Forget Richard Branson, the creators of Pukka herbal teas could have the next big business success story.
More than one million cups of Pukka Herbs tea are drunk every day in 40 counties, helping the company to a £28million annual turnover. But it all started as a single classified advert in a local magazine.
Boss Tim Westwell, 55, has revealed the incredible story of how he met co-founder Sebastian Pole and how he battled depression and chronic back pain to make the business a success.
He put a small ad in the Bristol lifestyle magazine Venue and offering his financial expertise in growing a sustainable business. After two weeks he received only one response – from herbalist Sebastian.
The pair immediately hit it off and decided to launch business in herbalism, using Sebastian’s knowledge of alternative therapies and Tim’s business accumen.
Pukka Herbs was founded in 2001, mixing teas in Tim’s kitchen while running the accounts from Sebastian’s bedroom.
Talking about the advert, Tim added: “It was just a couple of lines, asking for anyone with an interest in herbalism, with a creative business idea who might need help.”
And once the duo were brought together and leapt into action, they ran the company from an unusual office-space.
Seb, 46, said: “When we started I was mixing the teas in my kitchen and Tim was running the company from his back bedroom.
“But even then, in those early days, I had confidence that it was going to take off – not in an arrogant way, I just knew that what we were creating was a good idea.”
Explaining his desire to get into herbalism, Tim said: “I started to look for more natural remedies to my problems, and started reading up on herbalism.
“It was a time, around 2001, when that kind of traditional medicine was starting to be taken seriously in this country, along with other eastern traditions like yoga.
“So I decided that I somehow wanted to work in that field – I sensed it was the answer to my troubles.”
Fast-forward to today and Pukka Herbs has come a long way from those few inches in the back of a local magazine.
The Bristol-based company now employs more than 100 staff, works with suppliers and farmers in more than 30 countries and ships teas to 40 plus countries worldwide including China.
Seb’s kitchen has been replaced by a 19,000sq ft warehouse space, they have seen sales grow by nearly 30 per cent every year for the past ten years and three lines of tea has been extended 40.
But the boys always stayed true to their humble routes – keeping the ingredients organic, Fair Trade where possible and donating one per cent of their profits every year to environmental charities.
And Seb, who still practices herbalism – using plants for medicinal purposes – believes this is just the beginning for Pukka Herbs.
“People are still just discovering herbalism,” he said.
“There are 30,000 plants out there used in herbalism, so there’s so much for us to tap into.”
Not only that, but he thinks people will be swapping a builder’s brew for a Pukka teabag sooner than they think.
He added: “Increasingly I think we’ll see herbal teas taking on traditional black tea as the drink of choice, because the health benefits are enormous.”