Fleur Cushman: When to give up the day job and start a business

Why did you give up your day job?

The brain-boiling pressure, competitive and rapidly-shrinking newspaper sector and ever-decreasing resources against high demands felt like I was on a hiding to nothing… that is after the charm and romance of my dream job had worn off!

As the years rolled by I realised I needed an exit strategy.

What's the story?

I am originally from New Zealand and arrived in the UK 16 years ago to pursue my dream of being a horseracing journalist.  At the time I became the youngest female editor of a national newspaper in Britain and thoroughly loved my career and the adventures that went with it, but fell out of love with it after a decade.

My upbringing was strongly influenced by my father, a visionary and icon for his work in the natural health and vitamin compounding industry in New Zealand.

A few years ago, he gave me the heads-up on a new discovery with New Zealand blackcurrants. We looked closely at the emerging science and anecdotal evidence and he encouraged me to take up a distributorship in the UK and launch a Zealand blackcurrant product to market.

I duly formed the company, but realised we needed more science to make claims against the product and headway in a crowded marketplace, so I initiated research projects with the University of Chichester. It took a few years to come to fruition, but their just-released work has proven our product is a world-first for the performance and recovery gains in athletes. The novel use of New Zealand blackcurrant anthocyanins is being hailed as a new era in sports and exercise physiology and the sports world is starting to sit up and take notice.

Did you always want to run your own business?

No, never. That changed once I realised that I was staring at what could be the opportunity of a lifetime and Dad encouraged me to go into business, having been a successful and forward-thinking entrepreneur himself.

It has been a massive learning curve, at times incredibly tough, exhilarating, daunting, liberating and rewarding. Fortunately I have had business mentors who helped me to fill in the gaps in my knowledge with their expertise.

Although there was one occasion I was advised to pack in the business and almost did. Our original product wasn’t right but I forged on regardless and found a different option that solved the problem… I’ve always been unwavering in my belief that I was onto something.

Taking on a business partner who I work with brilliantly and with whom I have clear role division has also been a key move.

What's unique about your story?

The recent discovery that the intense UV light in New Zealand, climatic conditions and unique blackcurrant cultivars result in ‘supercharged’ fruit with one of the highest nutrient and phenolic contents of any food in the world.

Scientists will be unlocking the ‘black box’ of what New Zealand blackcurrants represent in terms of biological actions for years and we’re at the forefront of that process and the first to offer a premium product in the northern hemisphere.

Why did you get involved in the health industry?

It is in my DNA. Through my father’s work, I saw the profound difference that was possible by offering people options outside of the Frankenstein food industry and heavy-prescribing practices that are now so prevalent. I think awareness is growing too and it’s an important time to be involved in the natural health sector.

How do you source your products?

Given the nature of the product, our fruit can only be sourced from New Zealand and fortunately after trial and error, we have found a supplier with a premium-grade product that works for the market.

What's your USP?

We’ve proven NZ blackcurrants are something approaching the holy grail for sports people by its proven ability to significantly improve sports performance and recovery, which is rare in a wholly natural product. The improvement values from our studies are undeniably exciting.

For most active people though, just being able to exercise without paying the price the next day is reward enough!

We also have a drug-testing policy to give professional athletes total assurance over the safety of CurraNZ. We needed to do this – our pitch was always greeted by suspicion – ‘if it’s so good, what’s in it? Converting the non- believers was an ongoing chore before the research proved us right. 

What inspired you to create your own brand?

It solved a lot of barriers to market from switching from an end-consumer supplement to manufacturing our own-branded product.

It improved our business model dramatically and changed the game for us in every respect. You name it – margins, territory reach, control over the name, branding and design, freedom to have our own social media and marketing channels, plus independence to strike forth with an exciting research programme that fits in with our goals for the business.

It wasn’t undertaken likely as it has increased the risk and funding requirements, but in hindsight it was the best thing we ever did. 

You can find out more about Health Currancy by following them on Twitter or checking out their website! 

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