way through. We were working through the contract, they sent us their terms of trade and hidden in there, well, not necessarily hidden, but right embedded in one of their terms of trade was that every product had to be packaged in a poly bag or a plastic bag and I remember flagging that and I said to them, this isn't something we'll do. What are the alternatives? And they said, Oh, well, no, this needs to be done for our machinery for the set up. We'll go through a scanner and we need to ensure that it doesn't leak and I said, well, these are solid bars, I appreciate you normally deal with liquids, but bars don't leak. And they said, it doesn't matter, this is our this is our process, this is our procedure, this is what you need to do. And so we turned it down and that was a multimillion dollar deal.

Now, a lot of people say, Oh gosh, was that decision hard to make? No, it wasn't because our values, our mission, our vision is embedded so strongly into the person. I was on board with that decision. It wasn't a decision I made on my own and it wasn't one I got mocked for and even the boarders talked about it and how do you make those decisions? Because vision and mission is how you lead your business to long term success and that is why I go on about it a lot because I used to believe that those companies that splashed shit up on their walls, which is kind of nonsense. But it is really important as you make those decisions. As you grow and as you build a team, they need to understand what it is you're trying to do with your company, get on board with it and I promise you when they do, not only will they help you build that company because the business is nothing about people but they will be so much more engaged, excited and you will have a much happier team if they have their purpose beyond making money.

Which brings me to what my actual goal is. So back in my kitchen in 2012 when I started Ethique, I said I want to save a million plastic bottles by 2020. 05:53 And that seemed bonkers at the time. We hit 10 million in 2020 so we smashed it at a park. But at the time a million just seems ridiculous. Now I'm starting Incrediballs from a completely different place, right? Thankfully I have more money to invest in this venture. I have a lot more skills and experience and I have a network so theoretically this should grow faster, but I am not banking on any of it. So I need your feedback on what my goal should be. Should it be the same? Should it be that in the next five years I want to save a million plastic bottles? Or should it be…. something bigger? The thing you want to balance when you're creating some kind of quantitative goal like this is it needs to be ambitious and exciting to be able to get behind but it needs to be achievable. Otherwise you kind of look weak.

Did you know that 78% of corporate claims like being carbon neutral by 2030 are missed? So these companies get all this press and this excitement about creating these ambitious goals and targets and they very rarely achieve them and you don't hear about that bit do you? So when you're building a goal like this you want to ensure that it's something, that's a stretch, but it's definitely within the rounds of possibility. And hey, if you don't achieve it, that's okay as long as you're transparent about it and you talk about how you're going to address that and what your next goal is. Ethique’s next goal is half a billion by 2030 and that goal makes me feel a little bit sick. But I truly believe we'll achieve it. And if we don't, that's okay because we will tell you about it, that's kind of the difference. So what do you reckon? A million bottles by what are we? We're 2023. A million bottles were 2026. A million bottles were 2030. 10 million bottles by 2030. I'm going to have to have a really good think about this. But what do you think? Let me know.

A little bit of a lesson prior to Ethique I actually started a couple of companies, one called Pure, one called Tub. They were bog standard companies and by that I mean companies that really are only looking for a profit. Because I didn't really know about this idea of social enterprise that business could do so much more than just making money. Now Pure was a cosmetics company, Tub was a fudge company and whilst you could probably categorize them both as kind of like a failure, I reject that premise because they taught me an insane amount and that's some of the things I'm going to pass on to you through this podcast. A good example is don't ignore the IRD.

Yep, I learnt that one the hard way. The IRD are wonderful when you work with them but if you forget to file tax returns because you don't think accounting is important like I did at 19 because I was an idiot, well they're less friendly. Now as I mentioned I am off to the UK today 17 hours of flying ahead of me just to get to Dubai and obviously. You see that there is a fair point that traveling for businesses is inherently unsustainable. Yes it is and how I make these decisions is weighing up net good versus net bad. I truly believe that if Incrediballs succeeds and grows and disrupts the industry, although I hate the term disrupts so never use it, then that's going to be a massive net good for the world no matter how much, within reason, I have to travel to get it to that point.

I always double offset my travel offsetting is not a silver bullet, but at least it's something in the meantime, whilst we're doing something that I can't avoid. So I've gone to the UK to sort out packaging. So packaging effervescent products in a home compostable package has not been done before and there's a very, a very fair reason which is effervescent tablets react with the water in the environment, right? When you use a compostable package, home compostable packaging does not have the barrier that a plastic bottle or a plastic tube does, which is why you see Berrocas in a plastic tube because if you were to put effervescent tablets as they currently stand, inside a cardboard box, you would have a box of like fluffy goo. If you've ever seen a bath bomb that's been exposed to a human environment, it's the same thing. I can't put that on the shelf.

That's really not going to help in the goal to save $10 million bottles by 2030. Hmm, how are you feeling about that one? Yeah, I think that's doable.

Anyway, so we need some technology that we have found in the UK that is going to resolve this issue. I'm not going to tell you too much about it yet because, you know, I'm going to maintain a little bit of the mystique and I'll tell you all about how the meeting went in next week's podcast but suffice to say this has been a lot harder than I anticipated. I went into this quite naive and despite being a biochemist and knowing how this thing works, how bath bombs work, I used to make bath bombs for God's sake, I am surprised at how difficult it is being to find a compostable packaging and in fact, I've had numerous people and numerous manufacturers say it's not possible, which I reject.

Of course it's possible, anything is possible if you just keep trying. As entrepreneurs you'll, be told no probably a million more times than you would be told yes, particularly in the beginning. And just remember, it's a no now. It's not a no forever. And that goes for everything whether it be trying to get it in stores or trying to find home compostable packaging.I know a lot of people who embark on this journey, try and find out home compostable and the end is up using plastic and for the life of me, I don't understand. I get that you fall so far in love with your own company that you can't say no, this isn't a good idea, i’m not going to launch half-assed. Like if I can't do because it's difficult don’t give up and launch using plastic or metal… for the life me I don't understand it. But anyway, business is complicated. I think the question that's come up a bit is why am I talking about social and environmental problems and whilst I've put together, which is like an education hub, I think the best way you can learn is by doing it.

By diarising this journey of Incrediballs, well, I'm going to be showing other people how to create a mission led business. But I'm also going to be building a community. Ethique was so successful in the early days because, Because from day one I built a community. I didn't even know what I was doing. I was simply asking questions of my social media audience because I didn't know the answers. I was a 24-year-old naive businesswoman and I was asking questions as simple as what flavor do you want your shampoo bar to be? What color, what shape, etc. And all those questions created a community and that's what I want to do with Incrediballs, is to bring you along this journey.

Ethique did two equity crowdfunding rounds, right? So we raised $200,000 in our first round in 10 days and then we raised $500,000 in our second round, a couple years later, in just 19 minutes.

Those early investors exited with a massive return of 4,800% and that is amazing. But the reason they invested in the first place is because of the community I had unintentionally built around Ethique. I'm going to do exactly the same thing and yes, there is a little bit more risk that, hey, someone might copy me but that's okay because this is the logical direction of the industry to go in. But as I said, this shit's hard.I just can't see anybody getting this off the ground faster than I would anyway. Because we've been working on a fair bit in the background.

Next week, I'm going to share some of our design work with you. It's a very early stage. You will have seen it. If you've gone along to, you'll have seen the gorgeous logo, the beautiful, bright colors. Don't know how I feel about orange? It's probably not a surprise to you that orange is the single most consumed juice. And yet, it's probably my least favorite juice. There are no situations in which I will drink a glass of orange juice. So when picking bright fruity colors as a branding color, orange is the lead colour. Should I leave that way? I don't know. What do you reckon? It's two questions for you.

What should be our goal? And what should be our main brand color? How do we feel about orange? Obviously, my favorite color is pink, Ethique’s pink, my personal brand is pink. I probably can't create another pink brand at this stage. Right, well, I'm off to the UK. I will take you along with me. Next week, I'll tell you all about how our first meeting went and how very excited I am. Thank you for joining me on this journey. I really appreciate the feedback. Please let me know what you think. These are short, sharp, snappy episodes, because they’re like a journal, you don't need to hear me rambling on forever. If you've listened to this on the way to work, I hope it's been interesting. If you're listening to this on the way home, I hope it's been entertaining. Wherever you are, whatever you're doing, I'm Brianna. We're signing off for now. That's what I call business. We're not just talking business. We're changing the world. How do we feel about that sign off? It feels a bit twee. Anyway, see you next week.

6 hours ago

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6 hours ago

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

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