Editor's Spotlight: Startup Focus

Startup wows dragons and sees sales soar overnight

By Nikki Hancocks

- Last updated on GMT

Super U co-founders Charlotte Bailey and Sean Ali
Super U co-founders Charlotte Bailey and Sean Ali

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A ‘superfoods’ supplement startup is on track to rack-up half a million pounds worth of sales this month after a heroic appearance on the popular investment programme 'Dragon's Den'.

Charlotte Bailey and Sean Ali, co-founders of Super U​, received an unprecedented response when they appeared on the UK version of the show earlier this month requesting a £50,000 investment in return for a 5% share in their business.

“Sara Davies came in first with an offer of exactly what we asked for and none of the other dragons wanted to go in higher so we ended up having them all make the same offer," ​recalls Bailey. "We were absolutely blown away.”

The founders - who have been a couple since university - ended up enrolling their two favoured dragons, Peter Jones and Tej Lalvani, for a 6% share between them.

Charlotte says the producers told her they don't remember that sort of response happening in the show's 16 year history. And the investors' interest was shared by consumers as the couple saw their sales rocket on the night the show aired.

“Bear in mind that in January we did £85,000 in sales, on the night of the show we did £180,000! And this month we are on track to hit half a million – which is what we did in six month last year.”

Despite the dragons’ keen interest in the business, the small equity given to each of them meant the investors weren't able to provide the level of mentorship that the young couple had hoped for and so they decided not to go through with the deal. But their time in the den still provided them with pretty much everything they had hoped for

“Sara did say to us when we pitched that she’d love to meet us for a coffee to help us out and whilst we haven’t been able to do that in the pandemic, we have had a couple of Zoom calls with her, and Tej’s team have also continued to be really supportive despite us not officially working with them.

“So we may not have gone through with the deal but we still feel like we’ve got the mentorship we were after."

They also made sure they had set up a link on our website before the show went live to allow people to sign up to their crowd funding page. Sure enough, on the night of the show they gained 2,000 sign ups.

Super blends

The Super U brand all began when the couple started looking for a nutritional solution to the struggles that came with Charlotte’s coeliac disease.

After feeling for themselves how a number of individual botanical ingredients could be blended to provide them with functional benefits, they enlisted the support of their university’s business advisers, food scientists, and access to EU funding to help them develop a small range of organic ‘superfood blends’.

After first launching as a D2C online only business in 2017, the company now sells eight blends formulated to target specific health concerns, including: ‘Clean Greens’, with

Super U blends
Super U blends

ingredients such as baobab, barley grass, chlorella, wheatgrass, and spirulina; ‘Berry Beauty’, which includes chia seeds, acai, cranberry, strawberry, and maca root; two plant proteins; ‘Magic matcha’ with lion’s mane mushrooms, ashwagandha and ginger; a hot chocolate, with Reishi Mushroom, and Ashwagandha; and ‘shroom coffee’ with a blend of chaga, cordyceps, lion’s mane mushroom.

The best-sellers in the range are ‘Clean Greens’, thanks to the immune health benefits of the ingredients, and the shroom coffees, thanks to the interest in natural cognitive health solutions.

“The shroom coffees provide just 50mg of caffeine in a cup, as opposed to up to 200mg in an ordinary coffee,” explains Charlotte.  “But they provide the consumer with focus without the caffeine jitters, thanks to the combination of adaptogenic mushrooms, which have all been dual-extracted.”

Next, Charlotte says the brand wants to tap into the growing awareness of nutrition’s impact on hormones and cater to the several consumers who have contacted them asking for these sorts of products.

“We get so many emails from ladies asking what can help with hormone balance, often specifically asking about menopause, and we think this is an important area to explore next.

“I think the pandemic has really made women extra aware of how their hormones change throughout the month and how this effects them and they are looking to get some sense of control over this.”

Although sales are restricted to the UK and Germany right now, the couple plan to utilise their crowd funding to expand throughout Europe and eventually to the US, in the latter half of this year.

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