Founder Focus: Natasha Bowes of Biotiful Dairy
Founded 8 years ago by Natasha Bowes, Biotiful Dairy is the UK’s leading Kefir brand, offering an award-winning range of cultured dairy drinks and snacks using the ancient method of fermentation. We sat down with the passionate founder to find out what’s coming up for the brand, and how competition helps you to grow.
What was your eureka moment?
It was when I was looking at all the less-than-desirable ingredients on the back of the pack of my daughters growing-up milk over eight years ago. I thought we could do so much better for our kids in the UK, focusing on products that are healthier and natural. Not many things are more important than ensuring our kids are healthy and happy!
What is your elevator pitch?
Our mission is in positively transforming dairy products – making them healthier, tastier and better quality for everyone every day. We can make so much of a difference, as we lead the way in naturally healthy innovation, and it is great to see how consumers and producers are following us! Our Kefir range – from liquids, through protein pots, to Kids Kefir range and, the most recent launch, Kefir Soft Cheese, bring out the best in cultured dairy, naturally packed with billions of gut-friendly bacteria, essential vitamins and minerals.
How did you test your idea?
I had to learn everything from scratch and I never cut corners. After a long financial career and making the decision to launch my Kefir range, I went through all the textbooks and courses and involved a very experienced consultant before setting up my own pilot production in an organic dairy outside of London. It was very early mornings and late nights, as I was running the full production myself, and when I was not, I was doing tastings of the products at my first stockists – Selfridges, Harrods and Fortnum & Mason, collating maximum consumer feedback, to ensure that the product, packaging and messaging are as close to perfect as they can be.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start a business on their own?
It is quite simple: follow your passion and apply all of your determination, the combination of which will take you through just about anything. Ask for advice early, and get meaningful help sooner rather than later.
Do you have a mentor or are you one?
I wish I did when I just started out, though sadly not, as I came from a very different industry. I did get valuable advice at the critical stages when I was looking for it – there are a lot of great people around.
What’s your plan B?
Once I was into this for over half a year (eight years ago), I knew there was no way back for me. (Remember that story about the ships burnt by the captain in America, to ensure no one goes back to Europe).
What is the most worthwhile investment that you have made?
Undoubtedly, the team – I am very proud of the Biotiful team, who are great at keeping me on my toes, and are incredibly kind for tolerating me with my passion for this business.
What one failure are you glad you experienced?
Being aware yet rather unprepared for the competition coming into the Kefir category that we created, especially the competition that copied most of our work. I am quite sure this has taught me more than anything else on my eight-year journey, and is the single most valuable factor in the acceleration of our business development.
What is coming up for Biotiful Dairy?
New delicious cultured dairy product ranges, to bring more occasions, formats and flavours for the UK Kefir consumer. New sales channels and new geographical markets. I would leave it at that for now.
What book would you recommend that everyone reads and why?
There is nothing more profound that I have read in the last few years than Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. The depth, breadth and ease of the most fundamental analysis there is quite like nothing else I have seen. For aspiring business leaders, I would also recommend reading the Winners by Alistair Campbell – really inspiring (before it gets a little repetitive).
How do you find balance in your daily life?
What balance? When you work with passion, the hours are inevitably long and sporadic. However, being outside of a large business, you have plenty of flexibility. Lunchtime gym classes, listening to book podcasts on the way to the office, spending time with family on most evenings and weekends – that is what keeps me as close to balance as possible.