Founder Focus: Form Nutrition
Launching and running a business that not only turns a profit but also gives back to the wider world isn’t easy but for Damian Soong and Natalia Bojanic, it was key when they set up Form just two years ago.
Since then, Form has become a market disruptor and is well known within wellness for producing the quality plant-based protein in aesthetically pleasing packaging.
Set to launch into the U.S via Net-a-Porter and Soho House, Damian and Natalia have established the brand based on the ethos that we can be the best version of ourselves by being mindful of others and to date, they have donated over 30,000 meals to families in need in one of Africa’s most poverty-stricken regions.
We caught up with Natalia and Damian to find out how they’ve done it.
WHAT WAS YOUR EUREKA MOMENT?
Damian Soong: I didn’t really have a eureka moment, more a steady succession of ‘aha’ moments!
The first was seeing a space that was extremely crowded but lacking in brands with an aesthetic and values that spoke to me, especially in the plant-based space. Most brands were all doing the same thing. I wanted to elevate the idea of nutrition to be more than just a protein shake after the gym but rather how we nourish our whole selves. In practice, this meant developing not just supplements for the body but nootropics and cognitive supplements for the brain.
Likewise, no one was acknowledging that it is a huge luxury to even consider our own micro-nutrition when nearly one billion people do not have enough food to live a healthy life. The industry was all about the self (and selfies) and I wanted to turn that on its head by introducing a one-for-one model – with every product purchased, we feed a family in need via our Form Feeding Fund at Bansang Hospital in The Gambia.
WHAT WAS YOUR ELEVATOR PITCH?
Natalia Bojanic: At Form, we believe we can realise the greatest version of ourselves all while being mindful of others. This permeates everything we do, from our careful selection of plant-based ingredients through to our commitment that with every product you purchase Form we will give a meal to a family in need via our Form Feeding Fund at Bansang Hospital in The Gambia.
Combining the latest research with carefully crafted flavours we create products that naturally support your peak performance, allowing you to thrive, not just survive. We elevate nutrition by creating superior plant-based products that are better for you and better for the planet. We do this with no compromise on taste.
HOW DID YOU KNOW FORM WOULD WORK?
DS: I followed my conviction. Of course, we tested the products relentless over nearly 18 months of formulation but the idea, the vision – that’s something you just have to believe in. Most people rolled their eyes when I said I wanted to create a nutrition brand and why wouldn’t they – it’s an extremely crowded space.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE SOMEONE THINKING OF STARTING THEIR OWN BUSINESS?
NB: Don’t start on your own! Speaking from experience, having someone that complements your skill set and who is there to share struggles and success makes the startup journey more fun. I remember listening to a business podcast and a quote that said ‘if you want to run fast, go on your own. If you want to run far, find someone to run with you’. I believe together we are all stronger.
You might be thinking, how do I find the right person? Firstly, make sure your values and vision are aligned. You don’t need to agree on everything but you should agree on the fundamentals of why your business/brand exists.
Secondly, don’t wait for that person to appear in your life. Stay active showing up and sharing your passion. Success is a numbers game; therefore the more you put yourself out there the higher the chances of awesome opportunities and people to come your way.
DO YOU HAVE A MENTOR OR ARE YOU ONE?
DS: I don’t have a mentor but I have a good network of people I respect and reach out to for advice. I’m smart enough to know how little I know. I don’t mentor anyone but as part of that network, I’m always grateful to give advice.
Remember books are a great source of ‘mentors’ – biographies are amazing as they allow you to live multiple lives. A couple I’ve liked that are relevant to business is Elon Musk’s and Richard Branson’s, both visionaries and extremely inspirational.
WHAT BOOK DO YOU RECOMMEND THAT EVERYONE READS?
NB: Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie. In it, he shares inspiring stories of successful start-ups that started with passion and commitment to have a positive impact in the world. It shows how one can creatively overcome challenges, be resourceful and disruptive when the focus of a company is beyond profit.
That book really made me believe that one day I could start something that matters – even though when I read it, I was unemployed and still trying to figure out how I could benefit
others and the planet and still be paid for it.
WHAT IS THE MOST WORTHWHILE INVESTMENT THAT YOU HAVE MADE?
DS: That’s a great question. I think investment in health is the obvious one with the mind following closely behind. Both of these feed productivity so greatly that without either functioning properly, what’s the point of any other investment?
WHAT ONE ‘FAILURE’ ARE YOU GLAD YOU EXPERIENCED?
NB: I find the word failure useless and so disempowering. It’s not a denial mechanism as I am fully aware of businesses I started or was part of that didn’t flourish, but they were
learning opportunities and stepping stones that took me to where I am now.
Here’s one example though I could certainly give more than one. In 2014, way before even Nike was doing sportswear that you would want to wear outside the gym, I started importing printed leggings and onesies from Brazil. It came about because lots of women were asking where I got my activewear from so I decided to fill my suitcase with it next time I went back home.
I did this for a year as a side business while also holding down a full-time job in PR. I was importing, distributing and selling a considerable amount of activewear and some of my clients would spend £600 a time on Lycra. In that time, I not only expanded my network and understanding of the industry but it also taught me that with my limited technical and financial expertise there was only so far I could go on my own. Now I have an engineer and MBA next to me, I feel the sky is the limit.
WHAT PIECE OF INDUSTRY ADVICE DO YOU OFTEN HEAR BUT DISAGREE WITH?
NB: ‘Exhaustion is a badge of honour’. I’d rather work smart instead of working hard.
It’s important to always ask yourself what’s important and focus on the things that are going to take your vision to the next level. Over-committing your time and resources limit your creativity and ability to stand out. I work pretty much every day of the week on different projects and so in order to ensure my mind and body are in the optimum condition, I make sure I meditate every morning, go to the gym 2/3 times a week and practice yoga 2/3 times a week.
Prioritising time for self-care and spending time on projects that excite me ensures that I never feel depleted. Making time for family, friends and fun is also important but I believe quality over quantity when it comes to time.
TALK US THROUGH YOUR MORNING ROUTINE
DS: The obsession with morning routines is interesting – perhaps because they’re somehow correlated with success. I’m not sure where it comes from but morning routines have almost a competitive sport now.
Here are a few things I do though without fail most if not all mornings: wake without an alarm, notice at least a few breaths before I get out of bed and try to finish my coffee before I check my phone. When I check my phone I deal with anything that’s urgent and don’t check anything else till I’ve worked out. This used to always be weights but I’ve become obsessed with Peleton recently.