Charlotte Bailey & Sean Ali, founders of Super U
Courtesy of Super U
Much has been said about ‘Superfoods’ over the past decade, some of it has been positive and some has been controversial but it is a widely held belief today that having some foods with this label in your diet is extremely valuable. A couple who met at university and have built a business that started from a desire to help naturally solve health issues they faced are Sean Ali and Charlotte Bailey, founders of Super U.
The couple met at Nottingham Trent University and whilst they were living together, balancing a hectic student lifestyle Charlotte, who had been diagnosed with Coeliac Disease, was struggling with fatigue. Sean noticed this and keen to find a natural solution the couple started experimenting with different superfoods to see if adding these to Charlotte’s diet would help improve her health. The results were very profound not just in Charlotte but also in Sean’s general wellbeing. Realizing there was an untapped market, particularly in the U.K. for these types of products if made properly and marketed right the duo went about creating blends to start their own business.
Launching Super U
Starting the business was not a straightforward journey, the young couple bootstrapped the business themselves, making products, fulfilling orders, and being efficient with capital to maximize their return. After a year of running the business, the efforts they had put in and sacrifices made started to pay off as sales came in and customers were happy leaving a stream of positive reviews. However, in 2018 Sean was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at the age of 26. After a hard and courageous battle through chemotherapy and radiotherapy, Sean received the all-clear the following July 2019 and is still officially in remission.
Whilst Sean was sick the business stayed afloat and expanded despite them being short of staff. This was further validation for the couple that they had something valuable and once Sean resumed they decided it was time to start thinking about scaling the business. They continued working hard to improve sales slowly increasing their capacity as their budget allowed and once they felt they had built a solid foundation decided it was time to raise some external capital and did so via a crowdfunding campaign on Seedrs. Their campaign was oversubscribed and the couple raised £160,000 in total which helped them grow the phase of the business in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Journey Into The Dragon’s Den
As sales were progressing the next opportunity to expand came when the team was contacted by the hit TV show Dragons Den, a business pitching competition similar to Shark Tank in the U.S. They had thought about applying to go on the show before Sean fell ill and thought it was a sign that the opportunity had come round again. They put in an application, passed the interviews, and got through to the show. Whilst the couple had been through a lot and were nervous they walked into the pitch confidently and their authentic journey to building their product and brand alongside impeccable execution of their pitch led to offers from all 5 ‘dragons’ something which very rarely happens on the show. They ended up accepting offers from Tej Lalvani & Peter Jones for a combined £50,000 for 6% of their business.
The couple are now fully focused on expanding the brand with sights set on the U.S. market and today are officially launching the pre-registration page for a crowdfunding campaign for the next leg in their growth. Further details on the campaign can be found here.
This article is part of a series featuring underrepresented people making a difference. To submit ideas for features or keep up to date with new releases you can find me on Twitter – @TommyPF91