Health foods have been blowing up our Instagram accounts this year. Everyone is avocado obsessed. Quinoa is the new black. And green and healthy juices are the hottest thing since sliced bread. So starting a healthy drinks company was a very good idea for best friends Rose Aldean and Sophie Lund, who started super chic and super delicious brand Mello.
Their products now sit on shelves next to drinks made by industry giants Coca Cola and Pepsi. Pretty impressive, right?
We chatted to them about how they made their dramatic career changes and what their advice is to aspiring entrepreneurs.
1. What made you decide to start Mello?
Rose: I’m half Arabic and half Irish, so I’ve always loved exotic, tropical fresh foods. Watermelon and melon featured heavily in my diet growing up, especially as fresh juice! I loved making it at home but it was a hassle to make – having to remove the tough skin and seeds and making a sticky mess in the kitchen. I tried to find fresh watermelon juice in the supermarket, but there was nothing out there. The more research I did, the more I was shocked to find that all the “tropical” or “exotic” juices were nothing but apple and orange juice with some added concentrated flavouring and added sugars.
I knew we could do something better. I started looking into the best way to bottle fresh melon juice in its natural form so the taste and health benefits were not destroyed and so it would taste the same as the juice we’d made at home. Eventually, after a year and a half, we managed to find the perfect cold press method to produce Mello. Straight away we secured our first retailer, Whole Foods Market in January 2014 and we grew quickly from there. We’re now national with Waitrose, Boots and Ocado.
2. What did you both study and have you made career changes to move into the food industry?
Rose: We both made pretty big career changes – I’m from a family of doctors and from an early age I was always determined not to follow the same path and to do something different. I studied Law for my undergraduate and went on to do a Masters in Marketing. I then got a job as an International Investment Manager at UKTI. I knew from very early on that I didn’t want to work for someone else and that I wasn’t really following my passion.
Sign up for the newsletter
Get news, competitions and special offers direct to your inbox
Sophie: I studied Town Planning at Newcastle and like Rose I went on to do a Masters in Marketing before going on to work for a Marketing Agency managing campaigns for brands such as O2, Kellogg’s & McCain’s. Neither of us have let the fact that we had no previous experience in drink stop us – there’s nothing you can’t learn and if you’re determined, you’ll make it. We’ve also found it actually helps us to think outside of the box and do things differently too.
3. Do you think melon and watermelon will be the next avocado in terms of food trends?
Sophie: Absolutely – people are looking for healthier more exotic flavours and that’s what’s driving the latest food trends. We are a nation of food lovers and increasingly looking to cultures like the Middle East & Far East, where melon is hugely popular, to explore new flavours and tastes. What many people don’t know is that melon is one of the healthiest foods in the world and every part of the melon has its own unique health benefits. What more do you want from a food trend?
4. Would you both describe yourself as dreamers? Has this helped you start a company?
Sophie: Rose & I were best friends throughout secondary school and we were always dreamers, convinced that when we ‘grew up’ we would not fall into the trap of an ‘ordinary’ 9-5 job. So when Rose announced to me that she had set up a company to produce fresh melon juice and she wanted me to leave my job to join her, there wasn’t much convincing to do. Entering into one of the most competitive markets, dominated by major corporations with a fresh, chilled product.
Naturally, friends & family thought we were mad (and we probably are) and we found that a lot of people told us it couldn’t be done, but it is those people who actually influenced us the most. It gave us the drive and determination to keep going and prove them wrong. There is a lot of hard work and sacrifice that goes into creating and building your own business. You have to put everything into it and believe that one day it will pay off. So you can’t make it in this game without being a dreamer.
5. What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced in launching Mello?
Rose: Every day brings new challenges. When you start out, you’re going to be a small team, so you have to do everything from marketing to sales to finance and accounting. But that is part of the experience – you’re forced to learn new skills that you wouldn’t learn if you were working in one role at a company.
I would say our biggest success has also been our biggest challenge; we managed to launch a new, innovative product in such a competitive market, sitting alongside products owned by Coca Cola and Pepsi. So now we have the challenge of how to compete against their huge marketing budgets and be very creative in how we get our brand in front of people.
6. What is your advice to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Rose & Sophie: Never give up. It may sound like a cliché but it’s so important to carry on, even when times seem really hard. So many people doubted us and made us feel like we were never going to make it but it never stopped us because we believed in our product and in making a change in the industry. If you’re truly passionate about something you will always find a way to succeed. If not, you’ll make excuses.
Find out more about Mello here.