In these days of Premier League wealth and huge player wages, the time when former professional footballers dreamed merely of owning their own pub or racehorse has long since passed.
The ambition and possibilities for their post-playing career are now many and varied, a lot less limited, and not always obvious.
Take former West Bromwich Albion and Wales striker Thomas ‘Hal’ Robson-Kanu, scorer of perhaps the greatest goal in Wales’ (admittedly limited) finals history against Belgium and now the driving force behind The Turmeric Co., which has developed a range of turmeric-based shots designed to combat inflammation
His journey to turmeric curative entrepreneurship began during his own recovery from a severe knee injury early in his footballing career. After ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) surgery, he found that the prescribed anti-inflammatory medications he was given caused more harm than healing.
“The side effects felt endless,” he recalls. That motivated Robson-Kanu and his father to research natural alternatives, soon discovering the numerous suggested benefits of turmeric.
“It all came from need, not greed! Our shots were birthed out of necessity as I experienced my own health challenges around inflammation,” he explains.
Home grown cure
They soon began formulating homemade turmeric shots to tackle Robson-Kanu’s pain and inflammation.
“We started to experiment with different functional ingredient combinations,” he explains, necessitating many destroyed blenders in the process. Their perseverance paid off striking upon a golden recipe that fuelled 15 more years of elite football for Robson-Kanu. Doctors expressed astonishment as this turmeric elixir enabled him to recover faster than teammates, powering higher training intensity.
Word spread within the locker room, as Robson-Kanu found himself supplying turmeric shots to fellow players. But the real light bulb moment came in 2017 when he tried a shop-bought turmeric shot.
“I ended up spitting it out!” Robson-Kanu admits. Though intrigued by retail availability, off-the-shelf versions proved sorely lacking next to his fresh, home-made formula. Identifying a market opportunity, The Turmeric Co. launched in 2018 “to bring people from all walks of life a real taste of what proper turmeric shots can offer,” he explains.
The firm’s ambitions extend beyond merely matching supermarket competitors. It has also been taken on by various sports teams including Everton FC, Brentford and Sale Sharks Rugby Club.
“In the coming years, we envision the company as a global beacon of wellness, empowering individuals to take control of their health through nature’s bounties,” says Robson-Kanu.
Central focuses include deepening scientific comprehension of turmeric through research and development while also ensuring product purity and potency.
Reflecting on the transition from the changing room to board room, Robson-Kanu sees obvious contrasts but a lot of overlapping skill sets as well.
“Professional football is unpredictable – you have to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable,” he observes. He believes instilling capacities around self-discipline, adaptability and determination is also vital for entrepreneurs.
His move into business still necessitated acquiring entirely new capabilities like financial, operational and marketing acumen through daily immersive education.
“It may sound clichéd, but I genuinely learn something new every day. From the financial side of business to operations and marketing, I make a conscious effort to educate and immerse myself into the inner workings of the business. We make all the products ourselves at our HQ, so scaling our production line to keep up with business growth was a whole other ballgame, too.
“As CEO of the business, no two days are the same. Whether it’s decision-making or liaising with investors, I oversee the business strategically. On some days, you can find me on our HQ shop floor!”
Navigating scale as a CEO also presented unfamiliar tests as turbocharged growth required expanding production infrastructure quickly to fulfil accelerating consumer and retail demand.
“Launching into Sainsbury’s was a huge milestone, and we had the best-selling new product in October,” although the company has also set its sights beyond retail distribution wins, boosting its reputation with awards.
“Winning Channel 4 and Lloyds Bank’s ‘Black in Business’ initiative was another proud moment for us,” he says, enabling elevated exposure and advertising to further broadcast their mission.
“Black-owned businesses often go unseen in the UK due to a lack of business opportunities, so being able to bring awareness to this disparity is incredibly important. As winners, we filmed our first-ever TV commercial which will be on screens mid-February.”
If football prepared him for volatility and constant learning, Robson-Kanu admits that the complexity of business constantly surprises him. But just as sustained fitness and skill development drive athletic achievement, he understands intellectual perseverance and curiosity remain prerequisite in sport and business.
Having hung up his football boots, and with a surging health-focused consumer brand, Robson-Kanu is focused on a future fuelled by turmeric’s possibilities.
“We have A LOT in the pipeline,” he hints. “I can’t say too much about what we have planned, but 2024 is the year of disruption.”
In both sports and business, often the longest shots reap the biggest rewards. As The Turmeric Co. rallies consumers to “take control of their health through nature’s bounties,” as the branding says, Robson-Kanu himself continues to seize new opportunities for the venture fuelled by the bright orange root that aided his own comebacks.
Join Thomas as he unpicks the enigma that is Expanding Into New Markets: International Strategies for Global Growth from 2.35pm on 14th March 2024 at Elite Business Live. With Thomas’ remarkable entrepreneurial journey and expertise considered, this is not a panel discussion to miss. Tickets are available at a discounted price for a limited time, get yours by clicking here.