Superfood brand wins top FSB award

Young entrepreneur turns her nut allergy into award-winning global brand

Scale-up superfood brand, Creative Nature, based in Surrey and born out of the founder’s frustration at the lack of healthy and tasty ‘free-from’ food products on the market, beat fierce competition from across the UK to be named as FSB’s (Federation of Small Businesses) UK Small Business of the Year 2018.

The winning business, which develops and markets a new range of innovative ‘free-from’ healthy foods, was recognised at the FSB Celebrating Small Business Awards because of its continuous product innovation, inventive marketing, strong export model, and rapid growth. It also scooped the FSB Scale-up Business of the Year Award.

Mike Cherry, FSB National Chairman, said: “My congratulations to Creative Nature. The awards clearly demonstrate how small businesses are embracing and driving innovation, technology and ecology to drive the UK’s export economy, inspire the next generation and, in many cases, help to look after our planet. Small businesses make for a strong economy, and it is through supporting small businesses such as Creative Nature that we’ll continue to lead the world in entrepreneurialism.”

Julianne Ponan, owner and CEO of Creative Nature, has the medical condition anaphylaxis, which is an extreme and severe allergic reaction to all nuts, some seeds and certain additives. It was the challenge of finding nut-free, additive-free healthy snacks available on the market that led her to create her own. Julianne experimented with the addition of superfood ingredients to improve the nutrient value, testing the flavours on her partner Matthew Ford. The Creative Nature brand was born.

Creative Nature has achieved rapid success. Soon after launching its first product to over 2,000 Co-op stores in 2017, it had become one of the three best-selling healthy snacks. The small firm now exports to markets in Switzerland, Iceland, Jordan, Malta and Brunei; has a range of more than 25 innovative baking mix, green powder, healthy flapjack bar, superfood powder, wholefood and breakfast topping products; supplies to major supermarkets including Sainsbury and Asda; and has an annual turnover heading towards the £millions.

Julianne Ponan, CEO of Creative Nature, said: “I’m thrilled to be recognised as the FSB Small Business of the Year 2018. As a small business, innovation is the key to the sustainability of our successful business performance. We constantly focus on developing new and exciting products. Our products will constantly push the boundaries of ‘free-from’ and will introduce new taste and eating experiences for consumers.”

All the winners …





The full list of FSB Celebrating Small Business Awards 2018 winners:

Business Exporter of the Year

Winner: Wolffepack Limited, London N8

Crowdfunded 2015 start-up from the former group finance director of HMV, David Wolffe, which designs and produces a revolutionary backpack. It has over 20,000 customers in 52 countries and explosive revenue growth. Major export markets include Japan, Korea, US, Canada and other EU countries.

UK Business and Product Innovation Award

Winner: Environmental Street Furniture Ltd (ESF), Antrim

A global designer and supplier of street furniture and site furnishing products, established in 2012 by Alan and Caroline Lowry. One of its innovative designs allows users to recharge their mobile phones from a solar powered bench alongside LED lighting and WiFi. A successful export campaign has resulted in the company supplying to 22 countries, across five continents.

UK Ethical – Green Business of the Year

Winner: Rosewood Farm, York

An organic farm delivering food as a by-product of conservation through pioneering and ethical farming techniques and preserving the genetic diversity of the local environment. Rosewood Farm has embraced green principles from the onset with brothers Paul and Robert Rose’s commitment being based “on ethics, rather than marketing”. The business has committed to a manifesto which includes using recycled material in construction where possible; using renewable energy; and animal welfare practices. Despite growth, the business uses small machinery because of its fuel efficiency and ability to be repaired.

UK Digital Business of the Year

Winner: Bambino Mio, Northampton

A global force in the reusable nappy market with remarkable e-commerce and digital marketing strategies. From a turnover of £2 million in 2015, the business is now nearing a target turnover of £7 million in 2018. The company, which has extensive high street retail partnerships including with Boots and Asda, has created its own international online storefronts for its websites, across several countries and continents, each with language specific content and local currency pricing. Bambino Mio also executes lead generation digital marketing campaigns.

UK Micro Business of the Year

Winner: Superlative Recruitment Ltd, London SE1

A hugely successful home/remote-working recruitment business which has achieved a global turnover of more than £855,000 in its first three years of business. More than half of the small team of eight freelance workers are mums to children under the age of 10. The company has earned high regard within the industry as a result of strong business integrity, a focus on developing excellent relationships with clients and suppliers, as well as tremendous internal teamwork.

UK Start-up Business of the Year

Winner: IGO Pets Limited, Conisbrough, Doncaster

A unique combination of a pet store, dog café, pet party service and dog walking service. This innovative family-run start-up business, which launched in August 2017, offers something unique and desirable to the growing pet parent market. The business demonstrates an impressive turnover alongside a strong community presence with a niche concept. The business imports most of its retail products from Canada, Germany and the Netherlands. The staff follow a training package from pet health specialist Beapher.

UK Scale-up Business of the Year and FSB UK Small Business of the Year 2018

Winner: Creative Nature, Surrey

A scale-up superfood brand, Creative Nature born out of the founder Julianna Ponan’s frustration at the lack of healthy and tasty ‘free-from’ food products on the market. The small firm now exports to markets in Switzerland, Iceland, Jordan, Malta and Brunei; has a range of more than 25 innovative products; supplies to major supermarkets including Sainsbury and Asda; and has an annual turnover heading towards the £millions.

UK Family Business of the Year

Winner: Stablewood Leisure Ltd, Northumberland

Owned and run by the Johnson family, Stablewood Leisure Ltd provides holiday cottages, eateries, and equestrian events. Quality customer experience key to the brands’ success. Launching in 2011, parents Kevin and Tina developed the business to provide a sustainable future for their three young sons in the local area. The rate of growth has been significant, year one (2012) turnover was £120,000, increasing to £1,500,000 in 2017.

UK Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Winner: James Calderbank, The Transform Hub, Preston

A boutique fitness training business with a focus on community and self-development, and utilising digital technology. Twenty-five year old James Calderbank offers a unique service with more than 200 clients. The business’ revenue forecast for 2018 is 200k in net profit. Growth is organic with more than 20 per cent of clients upgrading packages and 50 per cent of clients referred by recommendation alone. James said after not completing his studies and feeling lost for a time, his passion for health and fitness led him to creating this winning business.

UK Employer of the Year

Winner: Business Clan Ltd, London SW20

A business consultancy run solely by women driven by a vision for a truly inclusive workplace where everyone can work flexibly and using the great pool of skills of women-returners. Delia Porter and Nicolle Anderson have led Business Clan from strength to strength in under four years, providing an array of services for start-ups and small firms using their team’s expertise from across the board. Their team of four has grown to nine and the client list that has reached 100. Business Clan empowers women; many join after long career breaks but are kept up to speed and are provided with IT skills, social media training and are encouraged to acquire new skills along the way.

Triumph Over Adversity Award

Winner: ALD Life, London SE15

After both of Sara Hunt’s children were diagnosed with the rare terminal genetic brain disorder Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD), which causes the death of most sufferers within the first 10 years, she was driven to begin fundraising and raising awareness of the devastating illness. From this came a new registered charity which is now run as a profitable business. ALD Life began as an online network of parents seeking advice and support and was registered as a charity in 2004, providing financial assistance, support and meetups for families affected by ALD. With a wealth of unsold stock accumulated from the many fundraising jumble sales Sarah had organised, she formed a limited company, opening a first store in 2006. Despite her tragic personal losses, the business’ turnover reached £600k in 2016 and now has three stores with more planned for the future.