Collapsing from work stress made me start my own business

Andy Welch survived collapsing on his way home from work. Today, the business this incident inspired has come up against COVID-19, Brexit, and more – and won.

Our experts

We are a team of writers, experimenters and researchers providing you with the best advice with zero bias or partiality.
Written and reviewed by:
Direct to your inbox Email Newsletter viewed on a phone

Sign up to the Startups Weekly Newsletter

Stay informed on the top business stories with’s weekly email newsletter


SRSLY Low Carb pretty much came to life at about the same time I collapsed on the way home from yet another manic work trip.

When I came round, I finally accepted what I’d long suspected: that my existing work/life balance was unsustainable. I needed time out to recuperate and, as someone who was already an avid runner and triathlete, I decided that I needed a new challenge to focus my mind.

Against my family’s better judgement, I took steps to complete my first Iron Man, which was when I was first introduced to a ketogenic lifestyle. This is what led me to start SRSLY Low Carb.

A glaring gap in the market

For me, following a low carb diet made perfect sense, but despite my best intentions, I simply couldn’t suppress my deep-rooted bready urges. Keto and low carb are the two most heavily googled dietary terms by a country mile – yet low carb, for the most part, has failed to assert itself in the UK.

There are, to be fair, a million and one protein shakes and healthy snack bars vying for attention. But no-one was providing credible alternatives to the everyday essentials. The incumbent low carb market offerings tasted like corrugated cardboard – so I decided to create my own.

Family and friends were surprisingly impressed by my ‘amateur hour’ efforts, which spurred me to reach out to a couple of artisanal bakers to fine-tune my recipes, with a view to commercialising my best efforts.

Brutal reality checks: facing COVID-19 and Brexit

Despite me having no background in food and drink, SRSLY’s first year of trading (2019) saw us explode sales from £30,000 to £1.6m. We were quickly establishing ourselves as Google’s go-to provider of low carb bread and rolls… but brutal, slap-in-the-face reality checks were lurking around the corner.

For one thing, the end of COVID-19 saw a 32% drop in online sales that had to be absorbed. But that was okay, because our exports to Europe were enjoying steady growth on account of the fact that in mainland Europe, consumers are much further along the low carb acceptance curve.

We were in 15 countries, enjoying 5% week-on-week growth, until Brexit arrived. Without warning, the wheels fell off our overseas adventure.

Finding our audience

However, there was demand in the UK. In 2023, the NHS declared that obesity was a ticking time bomb. Latest estimates go so far as to suggest that today, 16.8 million people in the UK are living with obesity.

By 2022, SRSLY Low Carb was generating over 110,000 orders a year, and had a mushrooming loyalist following of 250,000 plus. 80% of our following are looking to make significant strides when it comes to losing weight, while 50% are working hard to reverse Type 2 diabetes.

Such was the demand that we set out to broaden our appeal by moving into other mass market categories as diverse as pizza, jams, condiments, wraps, and ready meals; categories all historically burdened by over-processed reputations (excessive salt, sugar, synthetic nasties, and lazy fillers).

The impact of spiralling ingredient costs

We felt the business was sitting pretty. We’d just secured a central NHS contract, which mirrored the health service’s growing appreciation of low carb thinking.

This was the moment we decided to try and win over mainstream bricks and mortar supermarkets. After aIl, plant-based and free-from had made successful inroads with the big hitting supermarkets, and the latter only affects 2-3% of the population. To our minds, brands that are geared to support 30% of the population would surely be embraced with open arms.

We were wrong. We spent a lot of money setting up to service the major multinationals, only to discover that – despite a lot of very upbeat, positive conversations – the moment simply wasn’t right. Spiralling ingredient costs meant that grocery buyers were erring on the side of caution. Multinationals were giving precious slots to beige line extensions, rather than taking chances on young challenger brands.

Cutting costs while cutting carbs

This was, without doubt, a sharp intake of breath moment. We could still see a glaring gap in the marketplace, but felt that our feet were stuck in low carb treacle.

We conducted a small Seedrs raise (£349,000) towards the back end of 2023 that surpassed our original target by 37%. We also streamlined the business, stripping out £250,000 in costs, which meant that even during our darkest days we remained a profitable enterprise.

The importance of innovation

This all sounds a tad depressing, but in truth, green shoots of recovery were afoot. We established an exclusive agreement with Gourmet International in the US, who have relationships with most major US supermarkets. North America has started ordering our low carb pizzas, while a new alliance with a leading multi-region logistics specialist means that we’re once again ready to tackle Europe.

Innovation-wise, we knew we needed to extend our reach yet further. Early in 2024, we trialled our own low carb pasta, and in May we launched some sublimely twangy dry noodles. Dry noodles are a vibrant, £51m category benefitting from the popularity of health-conscious Asian cuisine.

Awards are a great morale booster for the team, and in 2023 we were lucky enough to win the Food & Drink Federation’s Emerging SME award, as well as making the prestigious Startups 100 list at number 42.

The moral of the story? Never give up

In summary: never give up, because good news is often lurking around the next corner. We feel we’ve learnt loads at breakneck speed, which will benefit us significantly over the next 12 to 18 months.

2024 certainly won’t be easy, and yet we still feel our meticulously trimmed business is well placed to succeed over the coming months and years.

Andy Welch

Andy Welch is the founder of SRSLY Low Carb, a company that provides low carb alternatives to essentials such as bread, pasta, and pizza.

SRSLY Low Carb
Written by:

Leave a comment

Leave a reply

We value your comments but kindly requests all posts are on topic, constructive and respectful. Please review our commenting policy.

Back to Top