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I went from depression to building a global business

Thought Leader

I went from depression to building a global business

What’s the recipe for success? Andrew turned his depression into an inspiring business after adding some African vibrancy to his life.

 Andrew Roof1.JPG

Name          Andrew Hunt

Location      London
Business      Aduna

 

At the age of 24 I was clinically depressed.

 

I was working in the London ad industry, creating and launching products for big multinational companies. I learned a lot, but after investing all my energy and creativity promoting products like frozen ready meals and nasal decongestants I ended up asking “what am I doing with my life?”

 

This questioning turned into an existential crisis and then a nervous breakdown.

 

I was at my lowest point when I got a random call from a family friend asking me if I wanted to volunteer my marketing skills to a project in The Gambia.

 

The amazing thing is it took only three weeks in the warm embrace of West Africa to come back to life, and I ended up staying for almost four years. I worked with small producers of fruits and vegetables and in my final year our enterprise won three international awards, including a UN World Business and Development Award.

 

Throughout my twenties I had various entrepreneurial ideas but never committed to them – probably because I wasn’t passionate enough. But now I had become completely inspired by Africa, and specifically by combining commercial enterprise with social impact. I started to focus on ways to scale this up. Aduna was the answer.

 

Facing challenges

 

In 2011 I met my co-founder Nick and we started brainstorming on how to create a business around what we now call The Inspiring Possibility of Baobab. Baobab is a nutrient-dense African fruit with six times the vitamin C of an orange, which National Geographic estimates has the potential to be worth a billion dollars to rural Africa – if only it was known to the rest of the world. I was so inspired by the mission of going out and creating this market that it was powerful enough to get me to quit my job and jump into the unknown.

 

But as ever in business it wasn’t as easy as that. We initially thought that if we take a brilliant product (like baobab), put it in beautiful packaging (like ours) and got it listed with perfect retailers (like Planet Organic and Whole Foods Market) that it would just fly off the shelves. Wrong.

 

In the first three months we only sold ten units. I bought one of them. And I think my mum bought the rest.

 

We realised that we needed to take radical action to create even a £1000 market for baobab, let alone £1billion!

 

We recruited a small army of volunteers who were inspired by our mission of starting a health trend in London that would ripple worldwide, ultimately leading to the creation of a global market for baobab fruit. They camped in each store from 11am-4pm, offering samples of the products, explaining the benefits and the social impact we could have. We went from being at risk of being delisted to a number one best-selling superfood.

 

Advice from a Pioneer

 

Start with your vision, then write your story backwards. We’ve come a long way, including being a 2015 VOOM finalist, but we’re hoping to go even further. Right now we’ve just launched a crowdfunding campaign to bring Aduna to the global market. Being a start-up is tough! Just as the cliché goes, it takes way longer and costs far more than you expect. If you are not truly passionate about your idea, then don’t bother – trust me, it’s much easier to do a day job.

 

Success for me is waking up every morning and wanting to get out of bed because I am inspired by my purpose. Making our business the most sustainable and profitable it can be is the next level.

 

And making a million would be the cherry on top!

Comments
Well Connected

Inspired by your journey Andrew. Thanks for sharing. Small question - did you hire an accountant or deal with your own record keeping? It's a big stumbling block for me as I seem to have a kind of 'tax form dyslexia'! It wastes so much of my time struggling with it so I'm thinking of outsourcing that task. Look forward to trying your product btw - is it available in Northern Ireland? 🙂