A fitness enthusiast who created a business selling handmade protein bars in her spare time has secured £5,000 of investment after impressing a panel of experts.
Dannii Cage, 23, delivered an insightful and engaging pitch to win over the judges during the final of the Start Up! Stamford event on Thursday. As well as the much-needed cash-injection, she will also benefit from mentoring to help take her business, Fit Food, to the next level.
Start Up! Stamford was founded in 2015 to give young people aged between 16 and 23 the chance to turn their business dreams into reality.
Entrants were asked to submit a basic business plan and those thought to have potential were given help to fine-tune their ideas before the best four were picked to go through to the Dragon’s Den-style final.
Despite strong competition on the night, Dannii, who lives in Casterton Road, Stamford, unanimously won over the judges with her passion, enthusiasm and quality products.
Speaking after she was announced as the winner at New College Stamford, Dannii said: “I’m so happy. I nearly pulled out earlier on today because I was so nervous about pitching in front of everyone.
“My biggest fear is public speaking, but now I’m so glad I came. I’m really excited about the future.”
Dannii, who works in the cafe at the David Lloyd Leisure gym in Milton Keynes, set up Fit Foods six months ago. Her handmade bars each contain between 11 and 15g of protein, 13 to 16g of fibre, are low in sugar and retail for £1 each. She currently sells between 700 and 800 a month via social media and word-of-mouth.
The UK sports nutrition market is worth £260 million a year and is growing rapidly. Dannii hopes to tap into this further by investing the money secured via Start Up! Stamford into new manufacturing processes, packaging improvements, a better website, accurate nutritional analysis and marketing.
Dannii said: “I started up Fit Foods six months ago alongside my full-time job. The protein bars I make have no artificial taste and are cheaper than most other similar products.
“They are not just for gym-goers. They’re great for people of any age, taking part in any sport, or just as a normal snack.
“80 per cent of my sales are via social media, and the rest are sold through a local gym and hair salon.
“I have given some to athletes to try and have had some really positive feedback.”
Dannii will benefit from free assistance from business mentors with expertise in law, accountancy, IT, human resources and marketing.
Startup! Stamford founder and marketing expert Martin Fox said: “When starting a new business the most important thing is having the right mentors around you, but the irony is at the very time you need that help most, you can’t afford it. That’s where we step in. We put a board around the winner.”
Judge Matt Jarrett, who owns a number of McDonald’s franchises, was full of praise for Dannii, adding: “We love your enthusiasm - it’s really obvious how much this means to you.
“It was a tough decision but we were won over by the fact you’ve already got a functioning business.
“You have moved to the manufacturing stage and it’s working, with around 800 units a month being sold.
“It was a great-tasting product and a fantastic presentation.”
Dannii also sells Fit Food branded T-shirts and hoodies via her website www.fitfooduk.com
For more information about Start Up! Stamford, visit http://stamford.youth-startup.org.uk/