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Happy Friday all and thanks for joining us for yet another Friday Founder interview. With all the doom and gloom of a second wave of Covid in Europe, we want our special CAROLINA GMX readers to know that we are thinking of you all. Stay safe!
This week, we are delighted to offer you a few minutes of distraction from all the sad news through this week’s interview with Barry Smith, the Founder and Chairman of Symprove. Symprove is a unique water-based food supplement built to support your gut microbiome.
As someone who has experienced gut issues firsthand, I was thrilled to find out all about the brand, Barry’s background and what motivated him to produce the supplement. You know the drill; get comfy, get your coffee, and let’s get into it... Oh, and stick around at the end of the interview for your chance to win a free 12-month Symprove Programme!
"'Sym' refers to symbiotic; to live in harmony with, and 'prove' refers to proving our technology scientifically. That’s always been our mantra."
Welcome to CAROLINA GMX! Could you start by telling me a bit about your childhood and how you feel it has influenced you today?
I was born in Tripoli, Libya in 1950 to a military family. My father was in the Royal Army Medical Corps. We also lived in both Malaya and Singapore before returning to the UK when I was 14. I joined the Medical Corps myself at 15, and then travelled the world again until 1976 when I left the services and took up farming/market gardening. I had a very disjointed, formal education with my main learnings coming from my amazing life experiences. This gave me, I guess, an open and curious mind, and though the military gave me discipline and a strong work ethic, my mind is always dreaming and planning.
It’s a great thing to be able to have both! How did you get started in the supplements industry?
Completely by chance really! I decided to get into the industry because I was concerned about low-quality animal feeds and wanted to find a better and safer alternative.
Motivated by ethics. So how did you start up Symprove and why? Was the timing important?
Symprove was born from learning about technology used with farm and companion animals. The timing was important as the agricultural industry was in crisis in the 90s and by then, I was being encouraged by eminent vets to transfer the idea to people. That’s how Symprove was conceived. I chose the name because 'Sym' refers to symbiotic; to live in harmony with, and 'prove' refers to proving our technology scientifically. That’s always been our mantra.
I love that link! In what ways does Symprove UK consider sensitive skin and allergies throughout the manufacturing process and when selecting ingredients?
Symprove is an all-natural product and the process reflects that. The supplement is also gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan.
Brilliant to hear. So how does sustainability factor into Symprove?
We pay great attention to sustainability. My son is an environmental scientist and he keeps on my case about it. We have embraced solar power! In fact, 80% of all power on-site comes from solar, we also collect rainwater and use it on-site, and recycle production waste (spent barley grains) back to a local farm for fertiliser.
Wow! It’s rare to hear a company consider sustainability through each and every process. Go Symprove! Do you think people are more conscious of the ingredients in their products nowadays? If so, why?
I believe awareness is rising rapidly and today’s customer is much more discerning than say a decade ago.
I totally agree! So what were your biggest challenges in starting up Symprove UK?
It was a mix of building up enough expertise, funds, proof of technology, and education to provide a new way forward.
And what strategies do you think have been key to the success of Symprove UK?
Never giving up has served me well, especially when the status quo says “you can’t do that!” Finding inspiring, smart people to back the idea has also helped, whether they are scientists or business people. Another important part was getting people to see the bigger picture, those who did not have money as their driving interest.
That is so tough at the beginning of any business. Everyone just talks in terms of monetary value and if you talk from a place of passion it can be tough to get your vision across. What is your favourite thing about Symprove?
Without a doubt, making people feel well again; our testimonials drive my entire day! And the Symprove team, of course! We only have one product, Symprove so we are very focused on our mutual goal.
I can imagine! What do you think makes Symprove stand out?
I think our peer-to-peer doctor education and doctor referral really makes people trust Symprove UK as a brand, and also the Symprove supplement.
"We have weathered the Covid-19 crisis very well and Symprove’s trade has been boosted, as a result. We have challenges ahead as demand is increasing rapidly."
I completely agree. Could you please describe your biggest “pinch-me” moment?
Within Symprove we actually call this “Barry’s I told you so” moment. It was when our first study result came in from King’s on IBS and was described as having a “spectacular outcome.” Then, it was pointed out to me that I needed to get on and sell the product!
Haha, that’s a great one! So what inspires you?
The capacity of the next generation; seeing them learn and develop. I know that they can see that we are doing something very good indeed.
That’s powerful! I’m interested to know what an average day at Symprove UK looks like for you. Could you describe it for me?
Sure! I get up, have breakfast, open up the greenhouse, walk down the path from my house to Symprove HQ as it’s all on the original farm site. Then we go into the Meetings portion of the day, although most of these are on Zoom now. After that it varies; I might walk around the departments, present to influencers and HCPs, train our own team, build our research program and work on maintaining all of the scientific relationships. I also do PT four times a week if possible.
Goodness me. How do you fit it all in? Do you think you have a work/life balance?
I think my work/life balance is ok. There are extreme times when Symprove takes over and I’m working seven days a week. My veg patch saves me though and keeps me in touch with the seasons. Walking the Surrey Hills is also a joy!
How lovely! What words do you live by?
“Always chase your dreams”, “never give up”, “make sure that you carry everyone you meet along on the journey if possible”. “Enjoy your work - this makes it all bearable”.
Inspiring! So, what’s next for Symprove?
We have weathered the Covid-19 crisis very well and Symprove’s trade has been boosted, as a result. We have challenges ahead as demand is increasing rapidly, and some new science is due in late 2020. We also have a commercial test in the US market on the horizon, which is very exciting.