Meet the founder of TENZING
Hi Huib, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and why TENZING?
After being head of marketing for Red Bull UK and Europe for 8 years I decided to launch a natural, low calorie alternative. When searching for the perfect natural recipe I happened across the uplifting brew of the Himalayan Sherpa’s. This inspired both the recipe and brand name, chosen in honour of the late Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, one of the first two men to reach the summit of Mt Everest.
TENZING Natural Energy is a 100% natural, low sugar energising drink. It’s a welcome alternative in a category dominated by high sugar and artificially laden drinks. It features six key carefully selected natural ingredients, 58 calories per can and nothing artificial.
I read that on your travels that you came across the Sherpa people and was inspired by the ingredients they used to travel up Mount Everest. Could you tell me a little bit about your journey in the mountains?
The cool thing about launching your own business as that you never know what will happen next. My goal was to simply create an all natural, high quality, low sugar energising drink. Then, while travelling I was inspired by the energising Sherpa brew, that inspired key ingredients and of course the name. Named after the late Sherpa Tenzing Norgay who climbed Mt. Everest in 1953.
I then got in touch with his family and have met them on two occasions. We have nearly weekly contact. With Jamling Tenzing I climbed to Tenboche Monestery on the way to Basecamp. Was an amazing journey. We did it as part of our effort to reduce waste on the route to Evererst. It’s probably one of the most beautiful places on earth but also effected by litter. We invest 5% of our profits into environmental projects and now we are building sustainable bins on the Everest Route.
How did you build such a strong consumer culture around your brand?
I think it’s about having a genuine story and also about having a proper product people can get behind.
Has your initial business mission changed since launch? If yes, how did it evolve?
Not really, we have made some changes in the can design. The design now more clearly tells our story then the first can did. So it’s more tweaking than changing.
Based on the healthy and natural element of TENZING, when compared to other brands who are on the same mission. What do you think sets you apart from your competition?
When you look at the likes of mainstream energy and soft drinks; these were all formulated between 33 and over a 100 years ago. We know so much more about nutrition now. The disadvantages for those brands is that they are basically stuck with recipes from the 80’s or even the 20th century. We just approached it in the most simple way. We found a respectable doctor specialized in sports nutrition and said: if we were to create the best possible energising drink now; what ingredients would it have? TENZING Natural Energy was the result of that process.
What is the number one question every entrepreneur should be asking themselves?
Do I believe this will be all worth it?
Because the only way to make something work is to go all in! We moved to a smaller house, I take no salary, spend all my time on it. So you have to 100% believe it will work and it will be worth your time. Is it a pursuit that will be fun, add value and have a good change of success.
As an environmentally conscious brand, do you think your success will inspire a new wave of entrepreneurs with the same goal as you?
I really hope so. One of the people I closely follow is Al Gore. He always gets the question: what can I personally do to make a change? I, for instance, have always commuted on my bike, never by car and 3 years ago I stopped eating mammals, for environmental and animal welfare reasons. Those are tips he also gives. But the main thing he always says is: use your influence to pressure governments and companies. If people will chose their products they buy for environmental reason and watch that more closely at the end of the day all companies will change their policies. People are already doing this, but I believe this will only grow in the future, and I want to play my part in that.
What sort of opposition or barriers did you face when launching your brand, and do you think this was influenced by the fact you are focused on affecting change in the way we create and consume food?
Within energy drinks, it is so entrenched in peoples minds that they are all bad for you. So the main challenge for us was to convince people that it is actually possible to source a functioning energizing drink directly from nature without using ridiculous amounts of sugar. Once people taste TENZING and read the actual ingredients, repeat purchase is extremely high. Because why go back?
What is the single most important habit that you think helped to make TENZING a success?
Dedication. Starting your own business is tough. If you are not a very resilient person that deals well with blows; don’t do it! That is why I feel so inspired by Tenzing Norgay. He tried six times before finally making it to the top of the world in 1953. He was patient, was not disheartened just simply kept going until he made it.
Most entrepreneur or business coach bangs on about finding the right niche. How did you find yours and when did you decide it was the right one?
I think this will of course always be true. If you want to launch something successful you must find a product that is relevant, unique and delivers on its promise. I knew the market really well when looking for my niche. Also there is a huge trend towards independent, healthier brands that use natural, high quality ingredients. Look at the success of Fever Tree and Vita Coco. Funny enough in energy drinks; a huge category with not a great health image it had not been done yet. So that is what I did. And it’s working.
Now that you have established your brand, how will you ensure that you keep evolving?
Our main way to evolve is grow availability. Being in over 2500 stores in the UK is a great achievement in 1,5 years. But there are over 100.000 stores in the UK, so we have not even scratched the surface.
How do you see TENZING over the coming 12 months?
Increase the two key elements to success: availability and awareness.