‘I was able to buy my sister a house’ – Teacher explains how she made £200million business

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Mrs Barratt co-founded the protein snack bar maker Grenade with her husband Alan Barratt, which launched onto the UK market in 2010. It was originally set up to be a hobby-business but quickly turned into an entirely new career for the educator. Since selling the business in March 2021 Mrs Barratt has achieved the title of ‘millionaire’ despite noting: “We never set Grenade up to make money.” In fact, this entrepreneur believes money does not bring happiness.

Mrs Barratt spent majority of her career in education, working in a sixth form college, secondary schools and pioneered a European funded programme for Post 16 vocational education. Undeniably she has always been a trailblazer and this did not change when she turned her hand to entrepreneurship.

However, she noted that the success of the business does not necessarily translate directly into revenue: “I don’t think success is selling for 200 million. I think success is making sure that you have the right work ethic, that you’re doing your best job, people knowing about you, loving you, trusting you and buying in to the brand. There’s also an element of luck and timing and, something a lot of people overlook, an actual market for the product!”

Like most entrepreneurs, the founding pair weren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and take on running the business all by themselves: “When we first launched Grenade, we did everything. It was all self-funded because that was really important to us. I don’t think you’ve got business unless you can fund it yourself so we didn’t want to borrow money.

“We did the magazines, trade shows and we supported all the distributors. We had a great idea, we paid attention to detail, we focused on the branding, we had knock backs but always learned from them, we built an amazing team, and we didn’t take a holiday for four years.”

While this routine sounds incredibly gruelling, just a few years later and Mrs Barratt has had the holiday most only dream of since selling Grenade.  

I was away from the business two years before it sold in March 2021, so pre-pandemic, I had some phenomenal holidays. I didn’t really have any time off in the 10 years I was working on Grenade, so I travelled the world and spent time with my family.”

But she says the money and success has not changed her: “For me, the money thing just isn’t important and has never really been my motivating factor. When the Mondelez deal was finalised, the lawyers had to ask me to check the money had gone into my bank!

“I’m very grounded and down to earth. I don’t have an extravagant lifestyle. I’m happiest when I’m walking my dog or getting a coffee, spending time with friends and family and travelling – although don’t get me wrong I have a couple of expensive hobbies,” she shared.

And like many restless entrepreneurs, Mrs Barratt admits that she still doesn’t know “how to relax and have that work life balance.” She is already back at work with growing food brands like LoveRaw and Mister Freed, as well as chairing boards as a non-executive director and holding a property investment portfolio.

Most entrepreneurs long for the day that their business is worth millions, but less so the day that they sell it to get that worth. Mrs Barratt noted that since she had moved away from the day-to-day runnings in 2019 already it had been an easier transition.

“The actual sale felt a bit like Christmas; you’re really excited on Christmas Eve then by Boxing Day it’s almost a bit of an anti-climax.  In the week leading up to the sale, there are so many emotions going on, is it going through, isn’t it going through, could this be the end of Grenade as I know it?  And there was that uncertainty of real closure which is really tough because it’s now someone else’s baby.

“Ultimately, I was happy Grenade was sold to Mondelez as Al and I had originally discussed wanting to sell to Cadbury, so selling to Cadbury’s owners was even more of an achievement. It’s gone to a good home,” she noted cheerily.

Mrs Barratt added that the sale was made possible mostly due to Grenade’s credibility in the niche industry of protein bars, and as an industry leader it afforded the business shelf space in well-known supermarkets across the world.

However, after a nine-figure sale, and becoming a millionaire, Mrs Barratt still has a staunch stance on whether money can bring happiness: Definitely not. I genuinely think it can bring problems. One thing it does do is give you choices and options.

“I’m grateful I no longer have to worry about putting the heating on when it’s cold or how much food costs but what gives me the most satisfaction is being able to help my family, which is so important to me.

”I was able to buy my sister a house and my 70-year-old mum no longer has to jump start her S reg car every morning as I have been able to buy her a new one. Her only input was that she didn’t want a rude registration plate!

“Through the whole Grenade journey I never really thought about the end and now, for me, this is the end. I’ll always be the Co- Founder of Grenade but it’s exciting to think about the ‘what next?’.”

She continued: “We never set Grenade up to make money and if you do, you might get a short-term win, but you won’t get that consumer buy in which we did so well. We were also 100 percent focused – we had sold our previous business and put all our money into Grenade so there was no room for failure.

“Timing was also key as protein was becoming more popular, people were in to healthy lifestyles and as there hadn’t really been anything new in chocolate for a long time, it was time to disrupt! Grenade was one of the first protein bar brands where the bar tasted like chocolate and consumers were ready for that.”

She added, using all of her entrepreneurial experience, some advice for budding entrepreneurs searching for success.

Make sure there is a need for your business. Talk to people who will be honest about your idea. Just because you think it’s a good idea doesn’t mean it will fly.

“It also worries me that business seems to be about borrowing money as opposed to making money or funding your own business. I’ve always been brought up to save money to buy something, not borrow.

“Stay true to your brand. Have clear vision of what you want to do. If you have a business partner, make sure you’re both aligned. You need to be able to communicate from the outset and know what your expectations are to avoid difficult conversations down the line.”

She concluded by saying that ultimately an entrepreneurial venture should be started because the entrepreneur enjoys what they are doing, and if not then they should think about what they could move on to next.

Mrs Barratt said no one starting a business for the first time knows exactly what to do: “I sometimes don’t know how we got to where we did because neither of us had any business training. I had a very traditional background and left university to teach, and Al worked in gyms and had a distribution business.
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