“We embraced our inexperience”: Founders of London-based sustainable energy drink brand, DrinkHearth

Husband and wife duo, Pavan and Charan, combined their passion for entrepreneurship to launch their drinks company, with products now stocked in major retailers

“We embraced our inexperience”: Founders of London-based sustainable energy drink brand

Husband and wife duo, Pavan and Charan, combined their passion for entrepreneurship to launch their drinks company, with products now stocked in major retailers 

Consequently, it was very much a case of learning as we went, but we embraced our inexperience and tried to soak up as much information as we could along the way, Charan Gill tells me. Charan Gill and his wife, Pavan Gill met at work in 2017 and tied the knot two years later. The pair both come from different industries, with Charan running his family’s steel fabrication business and Pavan working in production management. However, they both had a commonality ‘ their flair for entrepreneurship. 

Both Pavan and I come from entrepreneurial families, Charan explained. Pavan spent much of her childhood working in her family’s restaurant and off-license, whilst our steel fabrication business was founded in the ’80s by my grandfather. As a result, we’ve always spoken about setting up our own business and we didn’t waste much time getting it going once we were married.  

The couple launched their beverage company, DrinkHearth, supplying sustainable energy drinks packed with a special ingredient, yerba mate, a plant species of the holly genus Ilex native to South America. Their drinks come in two delicious flavours, Lemon & Hibiscus and Passion Fruit, made with real fruit juice and jam-packed with vitamins to provide a longer-lasting energy boost than coffee and traditional energy drinks. Pope Francis and footballers Luis Suarez, Sergio Aguero and Lionel Messi are all yerba mate drinkers, and the ingredient is also known for its health benefits which include helping to lower blood pressure and decrease hypertension. Yerba mate is packed with vitamins, antioxidants and a unique combination of caffeine, theobromine, found in chocolate, and theophylline, found in tea, Charan explained. It’s this combination that provides a more balanced, sustainable release of energy than traditional caffeine sources and is the reason footballers sip on yerba mate a couple of hours before matches.  

The beginning days of launching DrinkHearth were challenging for Charan and Pavan. The pair brainstormed ways to make their product stand out in a saturated market and came up with ways to convince potential customers to try their unique drink. They focused on creating eye-catching packaging in order to get their brand message across to their audience. Whilst our original packaging did the job in terms of standing out visually, we learnt a lot about which aspects of our messaging people responded to most and put that into practice on our second production run earlier this summer, Charan explained. We thought that ‘Clean Energy’ didn’t quite capture what the consumer benefit is: the fact that we’re a plant-based, slow-release energy drink. We also wanted to develop our hierarchy because previously our main ingredient, yerba mate, overwhelmed our brand somewhat and we felt we could improve our typefaces too to make them fit our category better.  

Charan and Pavan travelled around London introducing themselves to small cafes and businesses in hopes to convince retailers to stock their drinks. With their sheer determination and perseverance, the couple managed to place their drinks in major retailers all over the country, including Planet Organic, Harrods and even a French hypermarket in Qatar, taking their brand across borders. When you bring a new product to market, you’re never entirely sure how people will react but we’re fortunate that people gave us a go and once they do, others generally follow, Charan said. Having very supportive family and friends always helps too! When dealing with retailers you get a lot more no’s than you do yes’s and so resilience and persistence are key. Whilst some doors may close, there’s always something in the pipeline to look forward to and it’s that which we try and focus on.

However, Charan and Pavan faced several obstacles during the pandemic. With many businesses shutting down, a lot of retailers were not interested in stocking new products and giving a chance to new start-ups. However, the couple managed to brainstorm new ways to get their drinks out to the public. They attended outdoor sampling events in London, gaining more customers as people went on to buy their drinks in stores. The closure of gyms and offices proved somewhat problematic as we were hoping to target both, whilst several retailers decided not to add new products to their offering during Covid-19, Charan said. Having said that, the pandemic provided far more of a challenge to businesses other than ours. The fact that all the people could do on weekends was going to parks meant that we could get our brand out there through sampling events across London. We met so many people who took an interest in us, shared on social media and very kindly went on to buy our drinks in stores. 

In a few words of advice to budding business owners who wish to launch their own start-ups, Charan said: If you have an idea that you’re passionate about and that you think about at every spare moment (or even the ones that aren’t spare!), the advice we’d give would be not to sit on it but to get it out there and see what people think of it. If it’s an FMCG product then you don’t want to be rushing to production without having perfected your recipes and taste, but try it out and see what people think. Make sure that you are absolutely in love with it too because if you aren’t and don’t fully believe in it, then no one else will!

Latifa Yedroudj
Latifa Yedroudj

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