By Charndré Emma Kippie
For Greig Jansen, CEO of PURA Beverages, relationships are the cornerstone of business and trading activities. Greig has been building relationships his entire career, and has steered many companies to reach the next level, globally. His strategy has driven productivity and sales, improved corporate culture, increased employee engagement and boosted market share.
Greig founded his beverage startup business in 2015, and after an initial period of research and development, he launched his beverages into the market in 2017. PURA Soda is manufactured with low sugar, natural flavours and no colourants. The brand’s philosophy of ‘Evolved Refreshment’ is geared towards healthier living.
What are your main career objectives for PURA Soda? How do you hope to make a difference?
I believe that in order to drive a business forward, it is critical to provide leadership, direction and motivation. In my position, I am fortunate enough to influence all of the above. As a business we have a very clear vision and direction which everyone in the business buys into.
We have audaciously, as a business, set our goals on being the next billion dollar brand. This is ultimately a financial goal, but in addition to this we are building a brand – ‘Live a little PURA’ which is about lifting spirits. If you are in a position to help, then you should, no grand gestures needed but a lot of small things can add up to something big. If we can encourage people to all work towards ‘living a little PURA’ we know the world will be a better place.
We embed this philosophy into everything we do, from how we like to support smaller businesses and interact with our stakeholders, to ensuring that all of our packaging is recyclable and to having fun in our work environment. We hope to make a small difference in this way.
Please could you tell us a bit about your background – how did you get to this point?
I have been involved in the FMCG industry for many years. I am the former CEO of the East African Bottling Company, the Ethiopian subsidiary of Coca-Cola. After leaving Coca-Cola I wanted to remain in the beverage industry, however I wanted to add a unique spin on things based on the consumer insights I had learned. This was when PURA Soda was conceptualised.
What excites you the most about the work that you do?
Over the years, I have witnessed the transformation of the beverage industry. Consumer interests have taken a drastic shift. The traditional soda approach has had to adapt as more consumers are looking for special occasions, personal interactions, or something that adds uniqueness to their beverage experience. This has posed several challenges as well as opportunities for beverage manufacturers. Consequently, to rise above the competition I realise that we have to be innovative with our products and keep up with current and growing trends.
We are a customer-centric company that meets the demand for health, natural ingredients, responsible sourcing, and sustainability. What is extremely exciting is to be able not only to create a product that talks to the above, but to create a brand that resonates with the ever growing psychographic consumer looking for something a little healthier without compromising on taste or refreshment. And even further to see the product being bought off the shelves and enjoyed.
How do start-ups in your field differentiate themselves? Please provide 3 pieces of advice for those aspiring to make it in the Beverage sector.
As a start-up company in the beverage industry, we faced fierce competition from the big corporations and long-standing brands. We came up with an innovative cost-effective product and we continually build new strategies to appeal to consumers. My advice to start-ups in this sector is:
- Conduct extensive market research and interrogate consumer insights
- Build a brand that has customer interests at heart
- Believe in yourself and what you want to achieve
What 3 tips do you have when it comes to implementing solutions in your field?
- Remain relevant in the market so you are catering for the consumer’s needs and aspirations.
- Keep it simple. If you have a business idea and you are ready to run with it, be careful not to let your concept snowball into something overcomplicated. Just do it, it is better to fall forward then stand perfectly still.
- Absorb everything. Listen to what others have to say – friends, family, experts and even yourself. When it comes to things that have to do with your goals, be a sponge. As you learn, start to flesh out the idea for your business. Keep notes from the resources you come across and develop a detailed plan.
Have you read any books or listened to any podcasts that have inspired you and your career thus far?
Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing. Polar explorer, Ernest Shackleton had to lead, motivate and direct his crew under extreme circumstance and came out tops despite the odds constantly being stacked against him.
What is your ‘why’ i.e. Bottom line? And how do you stay motivated?
At the core of our business is “Live a little PURA”. Each of us believes that we can make a small difference in some way. As mentioned, this drives everything we do and is something one can become very passionate about.
One of the most important ingredients in a successful business idea is passion. Passion will consistently drive you to improve your process so your business grows. At PURA Soda, passion is an intrinsic value in our business.
Please could you tell us about 3 highlights/ milestones reached at PURA thus far?
- In the last 20 months, we have grown in excess of 400%.
- We were named Product of the Year in 2020 for innovation in the cold beverage category, as well as Best Tasting Non-Alcoholic Beverage at the Aurora International Taste Challenge.
- We are now exporting the brand to 14 different countries, including the UK, UAE and the USA.
Who or what inspires you on a daily basis?
I am inspired to be the best version of me, drawing inspiration from the ‘Live a little PURA’ motto. I am driven as to how we can produce the best, better-for-you, great tasting refreshing drinks, how we run our business and how I interact with stakeholders, family and friends.
What advice do you have for businesses looking to scale right now?
Scaling means adding resources at an incremental rate while creating revenue at an exponential rate. Scaling is attractive, but it’s not right for every business. The first step to scaling your business is to break down all of your challenges. Identify bottlenecks, friction points, or labour-intensive and repetitive tasks. Once you have identified these, the next step is to automate as much of it as you can, in order to allow you to focus on what really drives your business forward. You also need the right people, not necessarily more people. You need high-performing people who care about their work and the company; people who invest themselves in their jobs.
Certainly as a start-up you have to invest ahead of the curve in both human capital and inputs, but be mindful to always watch cash flows as these are essentially the lifeblood of your business.
The best advice I can offer is plan, implement and review often.