Editor's Spotlight: Startup Focus

Pandemic positivity: Startup discovers unprecedented opportunities

By Nikki Hancocks

- Last updated on GMT

Vite founder Rob Thorp with his product range
Vite founder Rob Thorp with his product range

Related tags COVID-19 Startup company nootropics Gut health Probiotics Prebiotics

This pandemic and the economic turmoil brought with it can easily be seen as a startup’s worst nightmare, or it can be turned into an unprecedented opportunity.

This is the sentiment of the trailblazing entrepreneur Rob Thorp who is working tirelessly to expand his nutrition-focused startup despite these troubling times.

He says while it is easy to get wrapped up in the doom and gloom of the pandemic, innovators need to be able to turn challenges – even those on a global pandemic scale - into opportunities.

“You could easily see this situation as a threat to the business or as a reason why you won’t achieve what you had set out to but if you see this as an opportunity you will ultimately be in a better position to be able to take advantage of any opportunities that arise.

“Having belief ultimately serves the brand in the end.”

The certified nutritionist is the founder and director of the two-year young brand Vite​, selling brain and gut health benefitting capsules, drinks and snack bars.

Vite Brain powder
Vite Brain powder

Whilst the company is benefitting from the organic increase in online sales caused by the lockdown, Thorp says it would be easy for him to be downbeat when it comes to thinking about his original plans for 2020.

“Our main focus for the rest of this year was to get the products into retailers. At the moment, a lot of retailers are closed while the others are cutting back on non-essential product lines. But ultimately, they will have to re-expand those ranges and that is an opportunity for early stage brands to get their foot in the door.

“I think this whole situation can be seen as a big cleanse - people are being forced to make the changes they’ve been wanting to make for a while – removing dead weight, working in modern ways and creating a fresh slate to build upon. And I think this will naturally benefit disruptive, unique and exciting brands.”

The young entrepreneur founded Vite in 2018, with a brain-health boosting capsule supplement, after being inspired by his own unsatisfactory experience of purchasing nootropics.

“Working in financial trading, I was working 16 to 18 hour days in London, and I was ordering nootropic supplements online to benefit my cognitive health.

“But I was having to buy products from the US because those from Europe were of lower quality, so the lead times on getting these products from the US were very long.

“The whole process of buying them was very clunky and so I could see a real gap in the market for high quality products made in Europe, complying with EU regulations.”

After a five year career in financial trading, Thorp had built himself a cash pot and he was determined to use this to create his own business in the industry he had always had a passion for - nutrition.

Vite Flora bar
Vite Flora snack bar

After two years of research and development and after finding a reputable manufacturer, he launched his first product online – Vite Brain.

The nootropic capsules contain: Choline, Rhodiola Roses, Panax Ginseng, Bacopa Monnieri, Acetyl L Carnitine, N Acetyl L Tyrosine, Caffeine, L Theanine, Vitamin B6 and B12, and Iodine

Since then, Thorp has brought a branding and marketing team on board and built the product range to include three flavours of nootropic drink powders and a four-strong range of snack bars – two for brain health and two for gut health.

The gut health focused bars, under the ‘Vite Flora’ label, are the newest in the range and are the first snack bars on the market to offer a combination of prebiotics, probiotics and enzymes.

Their active ingredients include: 2500mg Prebiotic Fibre, five strains of digestive enzymes, 10 Billion CFU Probiotic ‘Friendly Bacteria’, Iodine, and Biotin.

Having started the brand with the focus on the ‘Brain’ line, Thorp says he can see the ‘Flora’ line becoming the best selling in the brand, especially with the current health pandemic throwing gut health and immunity into the spotlight.

“I think Flora has a wider consumer base and I think it will become the introduction to the brand for many.

“And the moment we can get them in front of the mass market in the retail space I truly believe they will explode and the brand will become a household name.”

In the Den

The confident businessman has even taken one of the most daunting startup challenges and pitched to the five formidable investors on the BBC show Dragons Den.

The show, which aired earlier this month (April), saw Thorp impress the dragons with his slick pitch and keen business sense, with dragon Touker Suleyman even offering investment, but Thorp denied the offer which would see him hand over a far larger chunk of his business than he wanted.

Looking back at the experience (the filming took place a year ago), Thorp says he’s confident he made the right decision as he has since secured investment at a much higher business valuation - confidence and positivity continue to prevail.

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