The Entrepreneur: Damien Kennedy, Wheyhey
The Young Gun and protein ice cream connoisseur explains why selling everything he owned to start a business was a risk worth taking...
Co-founder: Damien Kennedy
Description in one line: Wheyhey is the world's first low-fat, sugar-free protein ice-cream
Previous companies: N/A
Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:
- Wheyhey is creating a new product category.
- We are a platform brand with multiple innovations ready to launch.
- There is rapid growth in the sector we operate in.
What is your greatest business achievement to date?
Seeing our product go from a homemade ice cream machine, made in a flat in Brixton, to the shelves of Tesco two years later (Wheyhey recently signed a deal with the supermarket chain) has been one hell of a journey and achievement.
What numbers do you look at every day in your business?
Sales, sales, sales! And our digital marketing performance numbers.
To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans?
Our business has a strong export arm, we currently distribute into the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Scandinavia (Finland, Sweden, Denmark) as well as Germany and other European countries.
We are currently putting a plan in place to tackle the opportunity that we have in the USA!
Describe your growth funding path:
We started out by selling everything we own; from cars to flats. The next stage was a friends and family round.
More recently, we have had some high net worth angel investors come on board to fund our growth.
Where would you like your business to be in three years?
Turnover of £50m and to have developed a large footprint in the USA!
What is the hardest thing you have ever done in business?
Starting from scratch when £40,000 worth of ice cream melted in a freezer; which had no insurance. This VERY nearly broke the business before we even got a chance but we managed to recover and start again.
We've also found balancing our innovation pipeline with cash flow to be quite a challenge. It's easy to get carried away with exciting ideas and initiatives, but reminding yourself how it affects the bottom line is more than essential.
What was your biggest business mistake?
Leaving our ice cream in that freezer!
What is the most common serious mistake you see entrepreneurs make?
Over confidence and naivety when first coming in to the market place. Many entrepreneurs assume that their consumer will be just as excited about their product as they are. Unfortunately, simply launching an innovative product just doesn’t cut it.
Analysing your market place and the demographic that you are pitching your product is of up most importance to ensure you get your messaging, brand, tone of voice and product right!
How will your market look in three years?
Sugar conscious, high protein products aren’t going anywhere. The growth of the ‘healthy, better for you’ space is phenomenal.
In three years time, we will see the food and drink offering in the UK change drastically as this consumer-led trend forces the UK retailer space toward a greater acceptance of these types of products.
What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?
Turn off Dragons' Den, turn off The Apprentice and start speaking to people. Hearing the REAL stories of those who have trodden the path you wish to take is invaluable and may well stop you from making some easy to avoid, drastic mistakes.
There are all sorts of organisations that bring together entrepreneurial individuals to speak and share.
There have been no luxuries what so ever. Starting a business from scratch is the single hardest thing we’ve ever done and probably ever will do.
Executive education or learn it on the job?
Learn it on the job, but learn along the way at every opportunity possible.
What would make you a better leader?
Time. Time is the single most valuable commodity we have, and we certainly wish we had more!
What one thing do you wish you’d known when you started?
I wish I knew how hard it was, but then I would never have started! I guess blind naivety can be a good thing, sort of.
Felix Dennis' How to Get Rich – A deeply honest depiction of the realities of starting a business.
Ben Horowitz's The Hard Thing About Hard Things – It provides respite and relief as you find out that you are not alone and that everybody feels the pains, stresses and anxieties of starting a business.
Read more about the Wheyhey business story here in our Young Guns profile.