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New Start boost gives savoury sports snack business a crucial head start

Gutzi, a borders-based start-up which creates energy-boosting savoury sports food, has enjoyed a great year of success since winning £5,000 of funding at the 2017 New Start Scotland Exhibition.

Owner Lucy Colquhoun, from Peebles, a distance runner who has represented Scotland and Great Britain, held off stiff competition last year to claim the first prize and says winning the award allowed her to build the Gutzi brand and crucially funded product development trials with manufacturers and product testing with over 800 athletes.

Lucy explains: “Winning the New Start Scotland competition last year was such a huge boost to my business, both in terms of much-needed funding and exposure. This enabled me to build the Gutzi brand and invest in marketing materials for exhibitions and web development, and more crucially it funded product development trials with manufacturers and customer testing.”

Lucy was an ultra runner for over ten years, running distances up to 100 miles around the world. She suffered from terrible stomach problems whilst competing and could never find suitable food which tasted good, stopped nausea and gave enough salts for endurance events. Professionally, Lucy previously worked in project management for the NHS.

“This is why I launched Gutzi, it is vital to keep re-fuelling during races which can last all day, sometimes even several days and I knew there wasn’t a snack product available for endurance sports which was portable, palatable and also easy to digest. After discussing this with other athletes, I discovered I was not the only person to find a problem with nutrition in sports, so I decided to do something about it.

“Initially I funded the business from savings, along with help from Innovation Voucher via the Interface scheme, Business Gateway, Scottish Enterprise and the Royal Bank of Scotland Accelerator Scheme. The main reason I entered the New Start Scotland competition was for the funding, I knew I had a good idea but initial funding is vital for any new business in the early days; to validate the idea, establish the company legally, and help with branding and so on.

“I was obviously delighted to win, and very excited as I knew this provided me with the platform to get the business off the ground - turn my idea into reality if you like. I think there were various reasons why I won, including having a clear message, prototype products to show the judges which made it tangible and lots of  passion.

“Since winning the award I have had a very busy year and have so far reached over 800 athletes to test our products, which has given me invaluable feedback. Also it has enabled me to invest in product development with manufacturers, we are still finessing some recipes as the transition from kitchen to factory always poses huge challenges. We have now built up a strong following amongst endurance cyclists and runners, and our research confirms the demand for savoury sports fuel. We were also shortlisted for GBEA awards, and invited as a Trailblazer Business to the European Sports Nutrition Association, endorsed by commonwealth games athletes. 

“The next step is to officially launch the product and to start selling internationally, then we will introduce new flavours and further expand our product range. This will involve collaborating with nutritionists, manufacturers and ingredients businesses to ensure Gutzi combines function and flavour, this is essential as it is an extremely fast-moving industry.”

Lucy adds: “The advice I would give to other small business owners is make sure you connect with the community - there's a wealth of knowledge and support out there, from talks to mentors to grant schemes. Scotland is by all accounts one of the best environments to be a start-up and everyone is very generous with their time. A cup of coffee with a useful contact could unlock all sorts of doors to your business.”

The £5K pitch competition will again be taking place at this years New Start Scotland exhibition, where budding entrepreneurs will each get five minutes to pitch a business idea to a panel of expert judges and the winner will receive a lump sum of £5,000 cash plus a huge range of free business services.
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