Andrew Ward—The Wise Herb Company, part of InnOrbit
British businessman Andrew Ward has been in Barcelona for about nine years, and has more than 20 years' experience working in the food sector. In the latest of our section on Barcelona entrepreneurs, the 45-year-old tells us about his company InnOrbit (brand name 'The Wise Herb Company), which makes and sells functional health drinks based on 100 percent natural ingredients and traditional recipes—the idea for the business comes from the widening interest in living with more health and vitality and understanding how diet can affect our health and our vulnerability to illness.
1. Where did the original idea come from? I worked in Masterfoods in the UK with Ketan Joshi (the founder of InnOrbit) and we witnessed the health ‘revolution’ at first hand and the attempts by companies to respond to consumer demands for healthier products.
We were also aware of the rise in interest in traditional and natural alternatives. The benefits of these plants were being ‘rediscovered’ by the world. Science was playing catch-up, and we were turning our attention to the health attributes of natural remedies that have been known for thousands of years.
I moved to Pepsico and Ketan turned his attention away from the food science labs and out into the wider world and looked at natural ingredients that were prolonging health and vitality in places like India. He started the company in 2006 and started developing drinks based on natural ingredients that integrate and balance the body, mind, and spirit to help prevent illness and promote wellness. I always kept up to date with his work and I helped to start the operation here in Spain in 2010. We both have a food science background and there was a fantastic synergy in what we believe in and what we were trying to achieve.
2. How long did it take to get your business off the ground? Around 12 months, and still learning!
3. What do you wish you’d known when you started? To have more patience and don’t be scared of making a fool of yourself—it’s the only way you learn. You need lots of patience but I was lucky because I could speak Spanish and Catalan and my wife is local too. So, starting without any knowledge of language I think would have been difficult for me. Also, working alone in a foreign country is difficult as it takes time to build up networks and bounce ideas around. I was also lucky in this respect as I had some experience working in the food industry here beforehand so I had some good contacts and I used them.
4. How easy was it to get the financing for your business? I used all my own finance and Ketan and his team helped me with setting up marketing, websites and initial sampling. Thank God for the internet which helps a lot to obtain information and also to sell products and ideas.
5. Did you find the paperwork diffícult? No, I have a good business adviser in the house: my wife (she’s a local). Also, I have a few Catalan friends and one is an expert in finance and tax and he can help me with any more complicated issues. Filling in tax forms, etc. is difficult even in English so having a partner who can do this is a godsend. If I were alone, I would probably use a consultant and pay someone to do this.
6. What is your business experience / background / qualifications? I started work in the food industry in the whisky industry, developing and controlling flavours in oak casks. Then spent about 10 years working in technical areas (Pepsico and Masterfoods). About nine years ago, we moved to Spain and I worked mainly in the Biotech and food sectors. I have a technical background but slowly gravitated to commercial roles. I have a PhD in chemistry and this helps with technical questions about the ingredients and health aspects of the drinks and I can also help with the development of new products.
8. What are the positive aspects about having a business here? The freedom but I guess you would have that anywhere; in general there is a positive business attitude here with many opportunities. There are also many positive cultural aspects (people, food etc.). Working with people and experiencing new areas of Spain and Catalonia is fantastic and Spain never ceases to surprise me personally and from a business perspective!
9. And the negative aspects? It is different to the Anglo-Saxon way of doing things so be prepared to learn. Also, the bureaucracy can also be painful but again that is probably a function of the language and would be tricky in any new country. From a food point of view, it can be a challenging environment as Spain has a very strong food culture so it can take time to convince and sell new products but once they “get” it they are very enthusiastic.
10. Are there any other useful contacts, tips or information you think would be useful to other foreign entrepreneurs in Barcelona? Please describe Use Linkedin and extend your network. Use your existing contacts to get information about any ways you can get in touch with people in the area you are doing business in Spain. Starting from scratch, I would probably use the Chamber of Commerce and other local resources (internet and newspapers etc). Be prepared to see local people face-to-face—so learn the language; it helps a lot having a bit of both Spanish and Catalan.