From finanical services to personalised nutrition: the entrepreneur pioneering a global industry
Melissa Snover is the Founder & CEO of personalised nutrition and medicine brand R3medy Health. The company has made headlines over the last few years due to its seismic growth, and this seems to just be the beginning.
After forming in May 2019, the company successfully raised its seed round by the end of the year. The round gave Melissa the title of the largest seed round ever raised by a female founder in the United Kingdom, securing over £2m. It was followed by an £8.8m Series A raise after seeing the company’s revenues grow by more than 600% in a 12-month period.
We sat down for a discussion with Melissa about partnering with large corporates, her fundraising journey, international expansion, and much more.
The first business you opened was in financial services. What drove you to launch the business?
I set that company up as part of a project for university and it was set up to try and test a different type of tech-enabled solution. It was before the days of services like MoneySuperMarket. The way you got advice then was to go into an office, sit down with someone while they filled in a paper form, and then they’d call different banks to try get you the best deal. I thought that this was ripe for disruption.
I set out to find ways of automating some of that process by creating databases of live product streams from different banks to make it easier for advisors to be able to find information quicker, eventually leading to the consumer being able to find that stuff themselves. I ended up running it for about six years.
I found out around halfway through that I wasn’t really in love with what we were doing, and I didn’t love financial services in general. I was in love with being an entrepreneur, being able to create something new, and truly making a difference in people’s lives. When I had the opportunity to sell that, that’s really when I got to start doing projects that I had a passion for. That’s what led me on the path that where I am today at Rem3dy.
After you sold the financial services business, did you find that many of the lessons you learnt were transferable to your next confectionery venture?
There are certain things around time management and project management that I think you can use in every business, as well as being a good boss, being a good manager, negotiating, and sales. Even if you’re not in sales, you are selling ideas and you are selling new projects to your team to bring them on board and get them excited. While these are transferable, Goody Good Stuff, which was the company I started after selling, was the biggest education of my life.
I had no idea what I was doing. I was just somebody who was a vegetarian who wanted gummy candy that wasn’t made from gelatine. I think if I would have known the gravity of what I was trying to do, I would not have tried to do it, and so I think in a way it was a blessing in disguise. At the time I thought I had a lot of money, but when I look back now, it’s laughable that I thought I could build a global consumer retail brand without much money.
I had no idea about packaging, I had no idea about manufacturing, I had no idea how to pitch a retailer, I had no idea about marketing at all. I had to learn all of that from the ground up. I had to find contract manufacturers, I had to pitch every retailer myself, I had to ship our Amazon parcels, and answer every social media request. I set up a global distribution network from scratch and by the end of it, we were selling in 40,000 stores and we had strong numbers.
Everything was bootstrapped at this stage. Could you tell us about your fundraising journey, especially once you’d established Rem3dy Health?
I’d established the Nourished brand and it had become quite well known in the UK because it’s available direct to consumers, but where I actually started was personalising curative health; so personalised medicine. I realised that it had massive potential, but it would be very expensive and take a long time to bring it to market, as is the case with most bioscience and most life science.
For the first time, I felt like I had something that deserved and needed additional support. But to be able to reach its full potential, I was going to need some strategic expertise to be able to guide and support the business because I was doing something I had never done before, and Pharma is a minefield if you don’t know what you’re doing.
I set up this idea for Rem3dy Health and then went to market for my seed round. This is widely considered the hardest round because you’re going to market with, and asking people to take a massive bet on, an idea. You don’t have a factory, you don’t have established sales, you might have a little IP but, in general, the businesses at seed are the highest risk, and they are the hardest to get people to come on board with. Luckily, I had my reputation, which, by no stretch of the imagination, was complex, but it was at least something where I could show that I had started several companies, I had sold them, and I had been successful enough to be bought.
I started that round, with no network in investment or invested myself, so I listened to every VC podcast, and I read every book I could find on investment. The best book I read on investment was Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist, which I would recommend because it demystifies a lot of the language and the whole framework that it exists in.
I went out to my network of friends and family and the people I had met in my previous jobs and was able to find a couple of incredible angels that then introduced me to their networks and so on. By the end of it, I raised about £2.5m, which was the highest-ever female founder’s seed round in the UK at the time (which is too low to be the record, so I would really like someone to beat me immediately!) Once we got that money in, we built a factory, and we started making products. By the time I got to my Series A, people knew who we were, they could find us online, they could order our product, they could see the consumer reviews, and it was a lot less difficult to get people to understand what we were trying to do.
You’ve partnered with large companies such as Neutrogena and Colgate. Could you let us know how this came about and how have you found that experience?
Since we launched the product to market in 2020, we receive inbound inquiries from large- and medium-sized corporates on a regular basis asking us to partner with them or make products for them. The truth is that we say ‘no’ to around 90% of them because it’s very important to me and to my team that any partner that we work with really have a shared mission, values, and ethics to us.
I used to find that really difficult to say no to these opportunities because they’re big businesses and big brands but as I’ve grown older, and as I’ve been in the CEO role for longer, I find it less and less difficult to say no. It actually makes me quite proud when I say no, because it means that we’re focused, and we’re unified on what we want to do.
The way that the Neutrogena partnership came about was that one of their innovation scouts found our product. We started talking to them about what we do, they started talking to us about some of the things that they were doing in the technology-enablement area, and we very clearly had a shared mission and shared values.
They are world-leading experts in dermatology, and have been for over 90 years, whereas we are world-leading in innovative personalisation manufacturing. No matter how long my team and I would have, we would never be able to fast-track to get to the level of knowledge and expertise that they have in their specific area. We had the same experience with Colgate, who are world leaders in oral care. Together, we were able to create something really powerful, which neither of us could have done on our own.
You’ve announced recently that you are expanding internationally. Could you tell us about this expansion into Japan and how this came about?
Similar story to the previous question, we were contacted by Suntory Group. They are an amazing business with a huge heritage around consumer products. They make different Japanese whiskies, beers, and green teas, but they have a whole business in wellness. Their product portfolio is vast, and they are category captains in many of these things in Japan.
We were at a food show where I was doing a presentation. They reached out to us, and we had several conversations around what we were working on, what our goals were, and they shared the same with us. We both agreed that there is a big opportunity for personalised nutrition in Japan. I absolutely adore working with them. We’re currently in the middle of a consumer test, where we have created around 14 different flavours specifically developed to delight the palate of Japanese people because it’s different to what we are used to in the UK, United States, or other big markets.
We also developed an online portal, translated to Japanese with a consultation questionnaire to allow them to go through the personalisation experience. The products are on their way to Japan, and then we’re going to be doing a survey with them to find out what people think, then we will fine-tune, optimise, and make sure the product market fit is strong before going to a live consumer test later this year.
What makes a great business leader?
A great business leader to me has self-awareness and resilience. I think being self-aware helps you be a better manager, helps you be a better salesperson, and helps you be better at identifying new opportunities for your business. It also helps you with your mental health which is important. As a leader, you can feel very lonely because you will fail so many times. If you’re not resilient, you just won’t make it and you certainly won’t become a great business leader.