It's Launch Day! Well, of the podcast anyway...
In the inaugural episode of 'Now, That's What I Call Business,' join Brianne West, founder of Ethique, as she embarks on her new venture, Incrediballs.
This is a transcript of the first episode of 'Now, That's What I call Business.' You can listen to it here.
Hello and welcome to the first episode of Now That's What I Call Business. I'm your host, Brianne West. You might know me as the founder and former CEO of Ethique, the world's first regenerative beauty brand, based right here in Aotearoa, New Zealand. Today is the first episode, and I know I've been teasing you all because today is the day I'm going to tell you what the new business is all about. But first, let me take you back, way back to where it all began. I started Ethique in my kitchen when I was a university student, when I was 24, 25, back in 2012.
That tells you how old I am. I was studying science, and I was so excited about using science to solve so many of the problems I saw about social and environmental. But I didn't really know I wanted to do with it. My very first day of university, I started a company. All of my flatmates had gone to work and I realised, well, it wasn't a realisation, I already knew this, I definitely didn't want to work with someone else. I started a cake decorating company and it went great for the first day until I got my first order and realised, oh shit, I can't decorate cakes.
And that sort of gives you an insight into my entrepreneurial leanings. I'm a little bit leap first, look later, if at all. My next couple of businesses I started, one was a confectionary company, one was a cosmetics company, and I'll go into them in greater detail in future episodes. But the two other companies, Pure, the cosmetics company, and Tub, the confectionary company, they just grew too fast. People loved both products, but I simply couldn't keep up with demand and I didn't have the money to be able to invest to support that demand.
Ultimately, I sold both of them, but they were like a real world MBA. They taught me more than a real MBA ever would, and it was that knowledge I then put in into Ethique. It worked out well in the end. They both taught me a lot. They were heaps of fun. I sold them both, because ultimately I got bored. But I came to the realization that to keep me interested, what I did had to have more of a meaning than just selling stuff. I sold this confectionary company, because that never did anything but give people diabetes, and I sold the cosmetics company, because that was just a cosmetics company.
And with that, I decided to start Ethique and combine my passion for science, the environment, my love for animals into a business that would not only solve the plastic crisis, but also show other businesses how possible it was to operate ethically, kindly, and fairly and still be profitable. 10 years later, Ethique is now in 22 countries around the world and 8,000 stockers, and I think we have changed the industry. Because even five years ago, there was no shampoo bars on the shelves or supermarkets.
And now in every store you go into, there's guaranteed to be one or two options and every major CPG company has released a shampoo bar. I think that's a sign that the industry has changed. And now I'm going to do it again. My belief is that businesses not only should, but are really the best thing to change the world and solve the problems we face, in no small part, because business cause such a high proportion of them. If you go back to the root cause of so many of the things we face, from inequality to the cost of living crisis to the mass environmental destruction, it all comes down to business.
It's business' obligation to fix these issues. And hey, you know what? If business leaders don't want, then consumers are going to force them to. But there are more and more business leaders like me who want to use business to do the right thing because it's possible to be profitable and purpose-lead. Ethique has been anything but smooth sailing. My God! The very first day I moved into my first factory out of my flat, I was so excited. It was the best feeling to finally have some place of my own, right?
And I set it on fire. I put some molds in the oven to dry and they set that brand new oven on fire. Unfortunately, I've seen quite a few things on fire before. It turns out that crock-pots and microwaves are really flammable when you use them for things other than food, shampoo. These incidents, while funnily disastrous, they were just little stepping stones on the way to creating Ethique today. But today is not about Ethique. I am not going into the story about Ethique. If you want to hear about that, it's pretty much everywhere else because I've done millions of podcasts myself.
Today is about the new venture. I need a drum roll. It's called Incrediballs. The name is no surprise to some of you who've been following me on TikTok and Instagram. The idea has been brewing for a long time, years and years. Because to me, the way we do beverages and drinks in general is bonkers. Does this sound familiar? Because this is how I thought about the cosmetics industry. It makes no sense to me that we package up something that can be up to 99% water, put that in a plastic bottle and ship it around the world.
You have water in your tap. The vast majority of us, and certainly almost everybody listening to this podcast, you have water you can drink in your tap. Why are we buying flavored water? Why are we buying carbonated drinks? We don't need to, and I'm going to show you how. The bottled drinks industry is over $400 billion annually. If Incrediballs can disrupt even a small amount of that, I will consider it an enormous success. We revolutionized the cosmetics industry, and now we're going to do it again for the beverage one.
Incrediballs is super simple as a concept. They are concentrated drink tablets. You pop them in a glass of water, champagne, your favorite spirit. They dissolve and create the most delicious flavors. There's going to be two ranges to begin with because I have about 180 ideas and I'm trying to narrow it down. This is the problem with my brain. I always think of all of the exciting bits and sometimes practicality has to set in however. The first range will be just your everyday flavors.
This is the things that we're going to take on Coke, the world's biggest plastic polluter. Things like a cola flavor. We're going to have lemon, lime and bitters. We're going to have a couple of other flavors, and I will be requesting flavors from you, so stay tuned. The second range is our functional range. This is things that will help you get to sleep, help you wake up in the morning, give you some vitamins and minerals, or vitamins and minerals as Kiwis would say. Things that will add to your daily well-being.
But I'm a biochemist. I don't subscribe to nonsense science and diet garbage, so you know that these will work. The ingredients we put in will be put in at a level that's actually effective for you. They will also be bioavailable. That means not only will they just be in there, they will be in there and your body will be able to absorb them and use them, things like protein, probiotics, vitamin C, riboflavin. I can't tell you everything. Otherwise, there won't be any excitement for launch day.
Talking about launch day, today is not launch day. Launch day is months and months away, but I'm doing something a little bit different. I want to bring you along the journey of building a startup because I wanted to have a podcast for a while talking about all I've learned about building a mission-led startup. But there's so many great podcasts out there who are interviewing people. I didn't want to do that. I wanted to ensure I had something different. This is going to be like a diarized version of building Incrediballs.
You are going to come with me through every decision, every trip, every opportunity, every disaster and challenge. I'll show you how I handle it because that will equip you better than anything on your journey to build your mission-led startup. Or hey, if you're just like behind the scenes of your favorite business, then follow along too. I know what you're thinking. Disrupting the $400 billion drink industry sounds insane. I've been told that before. I cannot tell you how many people told me Ethique was a stupid idea.
Proved them wrong. If there is one thing I have learned is that people love a business with a story and a mission. People don't care if you're selling a product. They don't care that it's the new shampoo or it's a new flavored drink. They want to know why. They want to understand the purpose behind why you're doing what you're doing. That is why purpose-led businesses grow faster and generate greater loyalty and retain staff for longer. Not to mention, they're profitable faster. Despite all of this bullshit we've heard that purpose-led businesses don't work, it's the complete opposite.
So far, the Incrediballs journey has been up and down. Since I stepped down as CEO of Ethique about eight weeks ago, we have got a lot done. Secured trademarks, because if you know anything about the Ethique story, you know that it started as Sorbet. And as we expanded internationally, we couldn't have Sorbet in America or Australia, so I had to change our brand in about a week and it was a horrible time. We're starting off on the right foot. We've secured the Incrediballs trademark.
We've got Incrediballs.com. Go and check it out. Sign up to the waiting list because we're going to be asking for testers soon and we're going to need a whole lot of you to make sure our flavors are delish. I've got some amazing branding. The same person who designed all of my businesses is doing Incrediball branding and I'm so stoked to go on this journey with her again. This is also something, in the next few episodes, we'll be asking your opinion about, what's your favorite color?
Do you like this logo? Do you like this song? What about this packaging? This is going to be a community built brand, and I think that's probably the most exciting bit. For all of you who have asked me if we will be offering shares in Incrediballs, well, who knows? Never say never, but keep an eye out. For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, Ethique was founded through equity crowdfunding. We did two equity crowdfunding rounds. The first one, we raised $200,000 from 152 shareholders in 10 days.
The second round, a couple of years later, we raised half a million dollars in 90 minutes, and we had one of the most successful equity crowdfunding exits ever for those shareholders, with the earliest shareholders making a 4,800% return. That paid off mortgages, and that's probably one of my proudest achievements. The biggest issue with Incrediballs though is not money. It's not trademarks. It's not branding. It's the god-damn packaging. I will not do this unless I can do home-compostable packaging.
I have talked to numerous manufacturers and packaging experts who say that effervescent drinks are too hygroscopic for compostable packaging. Hygroscopic means they attract water. Obviously they do. That's how they dissolve. And as a result, you need to have a really strong barrier. This is why your Berocca tablets and so on are packaged in plastic. But I don't do no. I believe if you continue to ask questions and investigate options and continue pushing people, you will eventually get what you want.
Everything is solvable. This is no exception. This is actually why I'm off to the UK in a few weeks time because we may have resolved this packaging with some very clever innovation going on over there. Stay tuned. I'll take you with me. Obviously, Incrediballs will have all of the values you are familiar with with Ethique, because those are my values. It's things like palm oil free, vegan. They will be plastic free. They will have natural flavors and colors and no artificial sweeteners.
They will have, again, those extracts at scientifically useful levels. And now talking about a little bit personally, I have to say, I am much more frightened this way around. All of my mentees are frightened on some level, right? And I get that. I wasn't super nervous when it came to starting Ethique because I didn't really grasp how big it would ever get, of course. I mean, you want it to be a billion dollar brand, but you don't really say that. I was so ignorant to all of the things that could happen that I wasn't that nervous.
This time around I know what can happen, and this time around I feel like everyone's expecting it to be a success because I've done it before. I know what to avoid. I know what to do. I'm kind of freaked out that, well, it's not that simple. Luck and timing are huge parts of business, and I may not get lucky this time around. I may not have good timing this time around. All sorts of things can happen, and that's a scary thought. No, I should be doing it, obviously. Fuck it. We're all going to be dead in a hundred years.
What's the worst thing that could happen? This podcast is going to be messy. It's going to be chaotic. I'm going to take you along the journey. I'll take you to the UK, to Australia, as we build relationships around the world. Incrediballs will launch in Australia, New Zealand, and America simultaneously hopefully around October-November this year. But you know what? Startups are messy and it may not be. It may be next year. But let's see. It's hardly going to be a cakewalk.
Along the way, I'm going to feed in stories about the lessons I've learned and just general tips and advice that might make your journey a little bit easier. But at the end of the day, you know you're not alone and building this shit is hard. This is a short, but sweet introduction. Next week, we will start delving into the inner workings of Incrediballs. In the meantime, head over to Incrediballs.com. That's I-N-C-R-E-D-I-B-A-L-L-S.com. Sign up because hey, we might be asking you to be a tester, and I really want you to come along and be a part of this adventure.
Because building a startup is heaps of fun. Thank you for listening. This is my first ever podcast on my own. It's weird. You've got to have a conversation with yourself. You know what? I mean, I normally have conversations with myself. Sometimes it's the only way you get an intelligent answer. But hopefully this has been interesting. I cannot wait to build this business with you. Follow along and let's go change the world.