Real Business talks to Julianne Ponan, CEO of Creative Nature, about her concerns about how the Brexit transition is likely to go and the moves the company has taken to avoid potential problems.
About: Creative Nature produces a range of Free-from Snacks, Baking Mixes and Superfoods. UK Small Business of the Year 2018, and Julianne Ponan was listed as one of the 2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 to watch.
Years in business: 9 Julianne Ponan took over Creative Nature and rescued it when she was 22 years-old
Number of employees: 9
Outlets: Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Co-op, many independent cafes, some airlines, supermarkets and health food outlets overseas in multiple countries complemented by online sales too.
What you do in a sentence:
We make it easier for everyone to eat at the same table with all our products being top 14 allergen safe. We offer a range of baking kits, snacks, bundles and superfoods which are always delicious without doubt!
We do import a small amount from the EU but have deliberately looked at ways around this to enable us to prepare for an uncertain future in 2021.
What percentage of your product is shipped to the EU?
About five per cent as ironically most of our exports are now outside of the EU. We have deliberately gone down this route to enable us to grow as there was some push back from EU countries due to uncertainty.
?We have more exports outside EU, particularly in Middle East etc and this is growing year on year.
What are you doing to prepare for the Jan 2021 deadline
We’ve done all that we feel we can with the information currently available to us. We have our EORI Number, paperwork and we are regularly speaking with our DIT (Department of International Trade) advisor. We are also making sure we have extra stock in case of any delays later.
Do you have a plan B?
We have already switched our strategy in regard to where we are focusing our resource. We have also ensured we have forward contracts on stock at a specific price point to try to cope with the uncertainty we – and our supply chain – are feeling. We can look at more EU sales later, once we know more about the future landscape.
What are your thoughts on how the Government has handled the transition?
It’s very difficult for businesses to know what to prepare for when everything seems to be left to the last minute. I acknowledge there’s a bit of a TV campaign at the moment to get SMEs to take their first steps for transition. However, it needs to go deeper than that.
?Having the right paperwork is one thing, not knowing the financial implications (benefits or fees) is quite another.
I have general concerns about the lack of direction from government around what will happen with trade from January 1 when we are technically out of the EU. As a challenger brand, Creative Nature has done all it can to be ready, taken advice from the DTI to be prepared yet there is very little support from government beyond that and time is now ticking.
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About Julianne Ponan
Julianne Ponan is the CEO of free-from snack brand Creative Nature which creates, manufactures and supplies raw super foods, snacks and food mixes which are free from the top 14 allergens. The products are suitable for those who are nutrition conscious, vegetarians, vegans and of course for those who live with food allergy or intolerance.
The company exports to 14 countries and is now well known in the UK for its delicious products and baking mixes. They are stocked in major supermarkets including Asda, the Co-op, Sainsbury’s, Tesco as well as many independent outlets up and down the UK. The company also sells online.
Julianne’s passion for business is rooted in her childhood she began from an early age to show an entrepreneurial spirit doing little things to earn money such as chores around the house. She would also charge family members at parties and events 50p to get a drink. She went on later to study at university in Northampton to study a degree in accounting and investment management.
After university she applied for a banking job in Beijing and got the role. On a visit home, she was asked unexpectedly to look at the accounts of a struggling business Creative Nature. Julianne found losses of around £56,000 and was then asked if she would take on this company with a view to turning it around on a shoestring budget. She was just 22.
She had the lightbulb moment of changing it to a food brand as in Julianne’s words “I?m allergic to everything?. Her allergies first came to light at nursery when she was given milk and cookies and she collapsed, and her breathing stopped she ended up in intensive care.
Tests found she is allergic to all nuts, chickpeas, lentils, lots of perfumes and even oils used in face creams. Her allergies are so bad that she has to have someone with her if she walking through a duty free area in an airport and she ended up in hospital after hugging her father who was wearing a certain aftershave.
Growing up, eating became an issue as there was very little food which was “free from” so much cooking had to be from scratch with every processed ingredient scrutinised for what it contained. This need to be constantly food and drink aware every day of her life sat behind Julianne’s vision for the new Creative Nature.
Julianne went on to trademark the name and brand to protect it in the future all on a £35k budget. To measure how far she has come in 2020 the company’s turnover should reach close to £2million. Julianne is also on an international speaker on business matters and a campaigner around allergy and anaphylaxis awareness.
To find out more about Creative Nature visit creativenaturesuperfoods.co.uk
To find out more about Julianne Ponan visit www.julianneponan.com