“Building a business is a 24/7 commitment, so passion is essential for success”
In an exclusive interview, we spoke to Thomas Hal Robson-Kanu, the Founder of The Turmeric Co. Well-known for his exploits on the football pitch as a player for Reading, West Brom, and Wales, where he scored that wonder goal against Belgium at Euro 2016, Thomas told us how he built his company whilst still playing the game, the similarities between professional sports and running a business, and much more.
Can you tell us about your background and what led you to set up The Turmeric Co.?
Our shots were birthed out of necessity as I experienced my own health challenges around inflammation. After severely injuring the anterior cruciate ligament in my knee, I was tired of trying the ‘conventional’ solutions recommended by doctors (which did not work!).
My father and I started looking into natural remedies, and turmeric kept cropping up in our research – the benefits were truly mind-blowing. Using raw turmeric root as the key component, we experimented with different functional ingredient combinations in liquid form and eventually struck gold with the formula that now fills 100s of The Turmeric Co. bottles a day.
After taking this unique blend consistently, my pain subsided. This was a total miracle at the time, as the doctors had written me off! My professional football aspirations and career were essentially saved through the elixir that we developed in our family kitchen.
Initially, I only shared this drink with my teammates at West Brom, but when we started seeing sugary, low-quality turmeric products on shop shelves, we thought it was only right to share our magic formula with the world. So in 2018, The Turmeric Co. was officially launched.
How did you juggle being a professional football player whilst building your business?
My natural knack for being organised combined with the discipline required to keep up with the demands of football put me in good stead for balancing my endeavours. When I wasn’t on the pitch, I’d dedicate my free time to building The Turmeric Co. Honestly, my laptop came everywhere with me!
Has having connections in the football world helped you to build the company?
As our formula was created in response to injuries that I picked up whilst playing, you can say that the foundations of The Turmeric Co. are rooted in sport. Today, our products are utilised by people from all walks of life to aid inflammation, enhance immunity, and boost energy levels, but whilst playing football professionally, I was a walking example of the positive impact that our shots have on performance. The products truly speak for themselves now.
Do you think there are any similarities between professional sports and building a business?
It takes a significant amount of focus and discipline to build a business, which are traits that professional sports can teach you in one way or another. As in all career journeys, there are still highs and lows; being able to self-motivate when things aren’t going as planned is a valuable tool.
There are great responsibilities in both jobs, but it is somewhat easier to switch off in football – you turn up, train or play, and then you go home. Building a business is a 24/7 commitment, which is why I feel that passion is essential for success.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a business leader and how did you overcome it?
At The Turmeric Co., we treat challenges as lessons – a chance to learn and evolve. This approach to work has trickled from the top down, as I feel that staying proactive drives momentum.
One of the most interesting ‘challenges’ I’ve faced is deciding what direction to steer the business; as we’ve scaled, there have been new opportunities from investors, overseas markets, and product development. Although this was expected as our products are incredibly versatile, choosing what avenues to explore first has been exciting to navigate.
Has acquiring clinical validation been important for The Turmeric Co.?
It goes under the radar, but natural products are heavily censored by ‘Big Pharma’. This means that we are significantly limited to what we can publicly ‘claim’ that our shots can do in terms of health, merely because our shots do not contain any chemical substances that pharmaceutical companies financially benefit from, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.
Despite 1000s of positive reviews and a committed customer base, we wanted to give our products more leverage from a scientific perspective. Our first clinical trial with a leading UK university concluded exactly what we knew to be true, but seeing the results from blood markers added a new level of authentication.
With innovation at our core, being able to conduct thorough scientific research into the makeup of our products will drive future product development, and will hopefully push for change in the political world of health and nutrition.
What trends are you currently seeing in your sector and how has the sector been affected by the current economic climate?
In general, people are opting for healthier options when it comes to the things that they consume, which is a bonus for us! There has been an increase in ‘natural’ supplements in the market as a result.
Consumers are being understandably savvier with their expenditures, but still seem to prioritise their health and wellness. This is why natural ‘health’ products like our shots are so important as they actually work, unlike the sugary, glorified apple juice shots that seem to be popping up everywhere!
You’re currently going through the process to become B Corp-certified. How have you found this and do you think other companies should do so too?
The process is a complex one, but our existing standards of social and environmental performance have put us in good stead to get this completed as soon as possible. From supply chains to charitable giving, businesses should be operating responsibly and with transparency – the B Corp certification is a trusted way of ensuring this, and I would urge all companies to commit to these standards too.
What are the merits of awards for underdog SMEs?
Making noise can be difficult for SMEs, especially in highly competitive sectors. Awards can build valuable brand awareness in both a B2B and B2C respect, and can also give the team a confidence boost. Networking is key to growth, and attending award ceremonies is an authentic way to facilitate this – you never know who you’ll get talking to!
How is the future shaping up for yourself and your business?
The future is looking orange! We have some game-changing products in the pipeline, are further expanding our distribution, and have just been named as one of the beneficiaries of Lloyds Bank and Channel 4’s ‘Black in Business’ initiative, meaning a TV ad will be coming to screens across the UK in the new year.
I can’t give too much away for now, but we’re definitely the ones to watch!