Newsletter Articles

Interview with Yvonne Dolan, Founder of Blendi

Blendi Smoothies was developed in 2015 as a “Smoothie in Seconds”. A single serving of (chunks) of freeze dried fruit and vegetables in a pouch that you could pour into a Blender add water & blend. The result was a creamy delicious Smoothie with the same nutritional integrity as using fresh ingredients.

The Blendi Pivot
Six months into trading the feedback from some customers was the Smoothie packs were not making it as far as the Blender… kids were snacking on the ingredients (raspberries, beetroot, cucumbers etc) and did we do snack versions of Blendi ? ”as they would be ideal for kids school snacks”.

Next month (April 2019) Dolan launches Blendi Snacks, three ingredients pack (a blend of Fruit, Veg & Fun). There are plenty of fruit snack offerings and more recently vegetable snacks, our USP is celebrating the “fun” element and getting kids to associate fun with fruit & veg. Apart from the quirky packaging we have a surprise character tattoo in every 5th pack !

1. How did you get the idea/ concept for your business?
In 2015 I had an idea to develop a healthy version of “Pot Noodles” this opened the doors to the world of dried, dehydrated, freeze dried ingredients. Blendi Smoothies went on to win the "World’s Best New Innovation” in London April 2018.
Every successful Entrepreneur looks back on their first idea to what they have today, the ups & downs the disappointments we are challenged with every day thats what moulds us into Entrepreneurs.

2. Give a brief account of your education background.
I went to Boarding School at the age of 11 which I believe was the beginning of my Entrepreneurial journey, forced to make decisions & to stay strong at a very early age. Apart from Diploma in Digital Marketing & Ballymaloe Training my entrepreneurial skills have been tried & tested through my four previous Start-Ups & successful exists, also 12 years of self employment in Croatia and Spain will make you sit the honours papers !

3. Is entrepreneurship a common trait in your family?
Actually No My father & his father were both Bank Managers (so the other side of the desk). When I meet people today who were clients of my Dad they all say your Dad was a gentleman when he gave me the loan he would say “Now I know you wont let me down” and they never did ! All loans were repaid they said you did not want to disappoint him.

4. Did you have prior knowledge of the industry before setting up your company?
I was always interested in food. My first start-up in the 80’s Interhamper Ltd (Corporate Christmas Hamper Company) which after 17yrs was sold to Bewleys.
In recent years I decided if I started a food business it would not be a slave to the Supermarkets it would have many applications & be “e-commerce friendly” I am proud to say Blendi snacks are now pitching to Airlines and School Meals Companies.

5. What was your previous work experience (if any)? Do you think this gave you an advantage when setting up your business?
Always an Entrepreneur !

6. How did you initially fund your business? (self-funded, government funding, etc)
I have personally invested 120k in the company
Enterprise Ireland invested 75k and have become an equity partner
In 2019 the aim will be to continue the growth of the Company & apply for the 250k private funding matched by Enterprise Ireland

7. Looking back, would you have changed the method of funding you chose? No, but I would have focused more of my time on sales first (especially repeat sales) Investors need validation its less of a risk for them which means you have to give away less

8. What difficulties, if any, did you encounter when securing funding? Investors want to see a strong team behind a start-up and this is the chicken & egg because I feel to get the right person to join they will be looking for a salary and not a promise of “one day” So Investment buys your Team.

There’s a whole mystique about raising money just get on with your business and make it profitable,
Did you encounter any financial difficulties in the first year of operation? If yes, what did you do to surpass them?
Year one is normally manageable, you put in all your savings, you invest in yourself. Its year two & three that gets challenging you need to get more creative without funds. One example is a strategic partnership, very early on I was lucky to convince a top Marketing Company in London to back Blendi Smoothies 5% equity in exchange for 30,000 euro worth of design, marketing etc.

Traits/ characteristics
9. What characteristics do you feel benefited you most when starting your business?
There's no certain road map to success; all you can do is follow your heart, execute your vision, and never give up.
I know when I put my mind to something I can master it, I remind myself of the time I was determined to get my handcap (golf) down to single figures and after 18 months I went from 23 to 5 that was something that a remind myself of regularly, stay focused and believe in the success that around the corner.

Fail Forward
Failure is part of the learning cycle, just like falling over when you learn to walk. The whole idea that you need to get everything right first time is nonsense but as a society, we are stuck in this paradigm. I was lucky to have had some personal challenges/ failures over the years which helped me to learn how it feels when it changes.
“No man ever became great or good except through many and great mistakes” William E. Gladstone

10. To what do you attribute your company’s success/growth to?
The importance of having a good product together with good timing, if these two are right you just need the Vision & Energy.
Product Blendi Snacks are fruit and veg without water, healthy, completely natural, vegan etc
Timing Snacks were dominated by crisps & chocolate it has all changed the millennial consumer has become more demanding from the food chain they want healthy alternatives, sustainability, authenticity & clean food, this is what we have incorporated into Blendi Snacks

11. What is your opinion on the importance of a professional network for an entrepreneur? There are many but if you you want to be successful, you have to assemble the right team and where do you begin looking for your team ? A professional network is where you will find people with very similar mindset, and this where somebody will know somebody who knows somebody!

12. Do you think entrepreneurship has changed in recent years?
Some might say there are fewer barriers to entry with the ease of e-commerce and very little cost you have a website and you are in business but you are on a tightrope only inches off the floor and not everybody will keep getting back up. So in conclusion the its easier to enter but just as difficult to navigate.

13. you ever consider starting another company or involving yourself in new start-ups again?
Yes, I could never imagine myself not trying to think more creatively than my competitors

14. If you had one piece of advice for a new entrepreneur, what would it be?
“If your dreams don’t scare you they are not big enough”!