We chat to Suzie Walker, founder of The Primal Pantry about how her dedication to a Paleo diet inspired her to create healthy snack bars, making the Paleo diet more accessible to everyone!
Please explain who you are, what your business is, and what it does/aims to achieve?
My name is Suzie Walker, and I am the founder and chief fire-starter of The Primal Pantry. We make incredibly tasty bars using only the finest of nuts and fruit to provide a clean eating snack that everyone from families with small kids, to elite athletes can enjoy.
Born out of my vision to make the Paleo diet easier and more accessible for everyone; The Primal Pantry’s mission is to provide tasty and nutritious foods, which will fully complement a clean eating lifestyle free from any grains, dairy, gluten, refined sugars, and vegetable oils. And of course, always made entirely with real food!
We produce our bars in a Great British Kitchen, using carefully picked dried fruits and nut without any additional sugars or preservatives. The ingredients are finely chopped and kept in their raw state, they are then cold-pressed into bars.
Originally intended for those who follow a Paleo diet, we have recognised that there was an opportunity in the health and fitness market for a bar such as ours and we have expanded our audience to very positive results.
What time does your day usually start and end?
My day starts with my daughter – I help get her dressed and ready for pre-school and we have breakfast together. Normally myself and the team are all sat at our desks with the coffee brewing by 9:30am and it’s a busy day from there! We have 3 Primal dogs charging round the office, and usually one of us is on the phone at any given time talking to suppliers, customers or consumers. We like to have our meetings in the afternoon as we feel most productive in the mornings! Depending on what time Grace finishes school I will be there to pick her up anytime between 4-6, but I am guilty of bringing the laptop home and doing work and answering calls until late in the evening!
What is your favourite part of your job and what is your least favourite part?
I don’t think I have a least favourite part as cliché as it may sound! Because we are ever expanding, every day is new and exciting and brings new challenges. We really enjoy developing new products and flavours (we have recently bought out two brand new protein bars) and continue to grow our range. I also love going on social media and interacting with fans of the brand. Every like, comment or share makes me smile because I really appreciate that someone has taken time out of their day to acknowledge us. We make it our mission to respond to or acknowledge every comment that comes our way, to show just how much we appreciate it.
What inspired you to start your business? (And what made you want to be your own boss?)
I follow a Paleolithic diet (free of grains, dairy, processed foods, gluten, and refined sugars), and I was shocked by how little ‘real food’ was available in supermarkets. The Paleolithic diet is simply about eating foods that our bodies have been designed to eat for thousands of years (fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds, eggs, meat and fish); since modern technology came about there has been changes made to foods that our human genetics are unable to cope with (99% of our genes are similar to what our ancestors were thousands of years ago and our bodies find it hard to respond to the change). I was disgusted by how ‘processed’ some of the products in store were, and these are not foods that I would want my daughter to eat. This is the main inspiration behind the brand – providing the ‘Real Food Revolution’ so that we can eat the foods we have been designed to eat for thousands of years.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
I can credit the idea to my daughter Grace. When she first started preschool I was looking for healthy snacks that I could include in her lunchbox, but I was shocked just by how little there was on offer for children. It all seemed to be snacks that included gluten, or added sugars, or just general junk like additives, preservatives or colourants. I started making her energy bars that she could take to school instead. At the time I was doing nutrition consultations with clients whom I had advised to follow a Paleolithic or gluten-free diet, and I realised that they would also benefit from eating bars like this. They did taste tests and they absolutely loved them! I started selling the bars to them and that’s how the business was born!
How did you fund your business?
I had to borrow some money to get started and then I teamed up with my business partners who also put some money in, we didn’t need much, just enough to get the recipe right, the branding spot on and the first production run underway. Since then we have gone through one initial round of investment and are now preparing for our second investment round to help us fund our growth.
What has been the biggest challenge for your business?
Cash flow has always from day one been the biggest challenge, as the business has taken off far quicker than we ever anticipated it has meant that every bar we make we have to go away and make another two bars. When we launch in new regions we have to create different packaging. On top of this we are always looking at what products we can do next and this in turn requires cash to create and launch. As the business has grown the work load has grown and we have not built a team (our tribe) to run the business. A year ago there were 3 of us in the team, today we are a team of 17 with more roles soon to come.
Have you made any mistakes along the way and how did you overcome them/learn from them?
I wouldn’t say that I regret any mistakes I have made, because it always provides a learning curve that you can learn from if it pops up again. We have had to change our name from The Primal Kitchen to The Primal Pantry in the first year of trading because we hadn’t realised there was already an existing company who had trademarked it. We were worried we would lose customers with the name change but everyone was very supportive, and helped us on social media to promote the name change.
What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to anyone looking to start their own business?
Get the brand right, whether you are offering a product or a service. Your product and service is easy to copy, it is the brand that will keep you ahead of the pack.
Don’t be afraid to give anything a try – we have a big ‘Do and Learn’ mantra in the team.
What do you do to relax away from the hustle and bustle of work?
Relax? I don’t really get the chance to relax much. My chill time starts about 10pm and you will find me watching something on Sky Atlantic for a couple of hours. I spend the majority of the weekend out with my husband and daughter visiting friends and we’ve also got a gorgeous but very energetic staffie, so she needs walking a lot!
What would you be doing if you weren’t running your own business?
I would still be practising as a nutritionist and seeing clients on a 1-1 basis working with them on digestive issues, weight management and fertility health. In the meantime writing a business plan for the next business idea.
Do you manage to achieve a good work/life balance?
Being a good parent to my daughter Grace comes first and foremost to me, and she will always be my number one priority. She was after all the main inspiration behind The Primal Pantry! However work is extremely important to me too, and I like to be at the office most days right at the heart of the action. We have different departments working within the brand, however I like the team to work together and have a basic knowledge of all the different departments and the work they do so we can be fully integrated as a team. It is important we all get on as team and we all enjoy going out socially together, so sometimes the work-life balance can be blurred, but in a fun way!