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Just Bee has investors buzzing

The overview

Launched by Joe Harper and his partner Andy Sugden in 2015, with the help of the Hub’s business start-up programme, Just Bee’s products are fruity water drinks infused with honey, which acts as a natural sweetener and means the drink contains less than 5g of sugar per 100ml.

The challenge

Joe worked with the Hub’s Growth team to develop the product and bring it to market. He joined the Recipe for Success programme and was introduced to buyers and supported in gaining listings with high street retailers.

By mid-2016, the business had developed three flavours of honey infused drinks, successfully selling them to independents and delicatessens, and gaining listings in Boots, Booths and Waitrose.

However, to continue the company’s growth, Joe required equity investment to fund additional stock and provide working capital. 

The solution

Working with Columb O’Shea from the Hub’s Access to Finance team, Joe developed a pitch which he presented to a NW Business Angels investor event. This subsequently led to an investment of £200,000 from two key angels from the food and drinks industry, which enabled Just Bee to repackage and rebrand their product in line with customer research indicating a desire to be able to see the drink, as opposed to the cardboard carton they were using. Just Bee also secured new listings with wholesalers Bidfood and the Co-Op.

Two years later, in 2018, the business has moved to the next stage of growth, and product was now stocked on the shelves of WH Smith, too. Joe has recently employed an experienced sales director to help further penetrate the retail market and needed a new round of funding to help take on two new members of staff to support growing sales, as well as cover marketing and product development costs.

They again worked with the Hub to develop a pitch and investment summary for another GC Angels investor event, this time securing £150,000 of equity funding and £100,000 of debt funding from Angelfish Investment. The equity funding allows the investor to take shares in the company, whereas the debt element will be repaid over a fixed term.

“We knew that to raise significant investment we needed to speak to as many funds and Angel investors as possible,” explains Joe. “The Hub was instrumental in this, introducing us to up to 40 new Angel investors and providing the opportunity to pitch to them at a central Manchester event. Several leads came from this, one of which one became our lead investor.”

Sales have now risen to around £600,000 and with the continued support of the Hub, Joe and Andy are now hoping to expand into new international markets.

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