Ed Foy, co-founder of PRESS London, admits that he faced a raft of challenges in setting up his own business.
“A year in I thought I have no money and no prospects and this thing is never going to work. It was much harder than I thought it would be,” he says.
“It’s terrible to captain the ship with one foot in the lifeboat.”
Cash flow was an early issue for the set up and Foy admits he was broke. It got so bad at one point, he jokes, that he considered taking women out on dates for money.
“I did consider it as we really had no money,” he says. “It was survival."
It was five years ago that he and co-founder Georgie Reames decided to set up their own cold press juice company in the UK. They were both living in the US where cold press was growing in popularity with health conscious consumers. Cold press juice is a way of extracting juice without using heat, meaning it has the maximum level of vitamins, enzymes, fibre, minerals and nutrients.
Now the company has an income of close to £5M a year. Retail accounts for around 10% of the business, wholesale and business-to-business around 55% and the rest online direct to consumers where it offers everything from cleanses to diet plans.
His journey to PRESS London started with a degree in biology from Oxford University, and an MBA from Harvard.
He started his career with a stint in banking but the world of consumer goods was calling and he found himself on the L’Oreal graduate training scheme. He spent four years at the company becoming brand manager for Kiehl’s.
He also spent two years as head of global marketing for fashion retailer Jack Wills, which was he admits “going through a brutal trading period.” It was a steep learning curve.
“When I arrived I asked to see their consumer research and they said we don’t do consumer research. I said that is a problem,” he says.
“But it was very inspiring to see what they had built and it was amazing to see what you could do with a lot effort and a bit of vision.”
But he admits that he didn’t really understand the pressures of leadership at that time.
“Something I definitely recognise is that you can put an MBA on a resume but the reality is it doesn’t count for anything unless they are effective in what they do on a day-to-day basis,” he says.
“There are plenty of people with no education that have built empires but the reality is they are only as effective as the amount they get done every day.”
It was a chance meeting in the US with Reames that saw the launch of PRESS and his move into cold press juices and health food started.
Foy and business partner Reames started with their cold press juices in a bathtub in Old Street Station.
They were renting a territorial army barracks by the day in south London and had two cold press machines, peeling their own fruit and veg and bottling it themselves.
They were selling half litre bottle of cold press juice such as Apple, Lemon and Ginger and green juices for £6 a bottle and people were buying it.
“We found people from such a wide spectrum would come back every day. We had people on construction sites buying it saying ‘Oh my wife is so into the green juicing every day and I know it’s good for me’, we had people that were young and into yoga and guys from the city.”
Next they pooled their money to open a shop in Soho, which presented another challenge for the new start-up.
“We made the worst mistake ever as we were limited in money so we chose a site that was off pitch,” he says.
The footfall was a struggle but they hit the jackpot after seven months when the head of food at Selfridges walked in.
The rest is history, as they say, as what followed was a concession in Selfridges that saw PRESS selling three times what was predicted by its food hall.
And as luck would have it when they were looking for some investment for the business, the Clarke Group, a boutique investment house fund led by Steve Clark, and has backed companies such as Links of London, came on board.
“He always invests early stage, and always enjoys the journey and brings a lot of energy with him and his team,” he says.
Four stores quickly opened for PRESS but it became clear that with the high rents in London its kiosk operations were losing money.
But its café outlets were successful offering a wide range of foods, coffee, which is supplied by Grind, and PRESS juices. It now operates two cafes and has plans for more including a vegan full service restaurant.
From the founders sourcing their fruit and veg at markets at 2am in the morning and producing their own juices, the company now has 45 staff and has hired former Innocent executive Kevin Jones as commercial director.
Selling into restaurant, hotel and bar chains is a major focus for the cold press supplier. It currently has distribution in around 800 venues already and believes there is more potential.
“A lot of places struggle to make their own juice because it is messy and inconsistent,” he says.
“And we can give them a better margin.”
PRESS has just launched into Europe in Belgium and France and is about to launch a new range of sparkling energy drinks with Nootropics in canned format.
“The intention in the next two years is we need to triple revenue which sounds ambitious. But now we are probably just coming up to £5M turnover and we would like to get to £12M to £15M in the next two years,” he says.