Alumni profiles: An epic journey towards the dream

Conor Grimes Spoonful Botanicals New Frontiers programme alumnus

A big dream can grow from humble roots. It was a trip to India after graduating from college that started it all for Conor Grimes and Jayne Gavin.

While exploring Asia, the young couple visited spice markets and saw locals using fresh herbs and spices as a way to help inflammation. It ignited a new passion that grew into Spoonful Botanical.

“They were really promoting these natural foods and natural ingredients to combat inflammation,” Conor says. He started to think of home and his grandmother who was taking medication for arthritis at the time, which was particularly tough on her stomach. “So we decided to bring back home some of the spices to see if she could get any relief from it. And basically, she started getting great results.”

Having watched how the locals ground the roots into powder, they returned home with some basic ingredients. However, it was while trying to get the spices into their grandmother’s diet that the early stages of their product, Spoonful Botanical, began to unfold.

An avid foodie and Louth footballer, Conor was always interested in nutrition. Growing up, his parents ran a food business. “It was very organic at the start. We were giving it to her in jam jars and a few of our friends started taking the product,” he says.

They developed their own fermentation process which saw them mixing and blending the roots of the ingredients and then fermenting the spices with golden raisins. The result was a chutney-like consistency, something Conor’s granny could easily work into her diet. “And it started to slowly escalate from there, we got to the stage where we had 100 people tasting the product on a regular basis,” he says.

As business graduates, the couple were perhaps destined for life as entrepreneurs. “We always wanted to have our own setup but we never really knew if it was achievable. Jayne was working in a marketing company in Dublin, we weren’t 100% sure if it was going to take off,” Conor says. It was an approach to Enterprise Ireland and their acceptance into Phase 2 of the New Frontiers programme that saw things quickly gaining momentum.

“It’s not easy to get the product to the stage where you’re presenting to retailers. But with the help of New Frontiers and that kind of environment, it makes it a lot easier…”

“The hardest part was building up that confidence. With New Frontiers, you are surrounded by people who are in similar situations,” Conor says. For him, the practical nature of the course was instrumental. “It’s not easy to get the product to the stage where you’re presenting to retailers. But with the help of New Frontiers and that kind of environment, it makes it a lot easier, even just contacts around packaging, labelling, all that kind of stuff, those contacts were given to us.”

As a team player, Conor enjoyed being surrounded by other entrepreneurs. “You’re in that kind of environment where everyone wants to help each other but everyone also wants to be the best,” he says. When they completed Phase 2 of the programme, Conor and Jayne felt their product was market-ready and decided to go for it. They now have a team of 12 and are stocked in over 300 independent health food stores and pharmacies.

A food-based product, Spoonful Botanical has become popular amongst some sports stars. “There’s a lot of sports players that take it. To have it in their diets every day, just to have it for recovery after a training session, recovering from an injury, all that kind of stuff,” says Conor.

He believes the contacts and connections made while on the programme made a huge difference. Some of the mentors they met still work with them today and they continue to use a review section on their site that one of the participants created for them while on the programme. The €15,000 stipend also allowed them to fully invest their time in the product.

Overall, Conor believes the programme gave them the opportunity to make the dream a reality. “You’re fully focused and geared up to present your product and put your best foot forward.”

To read more about Spoonful Botanical, visit their website.

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