Our Q&A this week is with Cass Spies who left a 14-year career in banking to found Twisted Yoghurt, an enterprise that has developed from a retailer with a handful of stores to a wholesaler stocking 1500 outlets around the country.
ISB: What made you decide to leave the banking industry and become an entrepreneur?
CS: Ever since I was little, I’ve been surrounded by small business. My Dad is a serial entrepreneur and the family business was always a major part of our lives. Whether it was discussing it around the dinner table, or being thrown into the back of the car when I was old enough to have a job to come and learn what the business was about. The work ethic associated with running in your own business has always been in my veins.
When we moved back from 13 years in London, we had two small children and the time just felt right to move away from the corporate world. The politics and red tape of big business was something that I couldn’t see myself doing forever, so I started looking for a way into having my own business. The excitement and pride of having my own business was always something I craved when I worked in banking.
ISB: Tell us briefly about the ethos behind Twisted Yoghurt.
CS: At Twisted we believe that life’s too short to take yourself too seriously. If we can bring a flutter of fun into people’s lives with our product, then our mission is well and truly accomplished. Our brand and our products are all about health and happiness. When you twist those two together, you create something that’s exactly what we’re all about.
We live by three key principles:
ISB: What was the biggest challenge you encountered when you were starting out as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
CS: Like many people at the very beginning of their business lifecycle, I was eager to create and build the brand and product and team. My main issue was getting my head into the numbers and understanding the true day-to-day impact of cashflow. My Dad had always stressed how important it was to be close to the numbers and it wasn’t until I reluctantly immersed myself in it, that I realised just how important!
ISB: Why did you decide it was best for the business to shift its focus from retail to wholesale?
CS: It was driven by the what the market was telling us and the reaction to what we were offering. We watched our customers come into our stores and take our yoghurt home to enjoy in the comfort of their own homes, showing us that the market for this “better for you” dessert option was far larger than the reach that we could ever achieve in the retail space. And while I had started the business with the hope of turning into a franchise retail model, the response from our customers drove the shift in business.
ISB: How did you manage the business through the significant growth Twisted Yoghurt has experienced recently?
CS: An amazing team who have an amazing “can-do” attitude to life & love the business as much as I do! My management team have worked for me almost since I started the business and have grown and added to their skillset as the business has grown and changed over the last nine years. Having a great team of people around you is invaluable and at the heart of what we do. When your team feel the ups and downs of a business with you, they’re really invested in its success, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.
ISB: Finally, what’s the best piece of advice you would pass onto others with an idea they’d like to turn into a business?
CS: It takes time to build a business and a brand. Nothing worth having was created overnight.