Revive Active: Preparation is key for post-Brexit success

Preparation is everything when it comes to Brexit, with the consensus being that you really can’t start early enough to prepare for the changes that will come in 2021. One company that knows everything about preparation is Revive Active, a massive success story in the Irish health supplements sector that is determined not to let Brexit slow down their plans of expansion in the UK.

 

Revive Active has been successful almost from its formation in 2011, thanks in large part to research and its dedication to producing exceptional products. The company was founded by Daithí O’Connor, who comes from a finance background but put over 12 months’ research into the supplements sector before establishing the company. “It was almost by accident that I was introduced to supplementation,” he explains. “There were a number of medics in Galway who were interested in alternative medicine and I was introduced from the business side. While they had an array of different ingredients that they would recommend to individuals, nobody had taken on the task of putting these ingredients into one product.

Daithí could see the effects of key ingredients such as CoQ10 and L-Arginine, both of which were involved in Nobel prize-winning studies, and so came up with the idea of putting these ingredients in with many other vital ingredients for wellbeing. “The idea was to make the best product possible, and then figure out the rest afterwards. That has always been the main thrust of our business, to always raise the bar. Our first product, Revive Active, is our flagship product, and contains 26 ingredients in a dissolvable sachet that is easily absorbed. We have 13g of product in there with no fillers or binders – to take Revive Active in tablet form would mean taking thirteen individual tablets.

And undoubtedly, the business has been a success: From 2016 to 2018, turnover doubled, and from 2018 to 2020, it doubled again.

Brexit strategy 1: Move to Ireland 

Today, the company has nine products, with one more in development, seven of which are manufactured by the company inhouse. At first manufacturing was outsourced to the UK, but with Brexit looming, Daithí made the decision to move the operations inhouse to Ireland. “I always wanted to come back to Ireland and manufacture here but we were curtailed by finances. But with Brexit coming I discussed it with our head of operations Colm Horton, , we thought we would bite the bullet and set it up. It has been a fantastic success, and we now have 14 people employed in Mullingar. We’ve been in operation about 18 months and already it’s getting too small and we’re looking at additional warehousing for storage.”

The move was made to minimise the financial risks from Brexit; in 2018, the company was granted European Regional Development Funding (EDRF) for the employment of a manufacturing manager at the plant. EDRF grants are implemented and managed by Enterprise Ireland.

Brexit strategy 2: Put your customers first  

From the very start, Revive Active’s greatest marketing tool was its customers. Our biggest issue was trying to explain to the consumer why our product was different,” Daithí says. “You’re curtailed by claims – even the two ingredients with Nobel Prizes behind them don’t have claims with the European Food & Safety Authority. So, our customers were our biggest advocates and salespeople because they experienced the products benefits. Different people got different results, eg sleeping better, more energy, clearer thought, fewer colds and flus, and they then would tell their friends. Word of mouth is still so important for us.”

Daithí could clearly see that keeping the customer happy was key to success in post-Brexit Britain. “Our customers don’t care about Brexit. If they order a product, they expect to get it the following day. We must maintain our top class service to our  customers as anything less would be a threat to our business.”

“We thought at one stage we could supply everything for the UK from Mullingar, and perhaps incorporate the tariffs and customs. But then we began to think that we could not risk our product being stuck in customs. So first we have built up stock, which we will send over before the end of the year to give us a two-month buffer. Then we are contracting out manufacturing to a company in Wales to supply the UK. It means we have two separate entities supplying the UK and Europe.”

Daithí says that supply to Northern Ireland could come from either location, and it’s important decisions like these that Enterprise Ireland’s advisal services have been invaluable. “Enterprise Ireland has been a great support to us with making such decisions over the past few years. In fact, I have been in touch with a specialist logistics person to discuss Northern Ireland post-Brexit.”

Brexit strategy 3: Look at the market trends

Daithí says that the UK represents about 10-15% of their business, but he sees significant room there for growth. The company has retail partners in Ireland, the UK, Nigeria and Portugal, but online is an important market, and through this, they sell all over the world. And it is here that Daithí sees the opportunities for growth in the UK post-Brexit and in wake of Covid-19.

“The whole industry has changed with Covid; the city centres are not getting the business they had before, but online is way up. Community pharmacies are also probably seeing an uplift. Luckily, we had a presence both in the city centre and through community pharmacies already.”

The company can also see the advantages of being a health and wellbeing business at a time when health is everything to the consumer. Both the online business and this focus on health and fitness have had an impact on Revive Active’s marketing plans in the UK. “We’re supplying Sheffield United football club for the 2021 season with Zest – we’re the official immune-support partner for the club,” says Daithí. “We also have a number of ambassadors such as Irish international and Sheffield United player John Egan and professional rugby player James Ryan. We’ll also launch a PR and digital marketing campaign to really push the business next year.”

Making an impact in the UK

CEO of Scurri, Rory O’Connor, explains how getting market traction with online merchants in the UK required ‘being on the ground’

 

Clichés abound in business: great leadership is about walking the walk.  Success in social media marketing comes from living the brand.  The reasons why they have become clichés is that they contain more than a grain of truth…and textbook advice on success in international markets is no different. Pundits, rightly, expound the need to know the customer, be there on the ground and to burn shoe leather.

Founder and CEO of Scurri, Rory O’Connor, has done all that and more to get market traction in the UK. With headquarters in Wexford, Scurri offers a single platform for online merchants to prepare, despatch and track all of their shipments to customers, regardless of the carrier they choose.

“There was no question but Scurri had to be in the UK,” says O’Connor. In value terms, it’s the third biggest e-commerce market globally, behind China and the US. More than that, the UK has the highest proportion of online compared to total retail sales at 13 per cent, and, with players like Amazon, it’s seen as a cradle of innovation for the industry.

 

Delivering on Brand Promises

 

But with the cost of failed deliveries in the UK already starting to nudge towards £1bn per year, there is still a lot of scope for innovation and service improvement to avoid bottlenecks and damaged reputations… and this is where Scurri comes in.

Integrating seamlessly into existing order processes and fulfilment software, the Scurri platform promises to manage merchants’ delivery partners to effectively deliver on brand promises and drive customer loyalty.

Customers include Amazon, VisionDirect, Argos, eBay, Asos, Achica and Oxendales, as well as most of the major delivery integrators – RoyalMail, DHL, DPD and Fastway. Signing up industry innovator Zara proved to be a crucial turning point for the company, but it wasn’t always like this. O’Connor initially tried to break into the market by flying in and out. “I’d book a meeting in advance, book the flights, then something would crop up, and I’d be left walking around London with nothing to do,” he recalls.

 

Prising Open the UK Market

 

Feeling he was getting nowhere fast, he rented an apartment in London and got set up with a desk at a tech hub within a matter of hours. Initially the plan was to stay for three months, but O’Connor ended up based in London on an intensive basis for six to nine months. Only now, after “three days a week, every week” for the past couple of years, he feels he’s in a position where he can pull back.

To break into networks, he says that initially he went to “every dog fight: breakfast meetings, e-commerce trade shows. I joined networks, went for beers. I was over there on my own, so there was nothing else to do.” Gradually, he became known, and because he was on the ground, he could agree to meet over a quick coffee at short notice, whenever a contact had an opening in their diary.

“The reality is there are huge opportunities in the UK – and huge competition,” O’Connor says. “In the online sector, they make decisions quickly. It’s competitive and fast-moving.” That competitive, fast-paced environment proved fortunate, as new contacts who had invested in alternative platforms subsequently came back to try Scurri.

“It’s an industry where they are looking for innovation, and newness is seen as an advantage,” O’Connor says. “If you can prove your value proposition, if you can deliver the service, if your price is right and they can trust you, you will get deals. But, it’s the same as in any market: you need to be known.”

About 90 per cent of Scurri’s customers are now UK-based, and the company has its own UK sales director. But looking back, O’Connor doesn’t feel there was an easy alternative to being there himself to initially prise open the door and understand the industry well enough to draw up a spec list of the skill-set and rolodex of contacts needed to take the opportunity forward. “Otherwise, how would you know what to look for?” he asks. “You would be totally naïve when interviewing. You need to be there and know the market yourself to get a sense of how well people are known in the trade. If anything, I wish I had moved there sooner.”

For advice and news from the Enterprise Ireland team in the UK, visit Evolve UK.