Jacqui Nolan-Neylan is co-founder of Revvies Energy Strips, a Sydney start-up producing confectionary strips containing 40mg of caffeine. They dissolve on the tongue and provide a quick, convenient, pocket size, sugar free, energy boost.
Revvies are based on one idea – infusing dissolvable strips with caffeine to provide a sugar free alternative to energy drinks and coffee. Jacqui developed this idea with her husband John and a friend from New Zealand. After years of research and development, the product finally hit the shelves in Sydney and Auckland, and is growing nationally.
Jacqui has worked in start-ups all her life and was fortunate to see some of them become incredibly successful – often, this was due to their clear vision and investment in staff development as well as creating a fun and vibrant business culture and community. Due to this experience, she believes that a great work environment, good communication and happy staff always create the best results.
revviesenergy.com @RevviesEnergy facebook
..we are always looking to encourage trying different things and empower our staff to have more responsibility. Our staff are involved as much as possible, from the ideas to action in all areas of the business.
Tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide to take the plunge and make it happen?
I have always loved caffeine and I can’t function in the morning without my coffee! I got to the point where I was having 4-5 cups per day and it was affecting my sleep. I have always been healthy, exercised regularly and eaten all my greens, but I also love the extra boost that caffeine gives (especially during a workout). In small doses it can be very beneficial.
I was looking to find an alternative to coffee and energy drinks that could give me a similar boost, while cutting my caffeine intake. While at an expo, my husband and I saw some dissolvable mouth strips with vitamins and thought why not add a small amount of caffeine and remove the sugar. Three years of painstaking R&D later we launched the product in Auckland and Sydney.
We have a two year old and keeping up with him and running our own business is very demanding. It requires a lot of energy. I still eat well and exercise, but now instead of four coffees per day, I have one in the morning and 1-2 strips in the afternoon. My caffeine intake is much less now. I honestly don’t need any more and can sleep perfectly at night.
Please explain your business model
Our business model is fairly traditional for a brand of our type. We currently handle our own distribution with Revvies available in 180 convenience stores, newsagents, universities and petrol stations in Auckland and Sydney, and we have just started to roll out nationally.
We strongly believe that a company is built by its staff, so in our recruitment process and staff development we are always looking to encourage trying different things and empower our staff to have more responsibility. Our staff are involved as much as possible, from the ideas to action in all areas of the business. We are also quite transparent with our sales and marketing results, so they can see the effect of their efforts, both good and bad. It helps us come up with more ideas to improve and evolve faster. Feedback is something we highly value and we try to provide it regularly, as well as encouraging training and networking events (when we can afford it). This collaborative approach keeps us fresh, up to date, always moving forward – not to mention it’s more fun!
What are you working on right now and what are you most excited about in the next three months?
We are currently working on activities with universities across Australia, as first semester is just about to start. We work with the University unions and societies to get the word out and give students free trials of the product. It’s essential in this category to get people to try the product and experience the benefits for themselves.
We are also updating our website so we can add and update content more quickly and bring in our social media feeds. We are also adding a shopping cart, as lots of people have contacted us to buy the product and this will make it easy for people who don’t have a stockist nearby to purchase the it directly.
How do you make ideas happen?
I find if I tackle the hardest task first, my day just gets easier from there and I won’t end up trying to make excuses or procrastinate later in the day.
When you don’t know the answer, think of people who might know the answer and call them.
With a limited budget, family and friends are a great resource. We would never have made it here without the support of our loved ones, and it is surprising, inspiring and motivating how much people are willing to help.
What does your typical day look like?
Every day is so different! Some days it is visiting stockists, other days it is finding and negotiating with suppliers. Some days it is writing press releases, or reviewing the budget, or walking the streets giving out free samples. Other days (and nights) are just spent packing and sticking samples to postcards.
What challenges have you faced when starting or growing a business/organisation in Australia?
Hmmm challenges… where do I start? Money…haha. But I guess that is the same with any company starting out. We found, because it is such a new innovation, one of the biggest challenges is about how to educate people about the product and its benefits. We are constantly trying to come up with different ways to get our message out, we also do a lot of this personally, by getting out on the streets regularly, handing out free samples and talking about it. A positive about being in Australia is that buyers are more willing to meet with you and hear about your product than in the UK, where I have worked previously. Even though buyers might not be willing to take the chance on a new product straight away, they have met with you, know the product and who you are and after that it is just a matter of keeping them updated with the progress – rather than trying to get your foot in the door. Buyers everywhere are pretty conservative. They always seem to add line extensions to their shelves ahead of new truly innovative products.
What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?
Do your budget, double it and double it again.
What role do you think business can play in affecting social change?
Business has an important role in promoting social change by supporting issues they believe in through their selection of suppliers, sourcing of materials or choice of superannuation fund or bank, as well as through their communications, sponsorship and donations. The interaction with customers can be really positive and beneficial to a business, but these should be genuine. Businesses need to walk the walk. This is particularly true of how they treat their staff. I believe businesses need to create environments that support their staff and reject stereotypes that are used to hold people back.
Speaking of affecting social change, s there a particular charity you’d like our readers to support?
Skateistan – connecting youth and education through skateboarding in Afghanistan and Cambodia.
Name 3 websites you would recommend to our readers.
Source Bottle – been so great in terms of getting in touch with people who want to try and promote Revvies.
Blue Bottle Biz – the largest platform of knowledge for business content.
Campaign Monitor – has been unbelievably useful, especially to create a newsletter to keep our stakeholders up to date.
Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea (e.g. are you looking for funding, interns, marketing help)?
We are pretty small at the moment, but always happy to hear from anyone who is interested in the product and wants to get involved on any level.
We’re aiming to build a community of Australian idea makers helping each other. If you could have one question answered about startups, marketing, social media, accounting, monetization, product development etc. What would it be?
What is the conversion rate of catch up/on demand TV and what is a good price (CPM) for advertising through this medium?
What’s your favourite bar/café/restaurant?
The Happy Chef in the Sussex St Food court in Sydney has the best Laksa in the world!
We thought it would be cool to crowdsource an annual prize to award to the interviewee’s choice (each person interviewed gets one vote) winner for the year’s best interview. Are you willing to kick in a prize?
A case of Revvies.