This episode of the Blueprint Work In Progress Podcast was recorded at our Transform Commerce 2020 event.
Today we’re joined by Damian who discusses how Form shook up fitness and nutrition with their plant based protein products. He first explains how their retail strategy served as a key marketing and customer acquisition play for their DTC website [6:39]. We then take a look at how a holistic approach to content can offer customers value whilst establishing authority and trust in a brand [13:28], before considering the importance of product and brand in customer retention [16:13].
As a B-Corp, Form places a high value on their social mission. Damian tells us through how this sense of purpose has been baked into the company’s DNA from the beginning, and highlights their work supporting the Bansang Hospital in Gambia [17:40]. We wrap up our chat by considering the future of Form [25:16] and a short Q&A [31:36].
Harvey [00:00:06] Our first guest of the day is Damian Soong, the co-founder and CEO of Form nutrition. Damian spent years as an operator across multiple manufacturing center businesses before building full nutrition with two other co-founders in 2017. Form has gone on to disrupt traditional performance nutrition and is one of the fastest growing plant-based construction companies in the UK. How are you doing Damian?
Damian [00:00:29] I'm really good, thank you. Thank you for having me.
Harvey [00:00:31] Excited to have you. As I was mentioning earlier, I am going to find a Form for years and then doing the research for the podcast was a super fun, and kind of diving into that. And it's kicking off a big day for us, so yeah really excited to chat. So I guess before anything, if we jump into a little bit on your previous life before Form, I know you were co-founder of Orbel Health and then a manufacturing company post that. What did you kind of take from that and how did you get into those roles?
Damian [00:01:06] Well, I guess I'm really lucky to have had a very kind of varied background, Orbel which you mentioned was a sanitizer for alcohol gel for hand hygiene. But this is like seven years ago or something like that, you know, before everyone was using alcohol gel as they are now. So that's a really good lesson in terms of timing. But really, that was a product design project that came out the Royal College of Art, just as I finished my MBA, really fantastic experience for me. I learned all about industrial product design, rapid prototyping, setting up our own factory in China. We raised over a million, a million pounds and were named the next big thing. And like I said, this is all a long time ago before hand hygiene was a thing like it is now. Hydrachem again was another kind of basically a turnaround project, what I like to call a real business. Buying, you know, buying raw materials, having like a forty thousand square foot factory with machines and people and turning it into something else to sell. You know, running a business like that, especially the high quality manufacturer, you know, we had a medicines license, GMP, all of that kind of stuff. You learn a lot. It's one of the toughest businesses and learned a lot about operations and cash flow. There's nothing like a manufacturing business to teach you that. So, yeah, I mean, all great experience. And remember before that, you know, I was in the city for six years as an analyst at an investment bank. So all of this kind of crazy, different experience and I think just a love for brands and fitness and nutrition set me up really well to create Form.
Harvey [00:02:43] Definitely. I can imagine the operational complexities from our previous background in CBG, and I can imagine it's kind of a level up and some of those previous roles. So you had financial understanding as an analyst, operational know-how and then that ultimately led into into building Form which is in stark contrast to your previous experience. What was the catalyst there? What made you jump into building Form?
Damian [00:03:19] I guess I'd always been into fitness and nutrition, right. So I'd always worked out since school. I'd always been to the gym and always been interested in nutrition and always taken a protein shake. And I think it must've been around about 2015 I watched Cowspiracy - the big documentary at that time - and got really fascinated by the whole kind of plant-based vegan space. I read everything on the subject. Like, you know, the China study and all of these books at the time. And looking at it then it really struck me that veganism or plant-based, wasn't going to become a trend. It was going to become like a movement driven by really big systemic drivers. And they're kind of in many ways inarguable. There was all the emerging evidence that we had on health. That was the clear evidence in terms of sustainability and the planet. And then obviously in terms of animal welfare as well. Remember, this is back in 2015 so veganism wasn't the big thing like it is now, right. It was still not fringe, but still fairly, fairly niche-ish. So obviously, being at being a protein shake user and a gym goer. I mean, I tried all the vegan proteins at that time. They were all they were all terrible. They tasted really, really bad. And as I started to look at the space more, I could see that it was a very crowded space. Obviously, there was like a million different protein brands around, it was a very crowded space, crowded with with sheep, everyone doing the same kind of thing. At one extreme, you had those big, horrible plastic tubs with the terrible graphic design and the other extreme, you had kind of slightly hippie-ish stuff that you might have found at that time in your in your local health food shop or something like that. There was nothing that really spoke to me as someone that's into graphic design, art, architecture, fashion etc. There was nothing that was like a beautiful brand, that was about performance, but that did it in a, you know, a beautiful, aspirational, more lifestyle kind of way. We used to say why is there no Aesop of nutrition, for example? So that's really what we kind of set out to create with Form. And for me personally, it was like a perfect storm of a challenge, opportunity and something that I was really interested in myself.
Harvey [00:05:39] Yeah definitely. And I can see some just behind you just over your shoulder, great product placement. But yeah I think one of the largest things we took and from our research and just understanding Form was, it's in such stark contrast, like you mentioned, to the generalization of protein, nutrition or performance nutrition even more so, and far more aligned with just conscious living or modern living. And it's quite interesting, though, that that was very much ahead of the curve, because like you say now, this is wave that has engulfed everybody in terms of veganism and a more conscious movement about the environment. Was it was it a struggle to get that message across in the early years? Because it was more of a smaller movement than has now really gained momentum?
Damian [00:06:36] No, I wouldn't say so, actually. I mean, I think we were very lucky. I think we got the timing exactly right. I mean, I joked about being way too early with Orbel the alcohol gel sanitizer. But like with with Form, I think, you know, we really got to market just at the right time when the movement was really growing and it was becoming much more of a mainstream thing - veganism and the whole plant-based movement.
Harvey [00:07:02] Yeah. 100%. And to create that initial audience you were DTC first. So you started selling directly from your website. I know there was a few key offline accounts etc at time as well, but I mean, I know a lot of the focus was, and naturally still is, on eCom. Did you see that as kind of a way to break through some of the noise and to build that initial community? Like, how did you look at it as a company?
Damian [00:07:31] I initially wanted Form to be completely DTC, mostly for kind of purely selfish reasons in that I didn't want to have to deal with retail buyers anymore. I've done a lot of that in my previous lives dealing with Tesco and Sainsbury's and people like that. I didn't want to have to do that. And also, for me with DTC, what interested me, being quite an analytical mind, was about having the data, about owning relationships, being able to bring things to market and test quickly with a community that you can kind of really be in contact with. But yeah, I mean, it didn't last long being DTC only because literally I think within two months of us launching, we were in contact with Planet Organic. And then by like September of that same year, we're in the stores and, you know, the best selling protein brand out of the whole category, including whey protein. And now, it's kind of crazy. Out of the whole category, which is a massive category, we're seven out of the top ten products, like the top seven, literally is all of our products. And then it's like Sunwarrior or something like that.
Harvey [00:08:37] That's super interesting. Even back then, it kind of went immediately - like that product market fear. I guess it's quite an affluent, well-educated audience, especially at somewhere like Planet Organic. But how did you think about that then in terms of, did you think about that offline retail store as kind of one step in that holistic customer journey, as like a discovery step almost. And then actually they might find you online and become more of a one to one relationship with them. Like, how did you think about that?
Damian [00:09:10] Exactly. So as we kind of moved to being kind of more omnichannel, we really just thought of all retailers and any kind of partner really, more as marketing and PR than as a pure commercial thing. So we would choose where we're stocked and where we sit and who we partner with based on - is it a great place for people to discover the brand, do to the values, or does the positioning of their brand kind of match with ours rather than thinking, oh, are we going to sell like thousands and thousands of units so that a lot of the partnerships we've had are not necessarily big commercially? So, for example, at Heathrow VIP where we were for a long time doing a menu with Jason Atherton. It's not very much protein that gets put through that. But then obviously the people that are flying through there, they're exactly who we want to be in front of. Planet Organic, you know, it's like eight stores now As Nature Intended, it's probably closer to 20, but that's perfect for our demographic. And that was really important for us because it is also very important to know when to say no. We said no to a lot of things as well. We said no, for example, the Holland and Borough where we just don't want to sit in that kind of space at this moment. We don't feel it's right for us. We've said no to Sainsbury's again for similar kind of reasons. And again, you know, all of these things for us, it's about supporting our brand and supporting our positioning as predominately DTC.
Harvey [00:10:38] Yeah, that's that's quite like a confident move as well, isn't it, in times of actually saying no and being really strict with that positioning. Because I think a lot of the time that can roll over with, oh, it's a huge opportunity with a mass audience, then naturally that's going to trickle down into revenue at the end of the day. So that's interesting. I think we see that start off a lot of time, or at least we have, and then ultimately that snowballs into just a huge push. And I think we're seeing a lot more now than as in not just a sold DTC play. It's actually DTC as part of this holistic omnichannel approach or positioning. Like you're saying, as kind of qualifying audiences, kind of just being in and around where they are and where they would, I guess, theoretically find or use protein.
Damian [00:11:32] I mean, I think like DTC, I mean everyone kind of loves it as a buzzword and something kind of new-ish. But it's just another channel and it's nothing nothing new. And it's, you know, it's really, really hard to have a business that's purely DTC. I can't even think of one that didn't end up just being a mass retail play. If you look at Harry's and things like that, its basically all over Boots now, and that's where all their revenue comes. I think that most of DTC now I think it almost ias like outsourced NPD for Unilever and Procter and Gamble. I think that's basically it. And it's derisking it for them as well. So that's what I think most DTC brands are doing and have their eyes on the exit to do that kind of deal with someone like that, I think.
Harvey [00:12:18] Yeah. Yeah, definitely. They were going to be my next reference points, someone like Harry's, even to an extent, someone like Warby Parker where you actually get to try the product, which I guess has there ever been a barrier to Form, because if your purchasing Form online as a vegan protein potentially I guess quite a lot of your audience might never have had vegan protein before or like you mentioned earlier had a poor experience previously. Was it an opportunity then in Planet Organic to sample those customers and actually break down that barrier.
Damian [00:12:50] Yeah, sure. I think like, yeah, it's a food product, right. So you have to try it and you have to take time to find a mix or whatever that you like. But we formulated all of our products to taste great with just water. So most people find it very easy to get to something they love straight away. And I think if you look at our Instagram and the kinds of sharing and the kinds of comments and engagement you see that. I'll be honest, you know, it's a food product so that some people that don't like it. Right. That's going to happen. And for us, we just look at all of those as kind of learning experiences, how we can build that into future product development and, you know, try and keep them happy. I think we're one of the few brands that if you don't like it we'll just give you your money back, right? I mean, that's kind of testament to us and to how good the product is that we can stay in business giving money back to people that don't like it. Right. So, yeah. And I think sampling, you say we do a lot of events where, you know, back when we could before Covid we would always be in Planet Organic or wherever doing sampling and so on. So, yeah, it's a big thing.
Harvey [00:13:51] Yeah. that makes complete sense. And you touched on it there slightly on some of the content that you guys create and show your audience and I know your content is quite an intense kind of holistic play again. There's like an incredible resource throughout your website, across sleep, meditation and general wellness and kind of some other aspects actually. I read one on fashion, which is slightly abstract away from Form, but it seems like it's an entire kind of lifestyle play. Like, how do you think about your content? is it more acquisition or just generally how do you think about it?
Damian [00:14:28] Well, I always kind of wanted to have a magazine, so that's kind of part of the reason. But also because, you know, I think content is a really long term smart marketing play, especially as we see kind of caps rising on Facebook and advertising platforms. So for me, I think, yeah, something that we wanted to do as a brand, we invested quite heavily in terms of people we have. We have our own editor full time, you know, so we're publishing daily pretty much. And it's about, I think, giving value to your customer to offering something that they're going to find value in, something that they're going to want read and that helps position your brand, right? As something that's giving, something that's delivering something useful. And also, you know, establishing authority and trust and all of that. So to me, it just seemed like a no brainer, really, to do because, you know, it's something I just wanted to do it. And it made sense from a business perspective as well. And actually, when I was looking at, you know, the nutrition space in the beginning, if you looked at many of the brands at the time, they would have some content. It would be a blog that was maybe updated once a week, but it would be really kind of almost like condescending content about how to get big biceps, you know, how to get a six pack. Or like you need a different protein before bed to post workout stuff that was taking a very, very complex science like nutrition and kind of just dumbing it down too much. You have to simplify the science and explain it in a way that is understandable, but also does justice to, you know, to how complex the science is. So that was a big thing as well. And that's why actually on Inform, our content platform we have the email courses that we developed. So from topics from intermittent fasting to body composition to CETA, we've got some new ones coming out soon on mindset. So there's some really interesting things there. And again, that's about - well they're great lead magnets - but it's about, again, delivering something, delivering something of value, establishing trust, authority, all of that, rather than just showing someone an advert and saying you got to buy some protein - its more of a relationship.
Harvey [00:16:37] Yeah. Hundred percent. And I think, like you're saying, is a long term investment. Like, it's difficult to create especially quality and quantity. I didn't know you had an in-house editor. I guess you'd never really imagine that normally as quite an early role. But then I guess that's testament to the long term investment in that. And clear that it aligns with your overriding value prop in terms of like kind of distancing from the traditional means. So that's super interesting. And if we just before I really wanna spend time on your social mission, I know that kind of filters through everything, everything you do at Form. But then last point on just general customer journey, how do you think about retention generally? I know as a replenishable food based product, like it's a really key important aspect, especially as CACs continue to rise as you eluded to. How do you think about that?
Damian [00:17:43] I think retention is key pretty much for any business, but especially for a consumables business. So for me, it was about product first, okay. You have to have a great forumulation and you have to have a great tasting product for people to want to come back and repurchase it. I don't think healthy products have to taste bad. That was where we wanted to really kind of innovate. And then it's about the brand. I think the modern conscious consumer, you know, they're buying more than just a product. They're buying into a brand where they can see that the values align with them. They can maybe get to know or kind of relate to the founders and have access in the way that you can't to other big, big brands. And also, they want to know that, you know, you're doing something good in the world and doing something good with your profits. I think that especially in our demographic now, everyone calls them kind of conscious consumers, they're just so much more attuned to what was going on with the brand besides just the product. Yeah. And I think that's something that's really key to tap into.
Harvey [00:18:51] Yeah, definitely. And you mentioned it briefly, though, in terms of what brand does with their profits. And there's a lot to break down here with Form. Obviously a B-Corp which we'll jump into. But generally your social mission. I know you partnered Bangsang Hospital. And I actually the first podcast that I listened to on Form, I know we dove into that quite a lot. So talk me through that, because that's been very kind of present from day one. This isn't something you added to the company. It was there right from the start.
Damian [00:19:34] So, yeah, in all the planning for Form and when we were really thinking about it, it was really important for me or for us to acknowledge that nutrition almost by definition, is about the self, right? Yeah, it was really interesting for us was to take that and turn it on its head and make it about others. So that was where the whole kind of giving idea kind of came from. And also, you know, I've always thought we've always thought that performance isn't a zero sum game - for me to perform at my best, you know, no one else has to perform badly. There doesn't have to be a negative impact on the planet. You know, no animals should have to suffer, you know, for me to win you don't necessarily have to lose. You know, I'm a performance kind of person. I'm interested in all of that stuff. But I also have kind of like a softer side as well. So I like that juxtaposition of hard and soft that idea of an iron fist in a velvet glove. So, you know, from all of that kind of thinking, that's where our founding vision came from, which was that, you know, you can be the greatest version of yourself while being mindful of others, and that really to this day encompasses everything that we do from the way that we select our ingredients and build our products, to the way that we deal with customers and the way that we pick our stockists, the way that we employ our people and treat them. So, yeah, I mean, it's just been really kind of baked into our DNA from the very beginning. And actually even thinking back now and in our prelaunch, where we had an email sign up page, the whole kind of mechanics of that then weren't to sign up and get, you know, 20 percent off or something. It was like, sign up and we're donating a meal to the Form feeding fund. And I think people sniff out, like, if it's not authentic. People sniff that out very, very quickly. And it's so easy just to add a thing and say we give X percent, but it's much harder to actually do something really tangible where you can see what's happening with the money that you're donating and you're really making an amazing impact in the world.
Harvey [00:21:37] Yeah, definitely. And I have it here, but I remember one of the headlines that I read was 'Damien has brought a social conscious to a self-obsessed industry'. And I know that not only was was the product, but that was a lot of focus in your giving.
Damian [00:21:52] Yeah I think Men's Health wrote that, right?
Harvey [00:21:55] I think so, yeah. I was going to say it was either Vogue or Men's Health. So obviously that giving was a key part. Super interesting, by the way, that you didn't discount the product initially, and actually there a social mission immediately because I think, again, we see a lot where it kind of cheapens the value prop and product immediately. So that's quite interesting to see. And then why was it the Bangsang Hospital appeal, was it that specific giving pledge vs a plethora of others?
Damian [00:22:32] So kind of going back to some of my previous lives, I've done a lot of work with UNICEF and the Red Cross and things like that. And I'd been to see UNICEF in Copenhagen, and it's an amazing charity, but it's a big organization, right? And every pound you give to them, for example, goodness knows how much goes on, you know, boring overheads rather than doing good. So I wanted to stay away from doing something with like big charities and do something very, very grassroots so that so that every single penny that we give is giving something very, very tangible. And I knew Anita Smith, who who runs the Bangsang Hospital Appeal, through some of my previous work that I've done. And I just knew it to be like just an amazing charity. Very, very small, but doing great work and really having a high impact. I mean, she's amazing. She basically on holiday to the Gambia in the 90s or something, five hours down the river, stumbled upon this hospital that was just the most disgusting, vulnerable state that you could imagine a hospital to be in. And her being her, she just couldn't, you know, couldn't walk away from it and effectively then pretty much dedicated her life to turning this hospital around to the point where she's been awarded MBE by the Queen. That hospital now is one of the models of healthcare in the Gambia and in Africa, I think to that extent. So yeah, it was about being tangible and real and really making sure that we could see the impact of the good that, you know, we're all trying to help do. You know, we spent time out there as well, and that's just really, really eye opening and so rewarding.
Harvey [00:24:14] Yeah, definitely. And you speak there to the tangibility and I completely understand that, especially with kind of an incumbent like UNICEF. And but in terms of the actionable points for Form. I know obviously naturally there's a percentage of profits, but are there other things - do you head over there every so often and physically work out there etc, or is it almost all just a constant revenue stream?
Damian [00:24:46] No, it was really important for us just to be more than just sending a check or something every month or quarter or whatever it might be. So yeah, we've been out there, spent a week there and, you know, we're due to go out there again, but sadly, obviously, we can't at the moment. But yeah, I mean, to go there and see the impact that the work we do here can have on the other side of the world is truly transformational. You know, those people there they literally have nothing I tell you. But like, they're the happiest people you've ever met. I've never met anyone that happy in London, for example. So it's a real it's a real kind of lesson in terms of, you know what's important.
Harvey [00:25:28] Yeah, definitely. And again, another kind of layer on that is that Form is a B-Corp. And other than giving some reference on that, it's quite difficult to gain certification for a B-Corp because I know there's multi layers. It takes quite a while, it's great to see now that there's more and more. But like, again, was always an idea from the start, but it took a number of years to build into. And how does that look for Form?
Damian [00:25:57] I guess it was always an aim. It's a great certification to have. And I think that the real value in it is around having kind of like a framework and something to hold yourself accountable to. That's really, really important. But like you said, it's a big, big chunk of work. So not something that we could do straightaway. I had to wait until I had the resource to kind of free up my time a little bit to kind of really go for it. And I think probably is about like a year kind of process or something like that. Yeah. It's been fantastic for us just in terms of, like I say, having that framework, having that accountability. Also its a great networking community of like-minded business people here in the UK and the US as well.
Harvey [00:26:41] Cool. Okay. Yeah. Some of the brands I look up to most are B-Corp.
Damian [00:26:54] Patagonia is like the hero brand, right. But then also people like Toms, I mean like Blake Mycoskie's book was like a big inspiration when I was first starting Form. And even people like Ben & Jerry's - B-Corps. So there's yeah, there's amazing kind of pedigree of brands doing well as B-Corps and doing really good work, using business as a force for good.
Harvey [00:27:17] Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And you touched on it briefly there about the US and it's something I was I was meant to touch on earlier. Form is now operational in the US, right?
Damian [00:27:30] Yeah. So we have like a US website building a DTC offering in the US now. I mean that's quite a big chunk of work because we can't sell our UK products in the US because they have different regulations. So you know'll this from your previous lives. The way you can package, not the way you can package, but what you can say on the labels, the way you display nutritional information is different. So effectively we've got all our same SKUs but replicated as U.S. versions which are sold in the US. So that's growing and doing really well in the US. We did have a lot of physical partnerships planned this year, but they've all got cancelled given that we can't even travel there at the movement, but already picking up some amazing stocks in the US, you know we're at Sunlife Organics in Malibu, Equinox Hotel in New York City. So some really cool things happening and it's only going to accelerate once we can kind of focus on it a little bit more. But it's amazing the US. I mean, you know, but it's such a big market, it's just kind of crazy. And looking at looking at numbers were actually growing quicker in the US than we did in the U.K. originally. So that's with pretty much zero focus at the moment.
Harvey [00:28:44] I was going to say like I am drinking this, I know the guys at Ugly can be kind of testament to expansion in the US, and the sheer scale of the size and the opportunity but like it was just quite interesting that now you're looking at it from again, like almost like a grassroots perspective, like it's day one again, like it was three, four years ago. And like seeing that plan replicate over and over again.
Damian [00:29:13] And we've got a kind of formula that worked here in the UK. So obviously the US is a little bit different things taste and so on change. But like, you know, we have not playbook, I don't really like that term. We know what we did here. We're very much about having great products, about nurturing community and building organically. Word of mouth, obviously, that's real customers via social media these days. But still word of mouth, great press. All of these kind of things, rather than just raising a shit ton of money and plastering loads of adverts over Facebook and Instagram, which we do, but it's a small amount. It's a small proportion of our activity.
Harvey [00:29:57] Yeah, exactly. And if you're cogniscant of that I think umm yeah. I don't think anyone is against that if there's a robust foundation to everything. Only if that's the only play, then it becomes problematic. But yes, to close up slightly before a little Q&A. How do you see Form, I know we touched on various things like US expansion etc, but how do you see Form progressing over the next two, maybe three years? Is it proliferation of products and skewes? Or maybe more offline, how do you look at it?
Damian [00:30:34] Well, I think like our kind of geography is kind of set now in terms of the UK, EU and the US. So really our focus now is growing obviously more within our existing customer base, via new products. So we have a stream of new products in our pipeline that will be coming out kind of on a quarterly basis over the next kind of 12 months or so. And really is a boring answer, but it is kind of doing more of the same things. There's still so much more we can grow in the UK. The EU is a very much untapped opportunity for us, especially across Germany, Sweden, Netherlands, Belgium, which are some good areas for us to focus on. And then the US, you know, we're really only scratching the surface there. So, yeah, I mean, just it's it's a bit of a co-ou answer but more of the same and some more products.
Harvey [00:31:25] No, that makes complete sense. I think if you have a replicable model and foundations it doesn't need to change. It just needs to double down.
Damian [00:31:33] I mean people overthink it we had a whole big strategy day the other day and we had all these ideas of what we were gonna do. But actually, this was with someone whose a really interesting kind of advisor slash mentor. But he's been in DTC, but been in DTC since it was catalogues, right? So he's kind of seen everything. And it's interesting, speaking to him because obviously DTC is all about the internet now but he was doing it when it was still catalogues, and nothing's really changed in terms of the psychology and strategy and so on. So that's really interesting to give us that kind of perspective and kind of confidence as well to know we're on the right path.
Harvey [00:32:12] Yeah, definitely. Especially if that's the same dynamics that were at play 20 years ago, they'll probably likely still be in play in 20, 30 years. It's just the gloss and the superficial level has changed slightly.
Damian [00:32:25] I mean, remember the whole internet has changed, but we as humans haven't changed in terms of our psychology. Like still, the psychology of selling is the same as it was in the 70s and 80s means to get my favorite books on that - Ogilvy on advertising and Cialdini's book Influence, they're like talking about like things in the seventies, its still so relevant to today.
Harvey [00:32:47] Yeah, 100 percent. And looking back over the last three, four years, I know that there'll be a ton of key learnings. But if you had to take just one key learning that you wish, you would have been kind of equipped with back then when building Form, what would that have been and what would that be like?
Harvey [00:33:13] Like you say there's loads. But the one that I kind of think has been more recent for me, or at least in the last kind of four or five years rather than like 10 years ago, probably realizing that, you know, you have to look at downtime, your own personal downtime as an investment in your uptime. Everyone knows it from training as an athlete or something that you know your recovery days, they're in some ways the most important training days, you know, and it's the same it's the same in business. You have to sometimes a switch off for slow down in order to kind of make a big leap or step forward. And I think that's something that I've realized and something that I'm starting to get better at.
Harvey [00:33:58] Yeah, yeah, I used to and I used to play a lot of football and I can be testament to that. I probably took it slightly too far in terms of the other way of not having those rest days and then being burned out. And I think there is so many parallels between that and business. OK. So I'm just going to jump on to Q&A for some of the guys listening. I've got one here - so how did you get your first manufacturing run up and running. I know there's operational complexity, especially with food and then certification around that. How did how did you go about that, especially having not been in that industry?
Damian [00:34:40] Well, I haven't been in the industry, but remember, I'd done manufacturing for a long time, so I knew how it worked. And literally it was just research, finding out, you know, all different manufacturers speaking and going to see them all and trying to find someone - the most important thing for me at that point was doing everything is kind of capital efficiently as possible. Finding someone that had not just the capabilities that we needed, but could also do something smart with us in terms of MPD. In the end, we found someone that was prepared to take chance and do the MPD with us for free on the hope of getting future orders from us. And it turned out to be a good bet for him. Also someone that was prepared to do, you know, low minimum order quantities. So when we first started we were ordering, I think something just like a thousand bags at a time or something like that, which was really hard. Most people wanted to, you know, I don't know, like ten thousand or something. But that was so important for us to to be able to stock up, to get going without having to spend too much money, you know, now we're doing, you know when I look back at the numbers, it's just kind of crazy. And actually, interestingly, because you were in kind of liquids before, I did actually want to do ready to drink first. But when I started speaking to them and they're saying, okay, ten thousand litres and it's gonna go off in three months. I was like, yeah, this is not my kind of business.
Harvey [00:36:04] Yeah. When you talked about the operational complexities of say, a powder to an RDT, there's some issues with that. Especially with scale. I think like you're saying there that smaller jump with a small MOQ it's sometimes like the difference between getting off the ground I guess like not having that capital to do it. And also the idea of having a ton of stock sitting there exactly when it has a ticking time bomb of a shelf life is incredibly difficult.
Damian [00:36:37] I mean, I think that's it, it's the thing about getting off the ground. But the other thing as well is if you're not smart about that, you end up being diluted a lot, assuming you've had to raise a lot of money, right, to effectively finance stock which you never really want to have to do you'd much rather kind of cash flow that from operations. So, yeah, I mean that would be my my thing. You know, you have to be relentless and go around as many manufacturers as you can and find one that works for you, but also can do kind of amazing, amazing terms on MOQ especially.
Harvey [00:37:12] Yeah exactly and that leads onto my next question, actually, here of raising capital. I know you guys have raised just generally. And how did you think about that? When did that initially come into play? And if you're speaking about that stock, was more for expansion of other operations or what was that kind of capital used for versus just raising capital?
Damian [00:37:37] Yeah, I mean, we were very lucky to be have grow profitably and sustainably, pretty much from day one. So we were never under pressure to raise money and to be honest, never, really, never really wanted to. We were approached by a lot of investors and I didn't want to get into that whole thing of raising money, then becoming kind of beholden to quarterly figures and so on. We were kind of, you know, we wanted to grow a great business that was highly profitable and make a lot of money and do a lot of good work in the world. We wanted to do it by making the right decisions at all the right times, not by being under pressure to hit kind of multiples or exits or anything like that. So we said no to a lot of investors. But then in the end, one came along and that was just such an excellent fit. And, you know, it could really offer a lot more, as much more of a strategic investor rather than just kind of dumb money. You know, they've been fantastic in terms of, you know, introductions, opening doors, all of that kind of stuff. So I think that's what people forget. I think for me, that's the most important part of an investor is like, you know, what they can do other than the money. And I know you've got some great investors, you know, are fantastic as well. And yeah, I mean, that's the way that I looked at it.
Damian [00:38:54] Yeah, 100 percent. I totally agree. I think if you get caught in this vacuous cycle of raising, raising and raising and then yeah. Ultimately just being over leveraged, it's it's very, very difficult.
Harvey [00:39:07] And that naturally leads to poor decision making, the last question actually on that of the balance there between speed and speed of growth, basically, if you're not necessarily focused on, not not focussed on raising that capital, but there isn't a war chest there to have made a land grab in 2016/17 when things were slightly cheaper in terms of acquisition play like how did you think about that? Was it just kind of natural strong repeatable growth without the need for kind of VC fuel, and that has now put you in or that's just part of the DNA of the business. Or did you really have to balance that and think actually we could have been going a bit faster. But that would come with strings attached.
Damian [00:39:51] Yeah. I think, to be fair. Knowing how cheap, with hindsight, knowing how cheap CACs were back, you know, in 2017/2018. You could've probably spent a lot more on Facebook advertising and Instagram and so on and acquired many more new customers. But you know, the way that we've done it is really through you kind of real customer advocacy. Getting our customers to share with their friends, a lot of influencer marketing, but unpaid influencer marketing, you know, genuine, genuine fans. Yeah. I don't think I'd change anything. I mean, it's always easy to look back and say, oh, CACs were cheaper than I should have spent more. But, you know, I really kind of get hung up on that.
Harvey [00:40:36] Yeah. Yeah. Again, I think if you get, if you get caught in that it can be troublesome and so cool. Okay. Well, I mean, I've loved hearing everything from Form. I think there's a ton more obviously coming in the next few years. To give our audience a bit of an opportunity to see you guys and learn a bit more. Where's the best place to find both yourself and Form online?
Damian [00:41:06] So formnutrition, dot com, obviously, all of our social handles are just @formnutrition. You can find me just email@example.com or, you know, on all social and social channels as well.
Harvey [00:41:20] I can vouch for your Twitter, there's some great chats on there so I would head there. But yeah. Okay. Well, thank you very much, Damien. I really appreciate your time running through everything and excited for the future.
Damian [00:41:37] Thanks very much for having me - enjoyed it. And good luck today, it's a big day so good luck.
Harvey [00:41:42] Thank you very much mate, cheers.