Pippa Murray, 29, launched her own peanut butter brand Pip & Nut in 2014 with neither business nor food production experience in a notoriously competitive industry. Powered by her innate confidence and a safety net of three months rent in the bank, she left her job as a theatre producer at London’s Science Museum to crack on with her product. Three years - and a multi-million pound turnover later - the company has new premises in trendy Spitalfields, where desk lunches are forbidden.
Why nut butter?
“I run a lot of marathons and after training sessions and races, I always wanted a peanut butter sandwich. But I discovered my high protein treat often contained lots of sugar and palm oil. I bought a blender and started trying out concoctions in my kitchen, then selling my 100% natural and tasty jars on a stall at Maltby Street market in London.”
Did you feel fearless when you left your job security?
“I call myself an optimistic risk taker. You have to take calculated risks in business if you want to succeed. I thought the worst that can happen is I don’t manage to raise the money and ultimately I’d just have to get another job.
“It was exciting that I could spend every hour of my day on the business. At the start it was ridiculous hours: 6 -7 days a week, 16 hours a day. It’s never felt like work, just really interesting and challenging. Nut butter is a really simple product but the complexities around it, like trademarking, legals and foreign exchange, are fascinating.”
Have you always had the will to succeed and been fearless?
“I am really driven. I’m dyslexic. I remember having to work really hard to get the grades that reflected my ability and my peers’ attainments and I think that determination has become part of my personality.
“My parents were shocked when I said I was going to quit my job for what they’d seen as a bit of a hobby. Profit and loss is not a phrase you hear in my family and I think parents always want you to build your life in a safe, stable way.”
Are there any parallels between running your own business and running marathons?
“The ability to stick at something; that stoicism. You have to push through when it feels uncomfortable; push past mile 18 and keep on going. When you’re training for a marathon, it’s quite lonely going out by yourself for a two mile run every day. Running your own business can also be a bit lonely and stressful, but you’ve got the vision of where it can go always in your mind’s eye, like the race finish line when you’re training.
“People talk about business as being an up and down rollercoaster but sometimes it’s quite flat, you just have to stick at it and plug away at it. It’s not all drama; it’s about working really hard for a consistently long period of time. That doesn’t sound exciting - but it’s so rewarding.
“Never having that Sunday dread for me is a massive win. I haven’t had it since starting my own business. There have been moments of extreme stress, times when I’ve had £1 in the bank and it’s felt really uncomfortable, but even then there’s a bit of adrenaline rush and I keep pushing forward.”
What’s been most rewarding thing about running your own business?
“The awards like winner of Women in Business and being named in the 35 under 35 by Management Today are the cherry on top, but seeing Pip & Nut on supermarket shelves is still the best feeling. Winning Sainsbury’s nine months after starting in November 2015 was a real highpoint. You really don’t know if your brand’s going to take off until you can see it selling in a national supermarket.
“On the Saturday stall I was selling 100 jars at a time; we’ve sold over 4 million units now. I started with a few boxes and now we ship container loads at any one time. This year we’ll hit just shy of £5 million turnover, after a third year of steady growth. It’s a nice feeling.”
Have you had any wobble moments when it seemed you might fail?
“The start-up phase was the hardest - when you’re setting up supply chains and raising money. When I was trying to raise the initial start-up capital of £100,000, I got so many nos from investors.
“They weren’t interested in investing in me because I’d never run a business before, never worked in the food industry before, barely had a product except for a bit of consumer testing at a market stall and a lot of people thought it was too high risk for them.”
But you believed in your product?
“I was determined to keep pushing and pitching and eventually I’d get a yes. I had a kind of blind view that everything would work out. I ended up raising £120,000 in nine days on a crowd funding platform called Crowdcube, splitting it between 80 investors, from those putting in £5 to some putting in £20,000.”
What’s the next challenge?
“To become the nation’s favourite health food brand. Building a brand that people love is the aspiration.
“I want to build a brand that’s long lasting and perhaps more meaningful because it’s built on a mission which is to help people live more healthily and have a more positive approach to food and nutrition. That’s what gives me most fulfilment - not just driving revenue but creating products I’m passionate about.”
Pippa Murray is part of THE AMEX FEAR-LESS SERIES which celebrates the achievements of the nation’s rising stars through their own unique and inspirational stories. Pippa joins five other British influencers who talk candidly about their personal path to achieving their potential and the bumps in the road they encountered along the way. You can read more of their stories here.
Promoter: American Express Services Europe Limited has its registered office at Belgrave House, 76 Buckingham Palace Road, London, SW1W 9AX, United Kingdom. It is registered in England and Wales with Company Number 1833139 and authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.