How it feels to win £150,000 business investment from the UK’s largest ever seed funding competition
Itsy founder Chris Grunwell was recently crowned the December Start-Up Series winner. Unlike other investor dealings, Grunwell outlines how he found the process to be “refreshing” and how your start-up could also benefit…
Founder: Chris Grunwell
Company: Itsy (rebranded from Nuripod)
Description: A compact and portable blender enabling parents to make baby food on-the-go with ingredients of their choice
The business idea for Itsy struck IT professional Chris Grunwell as a result of fortunate timing: his daughter Frankie, born in July 2015, had become ready for weaning just as Christmas hit full swing.
“As we were visiting families at Christmas – and there’s loads of food everywhere,” Manchester-based Grunwell explains, “I was looking for a gadget that would let me prepare something for Frankie without having to take loads of stuff with us or buy jars and sachets.”
Unable to find a solution to turn the available festive fare into digestible food for his young daughter, Grunwell concluded that the baby weaning industry was falling short and, as a health-conscious parent, he identified a need for innovation:
“We don’t buy ready-meals, and we’re not a massive takeaway-ordering kind of a family. We felt like the jars and the sachets on offer to our daughter were the same thing; ready meals for kids.”
Determined to come up with an answer, Grunwell created the Itsy Blitz, a disruptive portable food processor which enables parents to blend ingredients of their choice into fresh baby food. The business champions convenient and “homemade, hearty and healthy” feeding for infants and has been crowned winner of the December Start-Up Series – the UK’s largest ever seed funding competition – securing £150,000 equity funding.
Grunwell knew that he would need to raise finance to fund the manufacture, assembly, testing and research of the Itsy Blitz, so the Start-Up Series was immediately of interest:
“I had a couple of meetings with some funding providers and angel networks but I was still unsure at that stage whether I was prepared to give away equity. I was thinking over those predicaments when the Start-Up Series came up.”
However, when Grunwell first heard of the monthly competition, run by Startups.co.uk in partnership with Worth Capital, he initially dismissed it.
“I thought, that’s not for me, that’s for much more established businesses, much more experienced businessmen or women,” he reflects. “But the more I thought about it, the more it sat right with me; I convinced myself that the business was at the right stage to take that investment.”
Enter your business for the Start-Up Series here.
Having submitted his Start-Up Series entry back in December, Grunwell notes that he was surprised at how uncomplicated the competition was and remembers being grateful for the staggered process which took the application stage by stage.
“Not being greeted with a 15-page application form was surprising but really refreshing, especially because, at the time, I was juggling a full-time job and the Nuripod (since rebranded to Itsy Blitz) project.” He adds: “Being able to compile the application piecemeal was a godsend.”
After submitting his business plan and video, Grunwell was selected to take part in a telephone interview with Worth Capital. Next, he and his business partner were invited for a half-day ‘deep dive’ meeting, which saw them discuss their start-up and its future plans in great depth.
On dealing with Worth Capital investors, Grunwell notes that it was a “lovely” experience: “It was nothing but a pleasure; going through what we’ve done so far and where we go from here. I can talk about my business all day long, as most entrepreneurs can, so it was very enjoyable. The most nerve-wracking bit was waiting for the decision, rather than anything before!”
When that decision was made, Grunwell learnt that Isty had won the December competition and would receive £150,000 equity seed funding, as well as invaluable business guidance from Worth Capital.
Describing the win as “amazing”, Grunwell notes that the competition offered “vindication” of his business idea; “not only of the product but of myself and the people who I’ve got working alongside me.”
So, why was he chosen as the December winner? Grunwell believes it was primarily the Itsy Blitz USP that won the judges over: “The product speaks for itself but I’m also quite a vivacious and determined character as well so I think they saw a bit of that.”
Now preparing for the business’ launch in September, Grunwell intends to use the equity investment to secure the manufacture and supply of the device and develop a marketing strategy. “We’re trying to do things differently and we’re not trying to use the usual cutesy baby approach. This is about family; families eating together and the values that come with that.”
But Grunwell doesn’t plan to stop there, and has wider ambitions to develop into international markets and build further products for the Itsy portfolio to “create the foodies of tomorrow.”
His ultimate goal? “To see Itsy actually make a difference to lots and lots of people. On the news there are lots of stats for obesity and obese children, and I’d like to see it actually chip away at that with promotion of healthy and homemade food.”
“If I could just add to that fight, and give parents and babies and children a relaxed, non-fussy attitude to food, that would tick my box massively.”
Thanks to the key seed funding and expert business advice now on offer to Grunwell through his Start-Up Series win, his goals are that much closer to becoming reality. Describing the competition as “a perfect fit” for his start-up, Grunwell finishes our interview with yet more praise: “This is a huge stepping stone towards making something really important in this marketplace.”
Are you looking to kickstart your business with a funding boost? Startups.co.uk has partnered with Worth Capital to launch the Start-Up Series, the UK’s largest seed funding competition, with one early-stage business per month given the chance to win £150,000 SEIS equity seed investment. To be in with a chance of winning, enter here!