Jennifer Mo is the founder of Pura Collagen and nutritional formulations expert. Jennifer launched Pura Collagen in 2021, after 25 years of working in the sports nutrition industry. With experience in performance nutrition, anatomy and genetics, she has advised professionals from leading athletes to Navy SEALS. She has liaised with government ministries to ensure health products meet legislative requirements and has a great understanding of the health industry across USA, South East Asia, and Europe.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
I had worked in the sports nutrition industry since the early 90s, starting at a sports nutrition retailer in California. I then joined a national gym chain to help with its expansion across South East Asia before deciding to move to the UK in 2007.I worked across a number of private clients, working with them in a consulting capacity before joining Quest Nutrition in 2016. I left Quest shortly before the lockdown started, deciding it was time to launch my own product.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
Since moving to the UK in 2007, I still spent a great deal of time travelling over to the US for work. When I was there I would always get my fill of sports nutrition supplements that I just couldn’t get in the UK. When lockdown hit and I couldn’t travel I realised the huge gap in the UK market. I felt there was a need for a collagen brand that was solutions led.
How did you achieve awareness?
I’ve always believed the most credible way to achieve awareness is to create something effective. Our collagen blends all use very specific, targeted ingredients that have been proven to be effective with daily use in a very short amount of time. The blends are clean and easy to incorporate into a daily routine. In short, we’ve really focused on the end user experience and ‘the word of mouth’ swell around our brand has been amazing. With great user-generated content, we were able to form a monthly social media plan, which then grew into a coordinated SEO budget and then after about 6 months we layered in PR. We utilise specified contractors and agencies working on everything from our brand design to our digital strategy.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
Translating an idea from your brain, to a presentation and ultimately numbers so that someone else deems this also an exciting venture is quite daunting, but I was told very early on by one of my investors, ‘we are investing in you. There isn’t anyone else that knows your product or your marketplace better than you do. I just need to give you the financial support to succeed.’ I think about that advice often. It’s not an expectation that I should be the expert in everything but that I need to recognise what my brand needs and to recruit and seek out talent that will propel us forward. This ‘need’ will change as your brand goes from start up to grown up, it’s a constant check-in with myself to make sure I’m delegating effectively and recognising where the gaps in our abilities are.
What are the key successes?
I’m overwhelmed by how quickly we’ve landed shelf positions in national retailers. In traditional FMCG this process can take anywhere from 16-24 months to get a new product to market. I think we hit a very intense demand for health based products both online and in retailers and due to a number of supply chain issues there wasn’t much innovation from existing brands. This gave start-ups a fantastic opportunity to fast track the process, but only if you had a solid plan in place. We built a robust 24 month sales and production plan and had forecasted our raw material and packaging needs so we were able to activate that early. In under 10 months, we were an omni-channel brand, on shelf in established retail channels both in the UK and Middle East.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
I had never fund raised. How do you translate your vision into someone giving you money to make it a reality? I spent a lot of time checking and rechecking our figures. Initially, I also wanted to launch 30 products – that immediately got shortlisted to 2. I was new to narrowing my expectations and taking on only what I could manage. Oh, also did I mention we launched in the middle of a pandemic and went commercial a couple of months after Brexit went into effect? Yeah…. that took all of my prior knowledge of how to transact, ship, procure and turned it on its head.
There were many hours spent charging down paths that led nowhere and aspirations that actually just couldn’t be met due to various factors. I got so sick of looking at myself on a laptop screen for every video meeting that I almost turned my dining room into a full blown studio (lighting is everything). But at each hurdle, my team regrouped, learned and tried again. We had the courage to fail because we could be flawed in this new environment, we could scratch a plan and go back to the drawing board. I learned the value of never making a decision because someone else needed me to, I could be planned and strategic. I was making products that I personally used on a daily basis, my parents and other loved ones were using on a daily basis – we had a team of happy ‘Purafiers’ and they were having incredible results.
I knew we were onto a good thing, we just needed to push and push until we delivered that product – looking the way we wanted it to be presented – to the retail shelf. I mention ‘looking’ because the outer packaging is as considered as the formulation itself. We were committed to push the boundaries of supplementation outer packaging, make it plastic free, informative, easy to shop and use, and attractive. The packaging should reflect the excellence of the goods inside and well, we think we nailed that too.
What are your plans now/for the future?
As previously mentioned, I have issues with narrowing my focus, this relates to my ambitions too. I’ve been fortunate to work in a large number of global markets and I definitely designed Pura to translate into those places and more. We are very proudly a British brand, but I’m looking forward to bringing our British innovations to the global marketplace. We will be looking to fundraise approximately £250k for a vertical launch, ie manufacturing, warehousing and retailing, for each future market, the most immediate being Europe. I am so fortunate that word of our products has spread globally via social media and in order to accommodate that customer base, we will attempt to be as localised as possible. We built a very sturdy foundation that can be picked up and duplicated in multiple countries. We also have strategic partnerships in areas that make globalisation achievable. Our patented peptides, for instance, are manufactured in 16 locations around the world, making access to our source material accessible without the impediments of transit or storage. This also allows for tighter controls around demand planning. At some stage, once 2-3 key markets are producing and supplying locally, we would potentially do a further, much larger fund raise to sync our global marketing strategy. This would be in the region of multiple millions.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
Much like ‘ripping a plaster’, taking the leap from a salaried, corporate position to non-paid entrepreneurship was terrifying. I’m a single parent, there was no safety net of relying on a partner’s income to sustain me whilst I got the business going. I had to have utter faith that I was ready to put this plan/dream into action.
It was absolutely the right decision. I had spent over 25 years gaining knowledge and executing then giving that all to each brand I worked for. I knew my space and my plan and the pandemic actually gave me the headspace to consider this decision carefully. Now at the end of my day I struggle to shut my laptop rather than counting the minutes until I can.
Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?
As a founder, I feel driven and full of creative energy, but also as a crucial cog in the wheel of progress. If I slow down, what happens to the machinery? Also, with globalisation, there is always someone working at all hours. I can start my day early with calls in Asia and end quite late chatting with LA. One thing that I try to incorporate is daily exercise. That 45minn- 1hr allows me time to checkout and focus on me. Yes, I may check my phone 10 times or take a call but I show up for me.
In addition to looking after yourself so that the best you are showing up everyday, I also highly believe in surrounding myself with talented people. I cannot know all things that my business needs to function at a premium level. Identifying talent, whether it is budding or seasoned, is a great way to look after your business and learn along the journey.
Lastly, I believe in networking and connecting with like minded individuals. Nothing beats face to face time, outside of the distraction of the office. Put your phone down and really focus on people. You’ll gain so much knowledge and insight. And listen to someone when they offer help. They truly mean it and it can save you a lot of valuable time when you ask and receive that assistance.
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?
This list starts firmly with my 2 daughters Madison and Harper. They have grown up with a working mummy. I took a career break when they were very little and loved every second, but also knew when it was time to resume my career. I’ve always wanted them to see that if you try hard and have a dream and a vision that you can achieve goals you set for yourself.
I’m inspired by the late, great Ruth Bater Ginsburg. A phenomenal partner to her husband, mother to her children and ceiling smasher in education and law. The science lover in me is fully in awe of the early pioneers like Marie Curie, the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and Kati Kariko who’s research in genetic code RNA led to the first coronavirus vaccination.
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
‘Stay in your lane’. I say this on a weekly basis. My business partner and I are very good at very different things. We efficiently manage our business days by staying in our lanes, he does what he’s good at and I do what I’m good at and we fully trust the other to get on with those tasks. This eliminates a lot of second guessing and time wasting, two things that can really derail your day.
What are your Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn social handles and also website links so our readers can connect with you?
(9) Pura Collagen | Facebook @puracollagen