Michelle Butler is the Co-Founder of Good4U. After she completed her honours degree in nutrition, she spent two years working with Good4U, but was keen to develop a career in clinical nutrition so took the jump and moved to London to complete a PgDip in Dietetics at Kings College London.
Michelle worked in both public and private settings in hospitals and corporate environments throughout her career. But her heart was always with Good4U and continued working as a nutrition consultant, working on all matters relating to food labelling, blogs, and nutrition in schools.
Her experience working directly with clients also gave them a much greater understanding of needs and requirements of people today and how as a company could provide solutions.
This helped drive Good4U’s innovation pipeline and develop solutions that really helped people to make the healthy choice and incorporate ingredients to boost their daily meals.
Could you tell us a little bit about your journey to becoming co-founder of Good4U?
I was fortunate to have grown up in a family business environment, as my parents started their own food business very soon after they met. Platter Foods, a business that started in the home kitchen grew exponentially in a very short period and was acquired by Kerry Foods.
Food was a very important part of our daily lives and regardless of how busy things were, our parents would make sure to take the time to sit around the table together and enjoy a home cooked meal. I had a keen interest in cooking and creating recipes at an early age and often myself and my siblings would prepare dinner for our parents as they were working incredibly hard to keep their business running, employing 80 and working double shifts.
As I became more aware of the benefits of a nutritious diet on our health, I was inspired to pursue a career in nutrition. On my placement year of my BSc, we then discovered sprouted seeds. We were blown away by the health attributes associated with these baby plants and wanted to make them available to everyone.
The journey began. My first two years in the business were extremely varied, one day reviewing clinical trials on the benefits of sprouts, the next in overalls harvesting sprouts, and the next working 10 hour shifts at trade and consumer show to create awareness about this very novel and unique concept. No day was the same and I loved it! Soon after my sister Laura and brother Karol joined the team leading the Marketing and Finance departments.
Many joke that Mum took family planning to a whole new level. But in fact, we believe it is our different skill sets which allows us to work together so well, as we all bring something different to the table and add value to the business in different ways. There is less crossover which means there are less disagreements at our weekly meetings!
How did the idea come to you for the company?
The Good4U journey began when we discovered sprouted seeds! We just loved the freshness of them and how they transformed a simple salad. But it was only when we learned more about their amazing health attributes that we were compelled to bring the product to market. Considering my background in Nutrition my role was very much so focused on critically reviewing the research. We were blown away by the benefits of these amazing little superfoods and how impactful they could be in disease risk reduction. And so the journey began! Now the range of products has grown to include fresh sprouted seeds, roasted seeds, milled seeds and seed and fruit energy balls.
How did you achieve awareness?
Like every new business starting out it needed a lot of commitment, determination and belief. We worked very long days but it was so lovely that I had my sister and my Mum by my side. We had many laughs in between the meltdowns.
It was all about creating awareness and education at the beginning. Eighteen years ago this was a very new and novel concept. Most of the time when we mentioned sprouts people thought we were referring to the very polarising Brussel Sprouts. In fact still do this day sprouts are a relatively new concept for many. We attended every trade and consumer show going to raise awareness and demonstrate just how easily sprouts can be incorporated into every day meals. We also attracted a lot of coverage in national press.
When we launched the business initially, we were primarily focused on the Irish market but then an opportunity presented itself within a retailer within the UK and now that is 80% of our business.
What are the key successes?
In the very early days in 2005, we won Top New Product of the year in Sainsbury’s Northern Ireland for being a very innovative product – we were thrilled!
We really saw this as a stepping stone, which led to a call from a director from Sainsbury’s in the UK and we used this as our platform to launch the full product range.
More recently, we’ve won new business with major retailers which is always successful for the business. It’s an ideal platform for us to showcase our products and raise awareness of the brand.
Additionally, winning business within schools has also been amazing and this is more for the snacking part of our product portfolio. Our aim is to make products that are not only healthy and taste great, but are also compliant with school regulations e.g., free-from allergens, no added sugar etc.
With HSFF coming into play soon, we’ve been inundated with calls from both retailers and schools wanting products that comply with these guidelines.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
Separating business and personal life can at times be challenging but fortunately I have wonderful family support and comfortable to say that it gets easier as time goes by. Before I had a family Good4U was my number 1 priority. That was of course until I met my husband and had three wonderful children. It’s taken time to find the balance, but its incredible how efficient you become when you have to juggle. From a business perspective, more recently with the pandemic, many more people like myself have taken time to reflect and really work out what is important to them.
In business and in life in general there will be ups and downs. Sometimes I get worked up about the small things and surprisingly can deal better with the bigger challenges. I have learned that most problems are easy solved with the right attitude and a supportive team.
What are your plans now / for the future?
To become the worlds most loved and trusted health food brand. Continue to Innovate in healthy snacking and maximise opportunities in the UK as all of our range are compliant with HFSS. Become the one stop shop for Functional Meal Toppers, adding taste, goodness and texture to any meal including salads, pasta, breakfast and yogurt.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
Everyday is a school day. Investing in your team and personal development is essential. It’s important to do your research and get the right support from your own network and also from business mentors/initiatives to help provide you with business advice and tips on how to grow your business.
Who are the people who inspire you the most and why?
My mum Bernie, a serial entrepreneur, a powerhouse. A true inspiration in every way, and is a real support to me, in and outside of work.
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today.” — Will Rogers
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