The sibling duo behind a business turning used coffee grounds into skincare products say raising more than £200,000 through crowdfunding helped to take their brand to the next level.
Londoners Anna and William Brightman, founders of UpCircle Beauty, have so far helped to save more than a hundred tonnes of coffee grounds that would otherwise have been sent to landfill.
Having launched their business – then called Optiat – in 2016, with the help of a Start Up Loan from Virgin StartUp, they had initial success with listings in Waitrose, Whole Foods, Urban Outfitters and Topshop. But, after being part of our crowdfunding accelerator programme, CrowdBoost, Anna and William were ready to up their game.
Having taken part in CrowdBoost, they manage to raise £220,000 to allow them to relaunch their business. Anna says preparation is key to any crowdfunding campaign.
She said: “CrowdBoost enabled us to raise capital via crowdfunding in an efficient and streamlined way that made the whole process a lot more pleasant than it might have been. This capital has then enabled us to rebrand, implementing all the lessons that we learnt during our first two years, and then relaunch the business. Our brand has really catapulted forwards in the last year.
“Most of the work is done in the preparation – in reality, the pitch going live is the culmination of six months’ hard work, prior. Crowdfunding is a great way to raise money, but you need to be prepared and have certain foundations ready - such as cornerstone investors - prior to going live.”
In the aftermath of taking part in CrowdBoost, the duo also made a successful appearance on BBC’s Dragons’ Den, receiving offers from three dragons.
And with the money raised from crowdfunding, Anna and William have been able to launch a full rebrand and subsequently land deals with Boots, Sainsbury’s, Holland & Barrett, House of Fraser, Ocado and many more. They are also expanding into Australia and the US.
William used to make his own coffee each morning using a cafetière. Living in Central London, he didn’t have a garden and didn’t have enough plants he could use the coffee grounds on, so was having to throw them away. He asked his local coffee shop what they did with their waste and was shocked to hear that they were producing so much they had to pay the local council to have it removed and disposed of on landfill sites.
William used to make his own coffee each morning using a cafetière. Living in central London, he didn’t have a garden and didn’t have enough plants he could use the coffee grounds on, so was having to throw them away. He asked his local coffee shop what they did with their waste and was shocked to hear that they were producing so much they had to pay the local council to have it removed and disposed of on landfill sites.
Throughout Anna’s teenage years, she wanted to be a makeup artist- so always had a keen interest in beauty and skincare. The duo put their thinking caps on, and their business was formed. Anna believes their start-up story is important to attracting investors.
She added: “The story is absolutely vital to both investors and to customers. Sir Richard Branson said recently ’the brands that will thrive in the coming years are the ones that have a purpose beyond profit’. Customers are demanding more; the market is demanding more- better ethics, more transparency, more personality. In our increasingly faceless society fuelled by anonymous transactions and run by big corporates, it is the story that sets you apart.
“Nature gives us lots of wonderful ingredients that make our skin healthier and more radiant – like used coffee grounds, chai spices and fruit stones. But they often end up going to landfill. Why should all that good stuff go to waste? It shouldn’t. That’s why UpCircle elevate leftover natural ingredients, bringing them back to life as beauty products your skin will love.”
Having started by collecting used coffee grounds from just one London coffee shop, UpCircle Beauty now collect from more than a hundred cafes across the city – and have expanded their range of products.
Based on their current rate of growth, it is estimated that they will save around a thousand tonnes of used coffee grounds from landfill in the next five years.
Follow in Anna and William's footsteps by finding out more about our CrowdBoost accelerator programme.