At only 44 years old, Grenade’s Co- Founder and Chief Marketing Officer, Juliet Barratt has had a fascinating career which has spanned education, charity and training, before succeeding in the world of marketing and sports nutrition, with the launch of market leading sports performance and active nutrition brand, Grenade.
Beginning her career in education, as a sixth form director, Juliet then pioneered a European funded programme for Post 16 Vocational Subjects, before becoming the Head of Education for a national charity, where she wrote educational policy. In this role, Juliet developed and delivered training and sat on various national advisory committees, whilst continuing to write exam papers and moderate examiners.
Juliet’s journey in the education sector came to an end when she decided to follow her passion for health and fitness and join her husband, Alan, to help with his sports nutrition distribution business. The couple worked tirelessly importing and distributing a range of sports nutrition supplements on behalf of other people, until they were eventually inspired to create their own brand of protein-packed products. In 2006, the Barratt’s trademarked Grenade®, and spent the following four years perfecting a range of innovative, high-protein products, almost losing everything they owned and creating recipes and testing products at the kitchen table.
The brand grew at an accelerated rate thanks to innovative marketing tactics, and a fresh approach to sports nutrition. Industry recognition soon followed, with Grenade® listed in the Sunday Times Fast Track 100 for the last two years and entering the SME Export Track 100 in 2017. The brand has continued to go from strength to strength. Grenade are now leading innovators in the wider lifestyle and Active Nutrition space, renowned globally for their product range which includes Carb Killa® bars and shakes, Hydra 6, and ThermoDetonator. The latest product launch from Grenade, Carb Killa® chocolate flavoured protein, low sugar spreads is set to revolutionise the healthy snacking, confectionary and preserve market, offering a healthy, protein-packed alternative to traditional chocolate spreads.
Juliet still prioritises education and spends a lot of her spare time mentoring young entrepreneurs and assisting them with start-ups. She loves business and is hugely proud of Grenade®’s growth and position in the market. When she isn’t working or mentoring, Juliet’s hobbies include going to the gym, playing tennis, travelling, property and driving fast cars.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
I am 44 years old and had a very traditional education. After school I did a geography degree and then went to Exeter to do a post-grad in education. After a few years of working in schools and sixth form colleges in Essex, I realised I didn’t want to teach anymore so I moved back up to the Midlands to work at the Learning and Skills council for 6 months. I then worked as the head of education for a national charity.
In 2010 I took a total change in career path, founding Grenade – a sports nutrition and healthy snacking company – with my husband Alan. We’ve carved out a new market with our confectionery alternatives.
My current role is CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) at Grenade. The look and feel of the brand, and staying true to it as we grow, is my priority. I’m in charge of the branding IP of the company, 11 members of the marketing department, am involved in new product launches, organising marketing events, and working with ambassadors for future exhibitions – all of which is managed globally from the UK.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
No, I never knew exactly what I wanted to do at school, because I was an all-rounder who could hold my own in an English lesson as much as on the sports pitch. My older sister always knew she wanted to be a lawyer and my twin sister was medically focused, but I never really had the desire to follow one route. I did a geography degree because I enjoyed geography, but there was no direct career progression from that.
I certainly never expected to be where I am today, but the key skills I’ve acquired such as proactivity and being hands-on are very important when starting your own business. I feel strongly that the UK education system is very outdated and doesn’t encourage teenagers to become entrepreneurs. Advice from teachers is more focused towards traditional education routes; university, college, vocational training – there isn’t enough advice for students considering starting their own business. However, it’s an education gap that is rapidly closing as the world becomes a ‘smaller’ place – but with bigger possibilities – through technology.
Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?
For me, having your own business is one big challenge, not least because every day there is something you’re essentially learning on the job. I’ve never had business guidance or my own business before, and it can feel like the challenges you’re facing are only happening to you – but of course everyone has the same problems! This job works for me because I like learning, and I wouldn’t like it if I had a job I could just do with my eyes shut. I can also talk to new retailers and get advice from people above me.
Another big challenge has been running a business with my partner, because there’s no real break from each other! When you’ve got a 9-5 job it’s a lot easier to be flexible on the weekends, whereas when you have your own business you never know when something will come up which will disrupt your plans. Although it’s hard, it gets easier by talking to people and managing expectations.
Working with my husband is the best and the worst. In one way, it cements our trust because we are sharing a business, but on the other hand we haven’t been able to have a ‘normal’ family life because Grenade is our life. We are grateful for the extraordinary holidays we’ve enjoyed as a result of our success, and active holidays keep us entertained and able to handle our business 24/7.
If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?
I feel that if you’re good at what you do and you work hard enough, it doesn’t matter what race or gender you are, and I’m wary of making too much of my success specifically as a female. I have previously been asked to work on women’s business panels at events, and I just want to be on a business panel! Let’s separate gender from success.
I think changing the workplace is about exploring opportunities and promoting entrepreneurship and business success at a young age. I don’t think people are encouraged enough to consider starting their own business. It may not suit everyone, but simply talking about and reframing business success in different sectors and walks of life is hopefully all a positive step to breaking down stereotypes about gender in the workplace.
It’s all about equality. The same opportunities should be available for both men and women. I think strong female business leaders should be introduced to young people at school so that they can see what is possible before stereotypes even start to shape their ambitions.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
I feel very strongly and positively about mentoring. I am involved in the Virgin mentor programme and I also mentor other people outside of that. When you start your own business, you can sometimes feel quite separate from everyone, not least because family and friends might not fully understand what you do.
No matter who I talk to, whether its staff or in recruitment, the fundamental challenges of business always remain the same. It’s very important to have someone to bounce ideas off, and so having a mentor that’s done what you’re doing can be very useful. We have come across mentors that had a business 25 years ago, which is great, but mentors need to have current and relevant advice because the business environment is constantly changing.
We are trying to ensure that new entrepreneurs and start-ups don’t make the same mistakes we’ve made over time. We want to help entrepreneurs get further faster and believe in paving the way for others. Recently we’ve been volunteering as mentors to new start-ups too.
I am a real supporter of mentoring and it is a way that the government can really support young businesses in the UK. I would appreciate a mentor that’s started their own businesses and grown it to a large scale, because no matter how long you’ve been in business you’ve still got to be able to learn from other people.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
Every week at Grenade we do something which I believe to be a phenomenal achievement. I think building the business with the team we’ve got has been a great achievement. Some of our team joined Grenade as their first job, taking on huge responsibility, and have since learnt a huge amount and are now leading global creative, marketing and sales campaigns! Seeing every individual in the business grow with the company from scratch and with 100% commitment is a huge reward.
I’m hugely proud of the team at Grenade and proud of what we have achieved. I genuinely think it is just the start for the business and I’m excited to see what will happen over the next few years.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
The challenges for the business are expansion into new markets as well as new products. With this comes the challenge of growing the team whilst maintaining the Grenade culture. We want Grenade to be a global household name.
Personally, I would like to travel more. I have a ‘bucket list’ of places I want to visit, things I want to do and see (including seeing a volcano erupt and hugging a Koala!) A bit more of a work life balance would be a great achievement for me but as I thoroughly enjoy Grenade, I’m really happy!