4 June 2021|Brand Story, Female Founder Spotlight, Latest Posts, Meet the Successful Founder
Dr Megan Rossi PhD RD, aka The Gut Health Doctor, is a registered dietitian with an award-winning PhD in gut health. She is the founder of The Gut Health Clinic in London, co-founder of Bio&Me, the gut-loving food brand, and Sunday Times best-selling author of Eat Yourself Healthy. We caught up with her recently to learn more about her entrepreneurship journey.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
Growing up on a farm in Australia, good gut health was inherent to my lifestyle – playing in the dirt, eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, paving the way for my career in dietetics and my PhD in gut health. After moving to the UK in 2015, I joined King’s College London, where I continue to work as a Research Fellow. In 2017, I set up The Gut Health Doctor to inspire and empower people to enjoy good gut health. Two years later, I published my first book, Eat Yourself Healthy, an ultimate lifestyle guide to gut health.
It was in 2019 that I co-founded Bio&Me to help bridge the gap between science and food. It is a passion of mine to help people look after their health from the inside out, with food that tastes good and does your gut good too. Bio&Me’s first product ranges are gut-loving granola, muesli and porridge. They contain a selection of between 14 and 16 gut-loving plant-based ingredients including puffed chickpeas, quinoa, walnuts, seeds and wholegrain oats, as well as dried carrots and dates, to name a few. Every mouthful is filled to the brim with natural earthy goodness to help feed the trillions of microbes, including good bacteria, in the gut. We call this delicious diversity. Bio&Me is available to buy at Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Planet Organic, Wholefoods, Booths, Amazon, Selfridges, in independent stores and, of course, at bioandme.co.uk.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
I wanted to do my bit to not let the food industry cloud the shelves with fad-filled gut-health products, so I explored opportunities to collaborate with large international food companies to develop my vision for delicious, healthy, gut-loving foods, backed by science. But I quickly realised that these companies weren’t willing to make the necessary changes to their recipes and instead were looking for me to endorse products making somewhat misleading gut health claims. I knew I had to do it myself and quickly. It was around then that I met Jon Walsh, a food and drink specialist, on a work project at a leading UK dairy. Jon had spent 25 years working in food and drink. After we got chatting, we realised that, while launching our own food brand would be incredibly tough, we might just be a good match to really give it a go!
How did you achieve awareness?
As gut health is such a hot topic, early publicity around the brand grew organically, mostly through social media and word of mouth, with The Gut Health Doctor community sharing the news, for which I’m incredibly grateful. Everything we do has our community at the centre. I shared the news on my existing social media channels (@theguthealthdoctor on Instagram) and with food and health journalists, which really helped boost awareness of Bio&Me. And of course now that it’s available to buy in major supermarkets, product visibility on shelf helps with this too.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
We have benefited from being approached by a number of food and drink industry experts who believed in our mission and wanted to invest in us. Most recently, former Vita Coco European CEO, Giles Brook, joined the Bio&Me team as lead investor. To have someone of Giles’ abilities and track record onboard is a dream come true for us as a startup.
What are the key successes?
Our first major success was securing our first retail listings. It was with Planet Organic and Booths who were willing to take a chance on a fledgling brand. They have been supporting Bio&Me ever since. Soon after that, Waitrose came on board just before the pandemic hit, in Jan 2019. We got on shelf just in time!
Since then, as the brand has scaled up through these listings and through our own website shop, the next major success was earning a listing in Sainsbury’s. This has really put Bio&Me on the national food map.
Of course, none of these achievements would have been possible without the efforts and talents of our incredible Bio&Me team. This has always been and continues to be a true critical success factor.
Underpinning all of this is the success of the product itself. I’ve made sure that everything I’ve learned through my studies in the science of food was applied to our products to make them genuinely good for your gut and equally delicious. I’m incredibly proud that our focus and hard work on the nutrition and the scientific evidence resulted in Bio&Me becoming the first brand of its kind to be able to use the prestigious EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) approved “good for your gut*” claim on pack.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
As a startup, everything needs to be done from scratch, and with very few people to do it, from branding to packaging and product development to sales. Many hats need to be worn at all times which has been a challenge but also very exciting.
For me specifically, as an academic, it’s disappointing to see brands making misleading claims that aren’t backed by science. These aren’t helpful for building credible products for gut health. I’ll continue to do whatever I can to empower people with knowledge about gut health, based on research and evidence, be it through social media, traditional media, my books and of course the Bio&Me packs.
What are your plans now/for the future?
Bio&Me has been growing very quickly and after releasing granolas, mueslis and porridges, I’m excited to enter into new food categories and indeed new markets. Keep an eye out on the Bio&Me website for announcements.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
My mum, a science teacher who taught me there is no such thing as a silly question and instilled in inquisitive mindset in me, also gave me the biggest gift, drive. She has encouraged me from an early age to believe in myself, trust my gut and to not be afraid to give things a go. This advice is what I live by and I’d encourage other entrepreneurs to take their own inspiration from my mum’s sage advice to believe in themselves and trust their instincts – and never compromise on their values.
Can you share you top 5-10 tips for entrepreneurial success?
· It’s important to back your claims with evidence, be it science, research data or industry benchmarks to name just a few examples. It builds credibility and trust
· For food entrepreneurs, we know that product development has to be perfect, but always consider the consumer experience first. If it doesn’t genuinely taste great, it’s not going to get the traction
· Always surround yourself with the right people. Invest in the experts to help fast track growth, but always make room to take a chance on young talent who can inject passion, energy and new perspectives
· Get a mentor or a business partner you can lean on as a sounding board. Playing to your strengths and having someone to guide you in other areas can add immense value
· Seize opportunities if they feel right. Some might not turn out as you might have hoped but these are also valuable lessons you can build on for the next opportunity
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most?
Barack Obama & @barackobama. As a role model for so many, his perseverance, patience, communication and leadership continue to inspire me.
Michelle Obama @michelleobama. Michelle’s hugely important campaigning and advocacy work for helping to increase access to better nutrition for children.
Jamie Oliver @jamieoliver. His passion, resilience and commitment to making changes in the food industry is certainly something I admire. He’s a very genuine person and I’m very grateful for the personal support I’ve had from Jamie over the last few years too.
Oprah Winfrey @oprah. An embodiment of women empowerment, her sheer determination and strength to overcome many challenges inspire me to never give up, even when things might get tough.
Melinda Gates @melindagates. An incredible businesswoman and philanthropist, whose foundation with husband Bill Gates is also recognising the importance of gut health and investing in gut microbiome-based therapies!
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.
Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.
None of us are as smart as all of us.
What are your social handles and website links so our readers can connect with you?
Dr Megan Rossi on IG: @theguthealthdoctor
Bio&Me on IG: @bioandmeuk
Bio&Me website: www.bioandme.co.uk