Setting up an online store on a budget: Protein Package

Protein package online store on a budget

Modern Retail had the pleasure of speaking with George Greenhill, Founder of inspirational retail brand, Protein Package. George explained how he has developed the Protein Package brand and offering, as well as setting up an online store on a budget, using Kickstarter and launching collaborations.

Tell us how Protein Package has evolved since it began

Sure, first of all, it’s probably best I introduce myself, I’m George Greenhill, the Founder of Protein Package

I started Protein Package from my parents’ home aged 17 when I was still at school in Wolverhampton, United Kingdom with £300 of birthday money that I’d saved up.

We’ve transformed the classic ‘pick and mix’ to suit sports players, fitness fanatics and the healthy snackers of the 21st century. We operate as an ecommerce business allowing customers to mix and match the best nutritional supplements and healthy snack brands imported from across the globe.

I’m now 21 and we’re well on our way to becoming one of the key players in the health food and supplement industry with users loving our unique ordering style. For the past four consecutive years, we’ve experienced in excess of 400% year-over-year (YOY) growth, allowing us to recently exceed the £1million mark in annual turnover.

How did you find a gap in the market?

After I started to go to the gym, I began to really enjoy healthy protein snacks and nutrition-packed snacks. However, I came across a problem, the healthy snacks I wanted to eat came as extortionately priced single items from the supermarket or in large packs that left me stuck with the same flavour for months when I ordered online.

One day in school, the idea hit me. Why don’t I build an online pick and mix store of healthy products and supplements where you can order individual items in smaller quantities at the same prices as when ordering in bulk.

After three months of school during the day followed by hours in the evening designing the website, we were ready to go. I sat down and using all £300 of my birthday money, I invested it all into the first batch of stock that included protein bars and protein cookies from the most popular brands in the market such as Fulfil Nutrition and Grenade.

When I founded Protein Package, there was nowhere near as many companies in the industry as there is today. I’ve enjoyed seeing new brands launch and have been fortunate enough to play a small part in supporting their growth. We’ve seen innovative, unique ideas pop-up month after month such as Nutry Nuts who’ve given peanut butter cups a radical overhaul that provides triple the levels of protein, a quarter of the sugar and fewer calories when compared to similar leading brands. 

Turning relatively unhealthy treats and sauces into healthy snacks and syrups, The Skinny Food Co. doesn’t compromise on taste. In just four years, we’ve seen them grow from a small start-up producing low-calorie sauces to a million-pound powerhouse that now makes healthy bread, better for you muffins and even zero sugar barista syrups – a true success story. 

At the other end of the spectrum, you have the likes of multinational corporations such as Mars entering the market who are now offering Snickers Protein Bars as well as the new Maltesers Protein Powder. Seriously, who doesn’t want healthy mars bars? With additions like these coming into the market on a regular basis it’s a very exciting time. 

Talk us through the process of setting up an online store on a budget

I didn’t have anywhere near the level of funding to pay for a website developer with most quotes being in excess of £10,000 for what I’d envisioned. I decided to teach myself to code through free online videos and made use of online forums to get answers to my questions (and trust me, I had a lot). 

Our website was built on the platform Shopify and I’d genuinely recommend it to anyone who’s looking to start their own business that requires taking payments through a checkout. They’re currently dominating the industry and have exclusive integrations with Instagram, TikTok and YouTube so you can turn your organic social media following into paying customers. 

Another thing I love about Shopify is the community that they’ve created. Everyone is happy to help each other succeed, if you’re stuck on something, simply make a post in the community and almost every time, you’ll get an expert in that field happy to help you with your query or problems without requesting financial compensation in return. 

If there are some really complex problems you’re not able to figure out for yourself, Shopify even has an app marketplace where you can purchase website plug-ins for automated discount systems, SEO enhancements and pop-out newsfeeds to promote newly released ranges. 

What were the biggest challenges with setting up an ecommerce business and how have you overcome these?

For me, it was probably the access to funding and investment. Because I was so young, I had no credit history. My mum even had to come with me to sign a form at the bank to allow me to simply open a business bank account. I couldn’t apply for any start-up loans due to being under 18 and most people don’t really take me too seriously in business. 

This meant for the first two years or so, I literally had that £300, not a penny more for buying stock and day-to-day operations. I could see brands and products that I knew our customers would love, but I just didn’t physically have the cash to let stock them. As an example, I knew protein powders and pre-workouts would do really well but some of them are in excess of £50 each to buy at wholesale so that just wasn’t viable, meaning I needed to stick to the smaller value items initially. 

Thankfully, over time, that £300 became £600 and that £600 became £1,200 and so on until we were able to gradually grow our product range. We now stock thousands of products including many which are exclusive to Protein Package with us being the only supplier in the whole of the UK. 

What would your top tips be for great fulfilment and inventory management?

Inventory management and fulfilment are some of the most difficult things to master, even though it seems like it should be one of the most simple. 

I believe that even when you’re a small business, it’s important to ensure your fulfilment and stock management system is easily scaleable if you need it to be. As an example, if you’re looking to purchase inventory shelving, pick one which you can easily extend or add to down the line. I learnt these problems the hard way by having to purchase completely new systems so we could expand them as we grew.

Furthermore, ensure every worker has access to the inventory system, don’t separate the management from the order packers, train all staff to be able to update stock levels on the go. If they notice an item has gone out of stock or they’ve contacted the customer who’s swapped items, enable the packers to be able to update the system so there isn’t any miscommunication or delays between sending it to management for updates. Finally, automate where possible, if you can use algorithms to predict when restocks are needed and notify you of new trends then it’s definitely something that saves time in the long run.

What has your experience been like with Kickstarter?

The government Kickstarter program was something that a friend showed me for Protein Package that helps 16-24 year-olds seek employment after the COVID lockdowns. Due to being 21 myself, it seemed like a great way to introduce the world of online business to more young people and inspire them to maybe become an entrepreneur in the future.

The whole onboarding process was simple with our Kickstarter gateway, Steps To Work, and we took on our first employee, William Kay (left) in May 2021. William works on a variety of tasks so he can get a broad understanding of the whole business and find the areas that he’s interested in most. He’s now planning to go to Loughborough University to continue his development and learn more about nutrition and sports exercise. 

What’s next for Protein Package and how can our readers stay up to date?

In 2022 we’re looking to explore supplementation for gamers. We’ve recently started working with GFUEL Energy who make energy drink formulas to improve your physical endurance, reaction speeds and mental focus. GFUEL is based in the USA and sponsors all major esports events, but their product availability in the UK market has been limited which is what we’re looking to change. We’re now offering the widest range of GFUEL products including flavour collaborations with PewDiePie, KSI and FaZe Clan.

We’re also going to be opening a physical store in the coming months once COVID restrictions have loosened, so customers local to our warehouse can have an in-store experience and be able to click and collect online orders without needing to pay for shipping. Finally, we see ourselves working more closely with small UK start-ups and helping promote them in our ‘Behind The Brand’ series where we interview the founders behind these healthy snack and supplement brands.

Readers can stay up to date on our social media channels under the handle @Protein.Package and directly on our website