Healthy, nutritious food is an integral part of our well-being and helps us to be both physically and mentally fit however, oftentimes we may forget this during our days filled with many tasks and distractions. Ambronite co-founder, Simo Suoheimo, seeks to fill this need with nutritious, drinkable meals. We were able to catch up with Simo where he shared the Ambronite story, his thoughts on how things developed, food innovation, and his entrepreneurial journey. Here are excerpts of our interview with Simo. The text has been condensed for clarity.
Photo Source: Ambronite
Tell me a little bit about yourself and how everything got started.
Our team was built around this initial idea in 2013. We were a group of friends studying at Aalto University in Helsinki at the time. What ultimately connected us was the passion for developing a food solution for ourselves when you’re busy and low on time. This would solve the problems we saw in the fast food options and in food in general; we essentially were interested in finding out if we could make food products in a modern way that was more sustainable and served people better.
Sometimes people are surprised after reading the label how nutritious and informative it is, which states both the ingredients and where they are sourced, these are real natural sources of food. Initially, they seem to think this is a cocktail where supplements are added. However, our berries are picked in Finland, dried and then grinded. Also many of these ingredients are used in a kitchen – we don’t use herbs no one has heard of!
On the other hand, this is understandable, as these products haven’t existed before. We are truly talking about real food in drinkable form here. That is, these are not supplements. This can be hard for some people to internalize and it’s a remarkable challenge for us to push forward as well. Respectively, this represents a rather fundamental shift in thinking for many people, as it’s interesting that awareness of how food impacts well-being and health is surprisingly low.
What’s the hardest part of your business?
That’s a hard one, you see there are so many of them [laughs]. In the beginning we didn’t set out to build a business but to solve the very problem we were facing ourselves. We didn’t know how hard it would be to create this kind of drinkable meal, one that was optimized for ingredients and nutritional value. Ambronite includes everything a human needs and in amounts which are supported by science. This means we had to bring together experts from various fields to make it work.
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Besides a very wide understanding on these different topics, there’s also a deep emphasis needed on ingredients. What are the most nutritionally rich sources of food? For example, Finnish berries and herbs, etc. It has been a versatile challenge, considering we started from scratch without having anything but our idea and passion for it. No infrastructure, R&D, nothing. If we had known how hard it would be, we might not have started, but luckily we did.
Photo Source: Ambronite
What’s your approach to marketing at Ambronite?
The most important thing for us has been to develop our products with our customers who have given us tremendous support. The first product version was created solely based on product development feedback where customers gave input on products in progress. The first big batch was also funded by crowdfunding, from 40 or so countries from excited people who wanted to be part of what we do and identified with this. This was the biggest funding raised for a food product on IndieGoGo and it would have never been possible if people hadn’t been this supportive. Again, it was built on the idea that the food of the future should serve people better and it could be something very different from what we see today in our society. It’s rather exceptional to fund R&D for a startup just from advance sales.
We wanted to raise awareness with issues concerning healthier, more practical products that would fit into our hectic lifestyles and also reduce consumer waste in a grocery store.
We focused more on the development work with customers. This interaction would let us see how our work resonates with people. These interactions are vital and many firms might miss the fact that people want to be involved in things and participate. People are more interested in why you do something and much less in the specifics of it. E.g., how your product looks like isn’t really something people will talk about, but instead we wanted to raise awareness with issues concerning healthier, more practical products that would fit into our hectic lifestyles and also reduce consumer waste in a grocery store.
Photo Source: Ambronite
What has surprised you most during this entrepreneurial journey?
It was a big surprise to see how big of a stampede there was towards what we did. Seeing Ambronite in huge media outlets such as Forbes was kind of absurd, to see that we were the first ones who made food products this way from fresh ingredients. For me, this was huge and without a doubt some of the most intensive times I’ve experienced.
The other thing is, very often entrepreneurs overthink when it comes to asking for help. People help genuinely when you ask nicely. This culture of giving back is particularly pervasive in the US (compared to Finland), but there is still the same issue in the US where entrepreneurs starting out may doubt themselves. Our experience has shown that it’s just smart to ask for help and later on you can give back as well!
Who are your role models and how have they shaped your thinking?
There are many! I follow many people who have spontaneously created positive contributions in their area of influence and have made an impact. One of them, Yvon Chouinard, created Patagonia and approached business starting from his “personal why” or personal mission. He has shown a great example for other entrepreneurs how business can be conducted and how you bring people together.
Also, I’m happy and proud that my grandfather is very close to me and has been, among other things, serving the state as well as supporting the young people of his region.
Since the beginning, we heard a lot of people saying that it can’t be done and so on. Or that that’s not going to work. During these hardest moments, when you hit rock bottom, you need to take a good look at yourself and see why you keep doing what you do. And at this point external motivations aren’t enough anymore. You must be able to draw the energy from your own vision on how you like things to be and from your own reasons. So you owe it to yourself to look in the mirror; being on this entrepreneurial path made me see all this more clearly.
Share your final thoughts on what’s your focus for the next few years.
We are soon releasing a new product but more importantly, we see Ambronite being something that’s continuously evolving. Regardless of our core products we are not restricted to drinkable meals and are not limited to one type of a solution. However, we are asking: What does the future of food look like? What it can be for us is something that lets people recognize the meaning of proper nutrition and time as well. What’s amazing is that in our customers there are all kinds of people; programmers, athletes, entrepreneurs and the like. Only recently one of our customers ran 250 kilometers in an ultramarathon that took place in a desert and used Ambronite for nutrition. We have heard amazing stories of how people used our product to help them succeed. This also creates challenges and demands for us and certain expectations to which we have to respond. Overall, we’re very happy on how things are evolving!