How we built our brand with four ‘power-surge’ moments

What is a power-surge moment? Quite simply, it’s a few seconds of intensity that can catapult your business to a new level. Power-surge moments don’t happen often and they come about only when an entrepreneur’s determination consistently over-rides their desire for comfort and safety. In this story, we discover how Rimi and Manav Thapar created four electrifying ‘power surge’ moments to turbocharge their brand, LoveRaw…

The creation of any brand, whether it’s Nike, Nintendo or Nestle relies on ‘power-surge’ moments. These events energise the project. Like gunpowder in a firework, they push it from one stage to the next; from tiny flame to promising crackle; from promising crackle to spectacular take-off; from spectacular take-off to breath-taking explosion.

Such electrifying moments flow vividly through the tale of seven-year-old ‘vegan indulgence’ brand LoveRaw. They include dramatically declining a Dragon’s offer in the Den and pacifying a new-born child during a once-in-a-lifetime investor pitch. But perhaps the most electrifying of all involves a wonderfully courageous blag. Without this one moment of ingenuity, LoveRaw – which attracted £2m of investment at the start of 2020 and has seen sales grow by 98% in the past year (it’s now stocked by Waitrose, Holland & Barrett, Boots, Whole Foods UK, Amazon and Ocado) – might never have made it out of Rimi and Manav Thapar’s home kitchen.

More on this inspirational gamble soon. But first, let’s look at LoveRaw’s conception. It can be traced to the sad passing of Rimi’s father in 2011. While she was grieving and soul-searching, Rimi began to reassess her lifestyle. “I went through a hard time,” she says. “The year before, I’d quit my investment-banking career to join my husband Manav in Spain, working for his textile business. But saying goodbye to Dad led to an even more dramatic and longer-lasting change for me – I completely altered my way of living. I cut out processed foods and started to be more mindful of what I was eating.”

Her new lifestyle led to an irresistible idea to launch a vegan food business. “When buying vegan food, I couldn’t always find what I wanted,” she says. “I’d search the ingredients of so-called healthy, premium products, but found they weren’t what they claimed. I knew I could do better.” Her incisive line of thinking led to LoveRaw’s first ‘power-surge’ moment – its creation. Suddenly, this co-founder was fired up. After a tough period of transition, she’d found her passion. “She was totally motivated,” recalls Manav. “We talked and agreed she should follow this new dream.” Rimi says: “I fell in love with the idea of making exceptional vegan products,” she says. “I hadn’t experienced that ‘driven’ feeling before. I’d enjoyed my banking career, but wasn’t passionate about it. But when you find a love for something, it drives you. Suddenly you don’t care about the hours or the hoops you have to jump through.”

Spain proved too bureaucratic for a food start-up, so Rimi and Manav decided she should move into Manav’s parents’ house in Altrincham, UK, temporarily, leaving her husband in Spain. Once there, she began to plough every ounce of her time and energy into the business, planning for the future on the phone with Manav, and honing the recipes she’d created in Spain. And this brings us to LoveRaw’s second power-surge moment – that big, brave, beautiful blag.

Rimi tells the story: “After the food inspectors certified us in 2013, Manav and I decided to find some retailers. But rather than traipsing around local delis, a friend suggested going straight to our biggest target, Wholefoods Market in London. I was like, we can’t do that! But then we discussed it and thought, well, why not? So we found the buyer’s name and I called him. He outlined a long-winded selection process.”

Impatient and filled with determination, Rimi jumped on the train, walked into Whole Foods’ head office and bypassed security with four briskly spoken words: “I’ve got a meeting.” Next, she arrived at a second reception, saying confidently: “I have a meeting with Daniel [the buyer]” and taking a seat. So far, so good. But then her conviction deserted her. “It was going beautifully, but when the receptionist called Daniel, I started to panic,” she recalls. “I thought he’d boot me out.” But she needn’t have worried. When the buyer came to meet his unexpected guest, she regained her composure. Rimi says: “I tried to be so friendly and professional that he had no choice but to engage with me. He ended up giving me 15 minutes of his time. I think he liked me.”

And there you have power-surge moment number two – a gamble fuelled by passion and determination; a cheeky excursion into uncharted territory far, far beyond Rimi’s comfort zone. And it brought LoveRaw to life. Rimi returned home, tweaked her recipe based on the feedback she’d received, and mailed an improved product to the buyer. Two weeks later, Wholefoods placed an order. “The order said 500,” remembers Manav, “but that meant 500 cases – 6,000 bars! Of course, we said yes, no problem, without a second thought!” The only issue now was fulfilling the order with no machinery, zero packaging and virtually no ingredients. But they did it, and the 6,000 bars sold out fast, leading to a second order of 10,000.

The third electrifying moment in the LoveRaw story came in 2017, four years later – we meant it when we said these moments don’t come along very often. But again, this one stemmed from Rimi forcing herself to swim in alien waters…television. “Dragons’ Den had been in touch before, but we’d said no,” she says. “When they contacted us again, the timing was better – we were launching a new product and the business was growing. We thought it could be a good time to appear in front of millions, even though it would be scary – and risky.” So, Rimi entered the Den, braving the cameras and the Dragons. In the end, Debra Meaden offered £50,000 for a 30% stake in the business, but Rimi said no. “Giving away 30% for that amount would have been crazy,” she says. “I stuck to my guns, but it was so intense. I remember walking out of the Den and bursting into tears.”

However, Rimi had done brilliantly. Not only had she introduced LoveRaw to millions of potential new customers and several potential new investors, she’d also brought about LoveRaw’s third power-surge moment – jolting the brand to the next level.

Soon after, LoveRaw met Juliet Barratt, co-founder of successful healthy snacking brand, Grenade. Soon, Juliet joined the business as a non-executive director. Manav says: “We hit it off with Juliet straight away. She asked us: ‘Do you want to be a lifestyle business, or something big?’ We said that now we’d found our passion – indulgent vegan chocolate – we wanted to compete with the Reese’s and Snickers of this world. That was music to her ears, and she joined in June 2019.”

And like a snowball speeding downhill, this leads to the fourth and final – for now – LoveRaw power-surge moment. It is, perhaps, the biggest of the lot, and takes place in a boardroom in Switzerland… with a baby.

After Juliet came on board, Rimi and her husband Manav – now an integral part of the business – were invited to pitch to Blue Horizon, a venture-capitalist firm renowned for investing in plant-based food brands. Manav explains: “The Blue Horizon pitch was in Switzerland. We’d just had our second child, Rui – so we decided to bring him with us. We thought, why not? It will give them a good idea of who we really are. So we were grilled in a boardroom while pushing Rui around in a pushchair to keep him asleep! At the end of the pitch, Blue Horizon wanted to invest £500,000, but we kept talking and eventually, they decided to invest £2m into the business. And Rui didn’t wake up once!”

So, Rimi and Manav’s sleeping son missed LoveRaw’s fourth power-surge moment – the one that may eventually launch it into the stars with the likes of Cadbury, Hershey’s and Mars. However, there is no doubt that Rui will witness other electrifying moments as the LoveRaw story continues to unfold. When the next quantum leap will come, no one knows. But as long as the founders keep pushing and rejecting comfort in favour of apparently out-of-reach goals, arrive it will. Which begs the question – and this one’s for you, dear reader – are you creating the right conditions for your next power-surge moment? If not get out there and make it happen…

Disclaimer: The statements made by our interviewees are an expression of their own views and opinions and in no way reflect FEBE Ventures’ views or opinions, nor are such views or opinions endorsed or supported by us.