We spoke to Sebastian Pole, co-founder of Pukka Herbs, on the values of building a business based on organic practices.
Now a household name in organic herbal tea, Pukka has come a long way. Founded in 2001 in Bristol by Sebastian Pole and Tim Westwell, they now work with over 5,000 growers over the world. With sustainability as their core principle, they are certified as carbon neutral, offsetting their carbon through an organization called AERF (Applied Environmental Research Foundation), and have earned certification from the Soil Association. Their teas and supplements are sold in over 50 countries.
A certified herbalist and author of Pukka Life and Discovering A True You with Ayurveda, Sebastian is a true believer that organic farming and practices improve everyone’s health — from individuals to animals, the water, the air, and the whole ecosystem. We learn below what drove him to build a truly organic business, and how he used GBP 2000 from his credit card to get the idea off the ground.
1. Where did the idea for your business come from?
A few things.
1. A love of people, plants and planet. Tim, my business partner, and I wanting to do something positive.
2. A bad cup of herbal tea and knowing we could create something deliciously Pukka that brings benefit to everyone we connect with.
3. A powerful belief that herbal medicine has a vital role to play in our society’s wellbeing and that if people just tasted something special….
4. Wanting to support ecological conservation through commerce so that our profit serves a purpose.
2. Can you describe a typical working day?
Multi-layered, very exciting, a few frowns, lots of laughter.
3. How do you unwind or relax when you’re not working on your business?
In my garden with a cup of tea.
4. What’s the most important characteristic for being an entrepreneur?
Turning dreams into reality.
5. What drove you crazy when building your business?
Legislation limiting us communicating to our customers what the herbs in our teas and remedies do. It still drives me crazy.
6. What motivates you to keep going? What do you do when you hit a block?
The tremendously positive impact Pukka is having on people, plants and planet are a daily inspiration. When I hit a block I look for another perspective.
7. If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
Hire better talent earlier.
8. Do you have any habits or routines, which help you in your working life?
I meditate daily. I plan. I adjust that plan.
9. What book are you reading, or writing now?
The Busiest Man in England about Joseph Paxton the inspirational 19th-century gardener who designed the famous Crystal Palace Glasshouse. Perfect for plant geeks.
10. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there?
In five years we will be serving 3 million cups of organic, fair trade and delicious herbal tea a day and be renowned as a leader in natural health through our family of herbal remedies. We will be donating GBP 1 million to 1% for the Planet. We will get there by being Pukka – a word that simply means the best.
11. If you weren’t working on your business, what would you be doing?
Busy planning one…
12. Tell Springwise a secret…
I failed my maths O level.
13. How did you get your initial round of funding to get your company off the ground?
GBP 2,000 on my credit card and GBP 2,000 on Tim’s.
14. How do you feel about your journey ahead and do you have any wise words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Bring benefit to everyone you work with and you will flourish.
You can find out more about Pukka here.
14th October 2015