Founders Interview | Seb & Amber Fraser @ BRAVE
Hi! We’re Amber and Seb and we’re the co-founders of BRAVE. We also happen to be married!
We started BRAVE in 2017 with a mission to make a change to UK snacking habits and create nutritious food out of real ingredients, grown locally and sustainably.
We make a range of delicious roasted peas and chickpeas, which are high in protein and fibre but are also one of the most sustainable sources of protein on the planet (more on this below :) ).
(Click Here to Buy Brave Snacks)
Why did you become interested in the world of snacks & drinks?
Having been plant-based for more than a decade, food and food-innovation has always been a big interest for us. We love finding the latest brands and innovative products, and also buying and supporting smaller brands that we feel are aligned to our ethics.
Food is one our basic needs but there’s also so much love, creativity and innovation that can get put in it, and when it does, it’s impossible not to get excited about it!
What inspired you to do what you do?
Before we were thinking about starting BRAVE, maybe 5-6 years ago, it was still a bit unusual to be vegans, especially in the corporate world, so we’d get a lot of questions from people on what we would eat. If we got a pound for everytime someone asked us ‘where do you get your protein from?’ - well, let’s just say we’d have a lot of pounds.
One of our main answers was pulses - split peas, chickpeas, beans were a feature in most of our meals in some form or another.
People were often surprised to hear how nutritionally amazing pulses are (high in protein, fibre, super filling) and how they’re also one of the most sustainable sources of protein on the planet. It was this realisation, that pulses are amazing and vastly underrated, that lead us to wanting to build a brand with a mission to get more people interested in eating this super food!
What was your Eureka Moment when you knew you had a product which you could take to Market?
There was no one single Eureka Moment, to be honest. We’re firm believers in launching as soon as you can and constantly improving the product.
The initial Eureka Moment was the previous realisation we mentioned about how pulses are amazing but underrated. From there we knew that, based on the nutritional profile, the product we had in mind would be in demand in the market. The challenge was making sure that the quality of the product could match our vision.
It took us over a year to find suppliers who could deliver to our standard and the whole time we were doing trials, each time getting a bit closer. About 3 months before launch, we got samples back that we tested with a wide group of people and the feedback we received was amazing. We also had completed our packaging design by then and so that was the moment we felt we had something that would really pop on shelf and hopefully lead to some great sales!
What current & future trends does your product meet?
Our Roasted Peas and Chickpeas hit on most major trends in food; high protein, high fibre, no/lower sugar, sustainability. It’s why we’re so obsessed with them!
We’ve already mentioned a few times about the great nutritional values of pulses, so won’t go into them here, but do want to go into a bit more detail about their sustainability.
Pulses are one of the least ‘demanding’ crops we have: they don’t need much land, water, or any fertiliser (if fact, they put nitrogen back into the soil, meaning the can be used to improve conditions for other crops), all of which makes them one of the most sustainable sources of protein on the planet. We truly believe that they’re going to be one of main ingredients that we’re going to rely on to solve the challenges of feeding our growing populations in the future.
What did you do before starting your company & what made you take the leap into Entrepreneurship?
Amber was working for larger FMCG companies in sales and Seb was working in marketing and ad agencies.
Starting a business was always something we wanted to do to combine our passion for plants with business so it was the next logical step of our careers to make the leap!
What has been the hardest part of starting your business?
Fear of failure, especially in the first year or 2 of trading, is one of the hardest anxieties to get over, but it also keeps the motivation high!
Not having worked in the food industry, there was also a lot we didn’t know about. We had to learn about production, logistics and lots more very quickly in order to keep everything moving and at the standard we wanted. And when you’re starting from nothing, not everyone wants to take a chance on you - fortunately, we were very lucky to find partners who were willing to take the risk.
What has been the BEST mistake you’ve made & why?
Not exactly a mistake...but one evening after dinner Amber decided to put melted chocolate on our yellow split peas, which felt like a bit of a crazy idea, but ended up tasting like choc covered cornflakes and lead to one of our bestselling products (and the world’s first chocolate-covered pea!)
What keeps you motivated?
This may sound like a cliche, but getting positive feedback from someone who’s just tried our snacks is still wildly intoxicating. The fact that someone would take the time to write us via email, letter, on social media or whatever, is so humbling and keeps us driven to keep doing our best.
What do you do in your spare time outside of business life?
Ha! As a married couple who run a business together our personal and business ‘lives’ are more seamlessly intertwined than normal.
So there’s not necessarily a clean distinction between the two. But we try to explicitly carve time out that’s isolated from business concerns and in that time we recharge our batteries by reading, exercising, and spending time with friends (now sadly only over Zoom).
We also use to love going to find the latest vegan restaurants, but that too has become a bit trickier lately.
What do you think are the key skills required to make yourself & your business a success in the world of snacks & drinks?
To be honest, it’s similar to starting any business - determination, an almost unrelenting drive to get things done, openness to learning new things, adapting quickly to new information/feedback, and curiosity. If you have those, you’ll be fine as you can learn everything else.
Specifically within snacks & drinks, it’s always a good idea to really know your category, competitors and key trends to make sure you’re hitting on what consumers are demanding.
What would you say is your biggest strength?
For Amber, her ability to get sh*t done and find solutions to almost any speed bump (there are lots every day!)
For Seb, his creativity and vision for the brand as we do almost everything in house at this stage!
What would you say is your biggest weakness & how do you look to overcome this?
We’re both a bit impatient - when things get frustrating for one of us, it helps a lot when the other takes a step back from the situation to look at the wider picture.
If you could sit down with yourself for a pint/glass of wine/coffee this time last year.....what would be the 3 most important tips you would give yourself knowing what you know now?
- It’s a marathon, not a sprint - so remind yourself why you do what you do and why you love it on a regular basis
- One piece of good/bad news isn’t a barometer that tells you whether your a total success/failure - so remember to see the forest for the trees
- And an especially important one given recent times: no-one can forecast the future. No matter how good your plan is, it’s probably not going to be 100% right. Stay flexible and open to adapting quickly!
Any plans or predictions you can share with us for the rest of 2020?
Given that last point of advice, it’d be a bit hypocritical to try to make any specific predictions but an obvious one is that fewer people are in shops and more are online.
So any reasonable business would be looking at bolstering their online presence and capabilities - and that’s what we’re doing!