Business Boost | 27 March 2017 - by KCOM

Coffee entrepreneur gives start-ups a latte to think about

Helena Hills shares her top tips for business

Coffee entrepreneur gives start-ups a latte to think about

Helena Hills shares her top tips for business

In just two short years Helena Hills has created a coffee brand that is not just grinding out results but looking positively perky. Last week, she says, her TrueStart coffee brand took just three days to match the whole of its previous year’s revenue. It took just one day in March to beat the company’s previous record month.

But how did the Bristol-based start-up – a business selling performance enhancing coffee products for athletes - go from nowhere to industry defining in such a short space of time? When Helena and her husband Simon, both endurance sport enthusiasts, had the idea for TrueStart in 2004 they knew next to nothing about the coffee industry.

What Helena wanted was a reliable and natural caffeine boost to kick start her training sessions. Her reasoning was, if she couldn’t find the coffee she wanted then there must be plenty of other potential customers out there feeling exactly the same.

But having a good idea is only half the battle; good ideas are “ten a penny” according to the effervescent entrepreneur who has gone on to win a shelf-worth of inspirational businesswoman awards.

It takes a lot of passion, a lot of commitment a lot of research and a little “insanity” to turn that million-pound idea into a viable, thriving business, says Helena, who offered her insights at the University Of Hull’s “How to start and grow your own business” seminar this month.

For those of you who missed it. Here are Helena’s top five caffeine-enhanced tips for anybody starting out on their own journey as a small business owner.

1. Have courage. Cut out the negativity

“Everyone has had at least one fantastic idea but turning it into something real is something else entirely,” says Helena. “I think you need courage to take that next step and you need a network around you – and I know this sounds cheesy – that will support you to follow your dreams.

“If the people around you don’t want you to go against the grain and take any risks then you’re never going to achieve anything.

“Cut the negative people out of your life and surround yourself with positive people who will push you forward and encourage you to make the hard decisions.”

2. Think what’s the worst that could happen?

“One thing you’ve got to understand is the consequences of not doing something. You have to understand how you’ll feel if you don’t act, the prospect of not feeling fulfilled and constantly thinking ‘what if?

The second thing is asking ‘what is the worst thing that could happen if I fail? Is it really that bad?'

“When we sat down and thought ‘what is the worst thing that could happen?’ it was the business could fail, we could lose our house and we could end up living with our parents while we got back on our feet again. Well, we were already doing that, so the realisation grew that the worst thing that could happen was the situation we were already in. So why not go for it?"

3. Work out what you stand for

“One of the most important aspects of launching any new business is making sure you know what your core values are. Everything springs from that, from staff hires to building a company culture and a loyal customer base.

“We have a really intense culture and we want people who absolutely buy into that,” says Helena. “I read once that ‘sane people quit’. I think you have to be a little insane and obsessed with what you do to make it happen. It can’t be about the money. It’s got to be because you love what you do.”

4. Seek out mentors

Find fellow entrepreneurs who have been there and done it. You’ll often find they’re more than willing to help out like-minded go-getters, says Helena. They’ll often point out the pitfalls to avoid. Then, once you’re making a success of your own business, “pay it forward” and lend a hand to other young entrepreneurs.

5. Trust your instincts

“Always trust in your gut. If it doesn’t feel right then it probably isn’t,” says Helena.

“You shouldn’t be afraid to make mistakes,” she says. “We’ve been on a massive learning curve. I don’t have regrets but I never stop learning. I think that’s the best way to do it.”

Find out more

For more details about TrueStart visit