Energy drink company Phoric was thought up on the campus of Auckland University of Technology. Co-founder Holly Sutich, 22, talks being mentored by an Air New Zealand executive and juggling work and life while studying.
What does your business do?
Phoric makes natural energy drinks without any artificial ingredients and launched in April this year. Bradley Hagan, 23, and I came up with this idea when we were at university at AUT because students, including ourselves, were drinking a lot of energy drinks to get through study and exams and feeling guilty about it because of the high level of sugar.
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We thought it was a no brainer that there wasn't a clean alternative on the market so we started working on it and now we have a range of three different drinks.
What was the motivation for starting it?
We had the idea in our first year of university and worked on it part time and then when we got to the end of our third year (I'm doing a conjoint so I'm not actually finished yet) we decided that it was time to take the business full time and if we didn't that would be the tipping point of whether it would go forward or not, so we took the risk and dived in head first, working full time on it and in the evenings as well.
What's it like juggling a business and course work? How do you manage your time?
It's been difficult but we've learnt a lot about time management, and also looking after ourselves. Five cents from every bottle sold goes towards mental health in New Zealand and in four years we want to get that to 20 cents per unit. Mental health is such a big problem in New Zealand. We struggled with it, we know plenty of people who struggled with it and we want to support that, but also we are very aware that we need to take care of ourselves to be able to take care of the business.
Running a business definitely has its challenges, and the interesting thing is that we don't kind of fit into one specific category, there's energy drinks and then there's health drinks and we're viewed as in the middle of that.
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Bradley has done business accounting and marketing and I'm doing communications and a business conjoint with marketing and international business. While I've been studying part time alongside the business, a lot of my papers are making more sense because what I'm doing in theory I'm doing in real life at the same time.
Where did the name Phoric come from?
The name came from the idea that our product is for people who are living a busy lifestyle, and when you have the energy to be on top of work, family and friends [you] feel euphoric.
What sort of numbers are you turning over in terms of sales?
We now distribute through most of the New Worlds from Tauranga up to Kerikeri and so that's been nice to get to that point. We are currently stocked in 60 stores in the North Island, and aim to be in 200 stores nationwide in 2020.
You're mentored by Air New Zealand executive Mike Tod - how did that come about?
Mike has been an incredible mentor, I've met up with him quite a few times now. I do a lot of speaking events so I actually did a talk at my high school for students who were graduating about studying opportunities and entrepreneurship, and Mike and his son were in the audience and I didn't realise until I got an email from him the next day. He found me online and contacted me out of the blue and said; 'you really inspired my son, I'd love to meet up with you and talk about your business'.
We did a dragons' den competition in 2017 at the end of the year with AUT called the X Challenge and we won $20,000 cash and $15,000 in prizes, and that was how we met a lot of our advisers.
Talk me through your advisory board - who's on that and how did you connect?
We've got an incredible advisory board, people with amazing experience across all the areas that we need. We've got Steve Cooper who is ex-CFO of DB Breweries and he's currently the CFO of Kiwi Property, Jen Macindoe who is in a digital marketing role at Air New Zealand, Dan Meiklejohn is our FMCG guru who is ex-DB Breweries and Andrew Wallace who is a senior partner at legal firm Lowndes Jordan.
We're really aware that we're young and have a lot to learn and so we've been lucky enough to have the support of incredible people with amazing experience. We've been operating for about a year and a half with our advisory board.
What are your long-term plans for the business?
Our long-term plan is to be sold throughout New Zealand and our goal is to be there early next year, and then jump the ditch over into Australia because there is ample opportunity over there. Further long term, perhaps launch into some markets like Singapore or the United States.
What advice do you give to others thinking about starting their own business?
It's definitely a risk but I feel like if it is something you are passionate about and if you are so determined to make something of it then you will. Whether it is a huge success or not, there's so many learning opportunities from it.