Interview by Cilla Richards
With our Start-up Visa Bootcamp starting today, I’m delighted to be interviewing two of our wonderful Bright Red Triangle community members, Sara Bower and Sushant Kumar. Sara and Sushant were successfully granted UK Start-up Visas last year with support from our team at Bright Red Triangle and the International Office at Edinburgh Napier University.
Sara and Sushant started their business, Healthy MoJo, in September 2019 and despite the challenging circumstances of running a business during a global pandemic they have built the business from strength to strength.
Sara and Sushant are both MBA graduates from Edinburgh Napier University. Sara’s professional background is in marketing and events, while Sushant had experience of running a travel company prior to coming to the UK.
Before I dive in and ask Sara and Sushant more about themselves and their business journey so far, I’d highly recommend taking a look at the Healthy MoJo website here. Their business offers a healthy alternative to packed juices and soft-drinks, and by adding a special combination of seeds to their products, they are loaded full of dietary benefits while also being delicious.
I’m Cilla Richards, Business Engagement & Communications Manager at Bright Red Triangle, and I’m delighted to be interviewing Sara Bower and Sushant Kumar, the directors of Healthy MoJo. So let’s dive in.
Sara and Sushant, what inspired you to start your business Healthy MoJo?
“It’s a common saying back home that ‘necessity is the mother of invention’, and the inception of Healthy MoJo is no different.
“We realised that there wasn’t a place where we could get fresh alternatives to packed juices easily. The convenience and availability was just not there. This is of course in comparison to sodas and packed juices, which are easy for people to find and buy.
“When we had this realisation, we started to test the idea for Healthy MoJo, and our research showed that people were very interested in our healthy seed-based drinks provided that they were easily available. That’s the reason we have a unique operation strategy where we as a company focus on reaching our consumers.
“Healthy MoJo as a company aims to change food and beverage consumption behaviour within the UK. Not only do we focus on creating and providing an alternative of packed and stored products, but we also operate on a zero-wastage philosophy and consider the environmental necessity that any business should consciously choose.”
It’s fascinating that you both spotted a gap in the market from your own personal experience and that’s how the idea of Healthy MoJo came about.
This makes me wonder, was starting a business something you both always wanted to do?
Sara: “No, absolutely not. I have always had an incline towards academia. My plan was simple to finish my second masters, have a holistic management awareness and initiate my PhD. However, though this did start as just a project, I did become more invested overtime. The more I researched and became aware about the market, the more inquisitive I became to how and what we could offer to the UK consumer market. Honestly, right now I can’t see myself doing anything else but this, because it’s not just about scope and development but it’s about solving a serious issue of making healthy alternatives easily available to consumers.”
Sushant: “Yes, I have always been an entrepreneur. I was just waiting for the right thing to involve myself in, and our company Healthy MoJo with zero-wastage philosophy was just perfect. The idea of offering a healthy alternative with a seed-based drink is not only innovative in terms of product offering but also a topic of conversation because most of our consumers don’t realize the dietary benefit that these seeds have.”
It’s great to hear that you both bring very different perspectives to the business.
For our Edinburgh Napier students, alumni and staff who are interested in starting a business, could you talk a little bit about the support you’ve received from Bright Red Triangle (BRT) so far?
“We received a lot of help from BRT; they helped us to move from concept to implementation. Not only did they give us opportunity in terms of our start-up visa but a lot of perspective in terms of our operational model. As a new business and a start-up initially it was very scary, to start everything from scratch but just knowing BRT is there to support us has been a great help. The BRT team, in particular our Business Adviser, Wendy Wu, helped introduce us to many relevant connections and she has been a rock of support and direction since inception.”
I am so glad to hear you feel like you can always turn to our department when you need a listening ear or business advice. That’s exactly what we’re here for after all.
I’d love to learn more about Healthy MoJo and you offer. Can you tell me a little more about the business?
“Healthy MoJo’s product offering is all based on fresh produce that includes our trade secret recipe of seeds which are added to fresh juices, smoothies, and fruit cream to offer health and taste benefits. Using seeds is new within the western world, however it is becoming more known due to its health benefits. As a product offering, we also use green flesh left over of watermelon, orange and lemon cured with honey or sugar to make candies. Likewise, avocado seeds are used to prepare tea and watermelon along with other seeds to prepare for coffee.
“Currently we have a permanent pop-up window in Morningside. However, we really take pride in our unique operational model and operate with the philosophy of taking our products directly to our customers. Hence, we can also be found with our stall at Edinburgh Farmers Market on Castle Terrace (Edinburgh) each Saturday, and at the Portobello Market every first Saturday of each month. Apart from that, we also do other pop-up shops and cafes regularly that are announced on our Facebook page, here.”
That all sounds incredible, and honestly my mouth is watering just thinking about it! I can’t wait to head down to the Morningside shop and pick myself up a fresh juice very soon.
Let’s have a bit of a chat about your success so far. What has been the highlight of your business start-up journey so far?
“The recognition that our repeat customers show and the reviews that they leave on our social media platform is overwhelming. They not only love our trade secret recipe but, only a month in to our permanent pop-up window, we have created a local following of repeat customers just proving that consumers will choose a healthy alternative if they are given an accessible option. However, the highlight of our business is that we have been profitable since inception in September 2019, and being able to connect with farmers directly. We loved the experience of connecting with the producer’s product.”
I can imagine how rewarding that would be, and it must feel really great doing something good for others.
I don’t want to hold you up all day, so I only have two more questions for you, that are more for our readers who are interested in starting their own business.
Firstly, have you received any other support for your business that you would recommend to others, and if so where have you received this support from?
“Apart from BRT, we have also connected with Business Gateway as well.”
And the last question, what advice would you give to someone thinking of starting their own business?
“Research, research, and lots of research. It’s just not about making a good product offering, it’s about how to place the brand, and that is only possible with research. We believe any demand is created only if you and your business are solving an existing problem.”
That is such valuable advice.
Thank you so much, Sara and Sushant, for taking the time to speak with me and to tell us all a bit more about your business journey so far. It is a really exciting journey for you both, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for Healthy MoJo.