Founder Focus: Oli Harris and Adam Flanagan of Aire
Stressed-out colleagues Oli and Adam founded their trailblazing brand Aire with the aim of introducing fellow busy and overworked people to the many benefits of CBD.
Aware that there’s enough complexity in our day-to-day lives already, Aire keep their oils simple by only using one ingredient – hemp. The CBD, terpenes, and carrier oil all come from this one magic plant, and there are no additives, preservatives, chemicals, or flavourings present whatsoever.
Keen to market Aire as a health and beauty brand – rather than something niche and alternative – the team have also really put their time into creating a product which tastes just as good as the benefits it delivers.
Intrigued to find out more, we caught up with co-founders Oli Harris (Creative Director) and Adam Flanagan (Operations Director) all about the process and passion behind their premium-grade CBD oils.
What was your eureka moment?
Oli: This came when Adam and I were sitting in the pub having a beer after another mad day in the office. We had both been taking CBD to combat the stresses of work, which led to lots of discussions about the different brands we were trying. We realised there weren’t really any brands out there that we felt comfortable with – they were all very pseudo-medicinal or traditional hemp which didn’t really sit with the types of brands we’d normally buy. We realised there was a gap in the market for a more lifestyle-based brand. It was these conversations that eventually led to the idea of starting Aire.
Adam: In terms of the product, there was also a eureka moment when we got the oil blend right. We wanted to create an oil which only contained ingredients derived from the hemp plant, and so we tried lots which ended up being too bitter, or looking very muddy. When we landed on the blend we have now, it was a nice feeling as it felt like we had something which was an improvement on the brands we’d bought before.
What is your elevator pitch?
Adam: CBD is amazing, and everyone could be benefiting from it. But despite the buzz around it, most people still view CBD as a bit of a niche alternative remedy. And unfortunately, most of the brands on the market reinforce this ‘nicheness’.
With Aire, we wanted to create a brand that would help take CBD into the mainstream, so more people could start benefiting from it. We’ve done this by focussing on getting every aspect of the user experience right. From the branding and packaging, to the taste of the oil – everything has been done to feel more like your favourite health and beauty brand, rather than a niche, alternative remedy. We hope this helps to encourage more people to give it a try.
How did you test your idea?
Adam: Really just by talking to people who were in a similar position to us before we started Aire – people in busy, demanding, anxiety-filled jobs who had never really thought about trying CBD. Getting people to buy into the branding was the easy bit really, the most pleasing aspect was the reception we got when people tested it. We spent nearly 2 years perfecting the blend so that we could launch something that tasted both clean and mild, whilst still delivering in terms of performance. It was the reception we got from these early tests that gave us the impetus to keep going when things got difficult (or costly!).
What advice would you give someone who wants to start a business on their own?
Oli: Be a solution. Rather than thinking about what you can sell, think about what you can fix. It’s much easier to generate a community when your business is solving a problem. Your business should plug a hole in the market, not be a repeat of something else. Also, always account for spending more than you think you will. With the best will in the world, you can forecast cash flow, but hidden costs are truly around every corner.
Do you have a mentor or are you one?
Oli: Currently, I don’t have a business mentor as such. However I am lucky to know a lot of business owners and experts, and I also have a close group of friends and family who I always go to for advice.
Adam: The same for me. No mentor as such, but I take inspiration from all the people around me who have set up for themselves, started businesses, or gone freelance. Seeing friends and colleagues do this and keeping in contact with them is a massive help as you move forward.
What’s your plan B?
Oli: I don’t like to think about plan B. However I also run my own design agency called OH+CO — so that will always have my attention.
What is the most worthwhile investment (time, energy, money) that you have made?
Oli: When we were first trying to find a supplier for our oils we spent a lot of time researching. In the end, we found someone that felt like the right fit for us. Lots of CBD businesses simply pick up the phone and place an order, but it was very important to us that we flew out to the Netherlands to spend time with the supplier, and ensure we were all on board with what we wanted to achieve, and how to go about getting the blend right. Building relationships with people is important.
What one failure are you glad you experienced?
Adam: We failed 5 times to get our frosted bottles printed correctly. Each time they arrived at our warehouse we had to send them back – delaying our go-live date each time. As much as that is very annoying, our attention to detail is something that makes us different from other brands.
What is coming up for Aire CBD?
Oli: We’re in conversations with a number of new retailers which we’ll be launching in very soon. We’re constantly looking into new products, and we’re also excited to be launching a podcast about wellness called OnAire. Watch this space.
What book would you recommend that everyone reads and why?
Oli: I don’t find myself with lots of time, so I’d be lying if I said I’d read many books. But one book that I have read and found really interesting was The Lean Startup by Eric Reis. In general, I tend to listen to Podcasts more because it’s easier to do whilst working.
Adam: The Money Revolution by Ann Boden — Prefect read for new modern ways to look after the pennies. It’s full of tips and guides for using methods, apps and websites to manage your money a bit better. There’s nothing scary in the book, and don’t need to be a financial investor to understand how you can do it too.
How do you find balance in your daily life?
Oli: Finding boundaries in my work-life balance helps. I try to switch off as much as I can (where possible). And taking Aire helps of course.
Adam: Since the beginning of lockdown, I have had a workout mat next to my bed, and each morning I have been doing twenty-minutes of stretching before I do anything else. Nothing overly strenuous – just rolling the shoulders, touching my toes, and bending my back, but every day I’m feeling more and more supple. It’s also great to feel like I’ve already done something positive with my day before I jump in the shower. Now, I’m getting more adventurous, and am working my way up to doing some morning yoga. I fully recommend it so far!