Interview with a Vegan Queen: Rimi Thapar, LoveRaw
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Meet Rimi Thapar, the vegan health entrepreneur and businesswoman who went face to face with the dragons, and turned one down.
You may have seen Rimi, founder of LoveRaw, when she appeared on BBC's Dragon's Den last month and shocked viewers by walking away from an investment offer from Deborah Meaden.
We caught up with Rimi about her journey in building her brand, how the Dragon's Den experience really was, and what the future holds for LoveRaw.
Rimi, tell us a bit about your story leading up to founding LoveRaw.
I previously worked in the finance world, long days, not thinking about what I ate. Constantly running on empty and the funny thing is looking back I thought I was healthy.
I left finance in 2010 and moved to Spain where I discovered farmers markets and a healthier lifestyle. I lost my dad in 2011 and I went through a dark time, I was grieving. I needed to place my energy into something and that something ended up being LoveRaw. I wanted to work in a career I was passionate about. Snacks that claimed they were healthy were not, I wanted to cut the BS and create a transparent honest product that said exactly what it was, I was a woman on a mission.
I moved back to the UK where I set up in my in-laws kitchen, got certified by my local council and the Soil Association. I started the business with £600 that got me my first order, but that’s another story! However, that’s where it all began.
What is LoveRaw?
LoveRaw means transparent, unprocessed, pure, simple and full of passion. We make premium healthy food and drink products, there is no compromise when it comes to ingredients and we never use cheap fillers. Quality always comes first, even before profit and margins.
I started out making Snack bars, followed by our Boosters and last year we launched our on the go Almond Drinks. I am currently working on a new product which is by far my favourite category, it's very unique and so moreish… but that's all I can say for now.
What did the company start as, and how has it changed over time? How did you manage change in your ideas and business?
The company started with determination, I could not find someone to make the bars for me so I made them myself with no prior knowledge of the food industry. There were errors back then and even today but I am learning. I didn’t have a vision when I first started out it was very much at the micro level, I was working day to day, hand making the bars, hand rolling, hand sealing and getting new retailers on board. I slowly grew the team and was able to focus on new product development.
However along with growth comes challenges and setbacks, and boy this can break you down. I always go back to why I started LoveRaw this resonates with me and keeps me going. Being an entrepreneur and having your own business you have to embrace the fact that you are out of your comfort zone, change is positive and you have to pivot towards the needs of the business.
What do you want LoveRaw to do for people?
When people see LoveRaw I want them to feel trust, familiarity, enjoy, consume without feeling the guilt. Making small changes like cutting out refined sugars, eating less processed food and drinks can make huge difference in how you look and more importantly how you feel. I know it did for me, in essence I want our consumers to feel good and be the best version of themselves.
How have you found being an entrepreneur vs. your previous career?
Everything comes with pros and cons. When I was in finance although I worked long hours I didn’t really take my work home with me. I could switch off on the weekends and not feel guilty about taking time off. Being an entrepreneur its great I have flexibility meaning I can pick up my daughter from nursery, but then I start my working day earlier to compensate and work once she has gone to sleep. However with this comes sleepless nights when I have challenges, I never switch off, I feel guilty having time off, I work on the weekends. I also have the guilty mother syndrome.
But would I change it? Never! Not yet anyway.
Let's talk about Dragon's Den. How nerve-wracking was it going into that room?
OMG, the tension was so thick, you felt it as soon as you entered the room. I was shaking as I was pitching, someone told me to make eye contact with the dragons while I present which made it worse. But I got through the pitch, in hindsight that’s the easy part. The questioning, on the other hand, went on for an hour.
What were you looking for when you first wanted to secure a dragon?
I was looking for investment and a mentor, I am confident in the direction and where I want LoveRaw to go in. However, I wanted a Dragon on board who has knowledge and years of experience behind them, who could add value as well as the investment requested.
What happened in that room?
It got pretty heated, there were compliments towards the business and there was a lot of scrutiny. I felt quite vulnerable and no matter how much I rehearsed my numbers I forgot one figure under the pressure. 60 minutes were edited into 10 minutes and of course when the show aired the question didn’t always match up with my answer. However, it was an amazing experience and I have learnt so much from it.
Do you stick by your decision?
Absolutely, I have worked so hard since day one, to give away 30% and undervalue the company I have built it was never going to happen. However Deborah was the nicest Dragon out of them all and I would have loved to work with her, just not at 30%.
What would your advice be to any entrepreneurs starting out in the vegan community or otherwise?
Do something you love, don’t be driven by revenues the passion you have at the very start is what will get you through the challenging days. Be persistent, have resilience, sometimes we want things to move along quickly, however, I have learnt to be more patient. Enjoy your achievements.
Who is another Badass Vegan Woman that inspires you?
You can see Rimi take on the dragons in BBC's Dragon's Den on iPlayer. You can pick up LoveRaw's healthy bars, drinks and superfood powders online and at Sainsbury's, Waitrose, Whole Foods and health food stores, see LoveRaw's website for a full list of stockists.