From taekwondo and bodybuilding to kicking her way into the entrepreneurial arena, Muscle Moose founder Claire Harper has achieved global success by flexing her business brawn
Blending your passion with business is every entrepreneur's dream. And when it comes to getting creative with food and drink, that blending can be quite literal. For instance, given her fitness obsession has been going strong since the age of seven, Claire Harper, founder and managing director of Harper Innovations, the distribution and marketing house, easily found her eureka moment to create protein dessert Muscle Mousse. “I purchased a SmartShake at a fitness event and I couldn’t believe these hadn’t existed previously,” she says of the groundbreaking compartment-based protein shaker. “It was a no-brainer, it had to happen.”
Thanks to her dad, martial arts dominated Harper’s youth which progressed into competitive international bodybuilding as an adult. As well as bagging several bodybuilding prizes and representing the UK in taekwondo, the extensive training primed her with invaluable skills to launch a startup. “It keeps you mentally focused,” she says. “Fitness provides an outlet for any stress you may accumulate during your working day. And eating good, clean food provides the energy you need to get through your day without the sluggish feeling you can get from a less nutritional diet.”
Harper definitely felt anything but sluggish when she took a swing at her new idea, Muscle Mousse, in 2010. But after tasting some potential beyond just one product, she released several more products over the next eight years under the brand Muscle Moose, including an energy drink called Moose Juice. The result? Instant success. “Moose Juice sold over two million cans in its first year and the Moose Juice revolution shows no sign of slowing down,” she summarises. And that was just the beginning.
Now, Muscle Moose not only occupies shelves of big British brands like Asda and Holland & Barrett as well as NHS sites, university vending machines, shared gyms and independent retailers but reaches across Europe, Canada, New Zealand and the Middle East. Needless to say, the global movement blew her away. “[It’s] beyond expectations,” she says. “Our year-on-year growth has been exceptional and to watch our products sit on shelves with local independent retailers along with large multiples across the UK and internationally is something that always makes me very proud.”
Not enough can be said for keeping ahead of your industry. Indeed, when it comes to fitness, Harper sees trends come and go. “Bring something innovative yet of high quality,” she advises. “Muscle Moose has allowed us to do just that.” That innovative philosophy has seen the company draw diverse crowds from gamers to motorsports enthusiasts and she sees no end in sight. “Nothing is off limits,” she claims. “We’re a very innovative company and want to ensure we are always bringing new, exciting products to the market via national and international territories.”
Offering some pointers on the passion that got her to where she is in the business world, Harper accepts that keeping fit often slips to the back of minds of busy startup owners. “You definitely have to learn to adapt, she says. “It’s not the same as working a nine-to-five job but it doesn’t mean it isn’t possible. “Most gyms are open late, even 24 hours, so there is no reason to not find the time. It’s very easy to head home and crash on the sofa or have that snooze in bed but you have so much more energy if you make the effort to go. You always leave feeling glad you did it.”
Above all, Harper believes getting your head in the game and pulling no punches is sound advice for anyone considering launching their own company. “Do it,” she concludes excitedly. “People will always provide you with a reason not to do it but follow your gut instincts, get out there, work hard, it’s possible. Get to know others who have done the same. Their advice is priceless.” Judging by Harper’s success, it would seem hers certainly is too.