Startup Spotlight

Graduate-founded startup offers functional mushrooms as clean capsules

By Olivia Brown

- Last updated on GMT

Graduate-founded startup offers functional mushrooms as clean capsules

Related tags mushrooms reishi Supplements

The startup Headstrong, founded by recent university graduate 22-year-old Finn Hall, seeks to bring authenticity to the growing functional mushroom market with clean, high-quality capsules.

Hall tells NutraIngredients he feels many existing supplement brands are ‘faceless’ and ‘medicinal’ in appearance, which can cause consumer scepticism and mistrust.

“There’s definitely room for Headstrong, which is trying to bring the community aspect. It’s less about what the product is, and more about what it actually does for you. The people care about the benefits they receive from it,” Hall emphasised.

He draws attention to the newly launched brand’s focus on social media and personal outreach to consumers to spread awareness of nutrition and ways to optimise health. He emphasises how he hopes this connection with the customer will bring trust to the brand and products.

He describes his early interest in sports nutrition following his previous involvement in high-level BMX training and his journey to discovering functional mushrooms to optimise performance in his final year of university.

“When I initially went down the mushroom route, it wasn’t with the purpose of creating a business around it. A long-distance athlete I followed on Instagram was taking Cordyceps mushrooms. I had no idea what they were at the time, so I did a deep dive into that and other functional mushrooms.”

After researching the science behind the health effects, Hall noticed that many cheaper products on the market contained fillers and sweeteners, and used the mycelium from the mushroom as opposed to the fruiting body which he explains contains the bioactive compounds.

“I wasn’t happy with what was out there, so I found a manufacturer who made some samples. I took them myself and I loved what they did to me, so I had a moment where I thought… maybe there could be a business behind this.”

Mushroom portfolio

Headstrong provide a portfolio of six mushroom capsule supplements containing 2,000mg of high-quality functional mushrooms, including Cordyceps with ashwagandha, Tremella with chamomile, Lion’s Mane with B12, Reishi, Chaga, as well as a mushroom blend.

Regarding the best seller of the range, he explains: “Lion’s mane is most popular, probably as it’s the most well-known. This is great for improving memory and focus, whilst many take it to improve mood.

“The two important compounds responsible for the benefits are hericenones and erinacines, which have the ability to bypass the blood-brain barrier and have been found to regenerate brain cells.”

The entrepreneur ensures to draw from the recent scientific evidence to back any claims made, with studies​ highlighting the ability of lion’s mane to promote neuronal growth and potentially result in improved memory function.

Hall adds that Reishi also has strong interest due to current demand for sleep optimisation and stress reduction; benefits which studies​ have linked with intakes of the mushroom.

“It can actually control your cortisol levels, which is your stress hormone, so you feel more balanced and your REM sleep quality is often increased because of this,” he explains.

Describing the reasoning for choosing capsules, Hall explains how this enables for mushroom to be provided in its purest form without the unfavourable taste associations and the need for the addition of sweeteners and other filler ingredients.

Highlighting the brand’s awareness of trends in personalised nutrition, the founder adds: “We also offer a bundle of products, which are specific for different lifestyles. For example, we have a bundle targeted at those suffering from hormonal imbalances with mushrooms suited for this, as well as an athlete’s bundle.”

The bundle is also delivered in packaging made from mycelium - the root structure of the fungi which grows beneath the soil – which enables from the product to be decomposable, meeting sustainability demands.

Future moves

Hall asserts there is high interest from retailers and investors. The brand received a 100k investment, which he says will enable company growth towards to the end of the year.

Following the official launch of Headstrong in May 2023, he says that the current focus will be on growth of the range before considering future innovation opportunities.

Yet, he hints that the company may enter into fitness and wellness spaces towards the end of this year to grow a wider presence.

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