Founder Focus: Wunder Workshop
Founded by Tom Smale & Zoe Lind Van’T Hof in 2014 on the principle of consumption with a purpose, Wunder Workshop is a London-based food brand and producer of organic and ethically sourced turmeric products.
Besides their truly delightful product offering including the original Golden Mylk latte blend, organic turmeric tea, turmeric honey and adaptogen blends such as Golden Shrooms, Wunder Workshop is also committed to sourcing ingredients direct from small community farms in Sri Lanka that use sustainable farming techniques and gives 1% of their revenue to environmental projects around the world.
With hopes for 2019 of planting a Wunder Forest in Columbia to protect cacao plants and nurture forest biodiversity, we caught up with Tom and Zoe to find out how they’ve made it this far.
WHAT WAS YOUR EUREKA MOMENT?
When I read the Power of Now, I just knew I had to do my own thing – something that made me feel excited every single morning to get out of bed. The actual business idea was a more gradual development of uncovering my existing passion for health and wellbeing and realising it could be a career path, and not just a way of life and my upbringing.
WHAT WAS YOUR ELEVATOR PITCH?
We wanted to make turmeric more accessible so that people could easily reap the health benefits of this super root spice every day.
Our vision is consumption with purpose; everything we choose decides the world we want to live in which is why Wunder Workshop is all about purposeful ingredients, sustainably sourced from organic producers in Sri Lanka. Every decision we make is based on a set of ethical and sustainable values to promote a transparent relationship between grower and consumer.
HOW DID YOU KNOW IT WOULD WORK?
We started by selling our fresh Golden Mylk on Portobello market in the winter. At this point, I had already left my job and there was no time for ‘testing’, it just had to work!
When I think about it, we hardly trialled any of our ideas beyond our close friends and family which sounds very naive but I think conviction and passion go a long way too. If I had listened to all the people who told me I was crazy to give up my job and that no one would drink turmeric, we wouldn’t be doing what we are today. Sometimes a combination of naivety, passion and creating a market is more important than testing an idea on an already existing market.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE SOMEONE THINKING OF STARTING A BUSINESS ON THEIR OWN?
Back your instinct and be tight on your budget. Success is rarely instant, so you have to keep positive if things don’t go your way at first – persistence pays off.
DID YOU HAVE A MENTOR?
Though we don’t really have a mentor, I soon realised that I wasn’t being taken seriously by people, typically older males, in the industry. I started talking to other young business owners, who were the most valuable in the journey.
Learning from each other’s struggles was more productive than being told what I should be doing. Likewise, I love meeting new start-ups to share my journey and help wherever I can. I would still love the idea of a mentor to bounce off ideas, but I believe that will come naturally when we meet the right person with a similar ethos.
WHAT IS THE ONE BOOK YOU RECOMMEND EVERYONE READS?
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle and Tim Ferris’ Tools of Titans.
WHAT IS THE MOST WORTHWHILE INVESTMENT THAT YOU HAVE MADE?
Outsourcing the things that were taking too much of our time so we could concentrate on growing the business and looking after our wellbeing.
We spent two and a half years making the products ourselves and packing them, which was hugely valuable to understanding the logistical challenges specific to our ingredients. But it has been life-changing to outsource this and has allowed us to use our time more wisely and focus on projects such as writing our first recipe book (Super Root Spices) and developing more NPD around our unique Turmeric CBD range and passion for medicinal mushrooms.
WHAT ONE FAILURE ARE YOU GLAD YOU EXPERIENCED?
We’ve really learnt the value of good marketing from trial and error. We, like many brands, felt a huge pressure to invest in a PR firm to handle this for us, thinking that we would save lots of time and instantly find ourselves featured in high profile media. It ended up being a very costly mistake.
Our learning was the value (or lack thereof) when it comes to influencers who just aren’t interested in the product and who receive boxes and boxes of freebies. People have smartened up on social media and can see through a genuine response or just promotion. We prefer to celebrate the people who buy into our values and promote them in return.
WHAT PIECE OF COMMON INDUSTRY ADVICE DO YOU OFTEN HEAR THAT YOU DISAGREE WITH?
To accept investment even if you don’t 100% get on with the investors. I totally disagree with this and we will always put ethos and integrity in front of capital. Which isn’t easy, and also means we are still looking!
TALK US THROUGH YOUR MORNING ROUTINE
Tom and I try and have our separate morning routines as we already spend so much time together running the business and during the evenings so it’s nice to have some me-time and arrive both with a clear head at the desk.
This usually means Tom gets up at 5am to go cycling, and I wake up around 7am to do a gong bath meditation and breathwork followed by hot water and apple cider vinegar and a walk around the block. Twice a week I start the morning with a swim and sauna. We are usually at our desk between 8-9am.
WHAT’S YOUR PLAN B?
For me being an Investigative journalist and crisis photographer, for Tom a professional surfer.