Thursday, July 24, 2014

Bodybuilder Turned Entrepreneur Turns Over First £1mil & Scoops Award

“Just ask” is the entrepreneurial advice from world-fitness model and female entrepreneur who scooped Business of the Year at the recent Downtown Women inBusiness Awards.

Claire Harper receiving her award
For people wanting to start their own business, fitness guru Claire Harper said that to get started, sometimes it’s as simple as just asking the right person how to do it.

Manchester based Harper founded Harper Innovations four years ago when she came across a Swedish product called “Smart Shake” at a health and fitness show and immediately loved it.

Within weeks she was the main distributor of the product in the UK. This year she turned over her first £1 million and is now on the cusp of European and global expansion.

“If you come across a product that you really love and believe in and it’s not being sold in the UK – well just ask can you be the distributor. And then go from there,” she said.

Access to capital and knowing where to find grants is one of the biggest challenges facing start-ups, according to Harper.

After launching her business from her bedroom during a recession, Harper turned to The Women’s Organisation for advice on how to get going and take her business to the next level.

“Finance can cripple you when starting a business but The Women’s Organisation was fantastic at linking us into grants and schemes that we knew nothing about before. I couldn't have done it without them” said Harper.

“They also helped with the employment side, the legal side of business growth and linked me into apprenticeship schemes.”

“I really think more people would start their own business if they knew what support was out there.”
After winning the Business of the Year Award, Harper said some of the keys to success were sheer resilience, hard graft and the assistance she received from the Women’s Organisation.

“When we first started a lot of people said we wouldn't last six months which was like a red rag to a bull. I think that just spurred us on more,” she said.

“Year one we managed to turn over £200, 000,” said Harper. “We doubled that in the second year and now we’ve just turned over £1m with our projection being £3m next year which is just amazing.”

The thing I find most amazing about it is that we started the business in a recession, if I can do that – awesome,” said Harper.

The award-winning business started with the Smart Shake which is a gym bottle with two separate attached compartments that you can put anything into – for example a gym locker key, protein shake, nuts or seeds or any other dietary supplement.

Because of the huge popularity of the product, Harper then moved on to other fitness products she loved and was confident would sell in the UK.

“With the Muscle Moose we have just secured a deal for worldwide rights and are in negotiations to distribute other products,” she said.

 “Finding a product you really love and believe in is the key to success.”

If you are a woman based in Greater Manchester looking to expand your existing business, contact our Programme Manager Mike via to find out how you can receive free tailored business growth advice and support through Venture Accelerator. 

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