Inspired by her search for a caffeine hit without the crash during her Ironman training, entrepreneur Helena Hills and husband Simon hit on the idea to build a coffee brand formulated with precise caffeine measurements for improved sport performance. The result was TRUESTART.
Here, the 30-year-old co-founder and mum-to-be shares with me what goes on behind the scenes during an average day.
The idea for TRUESTART came a year before we launched. Simon (my husband) and I were in the habit of drinking a lot of coffee, we had full-on jobs and were training for an Ironman triathlon with loads of early mornings. I’m quite sensitive to caffeine, so I noticed I was having heart palpitations one day then felt like I needed more than one coffee to get going the next day, and I just felt rubbish. I was moaning to Si about it, and he said it might be the coffee.
We realised that while we drank quite a lot of coffee, we really didn’t know a lot about it. So we hit Google and uncovered the mind-blowing fact that the caffeine in coffee varies so much – from less than 20mg to over 400mg in any one cup! In a world where people care so much about what they’re eating and drink, how could caffeine have flown under the radar? It’s hardly an insignificant amount either – the variation in a cup of coffee is the difference between a quarter of a Red Bull and 4.5 Red Bulls, but most people are completely oblivious, as we were.
We thought, surely we’re not the only people in the world who think that a reliably caffeinated, quality coffee that makes you feel amazing every time with no crash or jitters would be awesome?!
It turns out that a reliably caffeinated coffee just didn’t exist, so we set about figuring out whether we could make it happen. I spent some time living in South America and am a big fan of Colombian Arabica coffee, so we found a very experienced team out there and spent 14 months developing the hyper-selective sourcing process and technology to naturally regulate caffeine in coffee. We launched in May 2015 as the first (and still the only!) coffee in the world with measured caffeine to give you a boost with no crash.
Morning: Priorities and time management
After hitting snooze a few times, Simon and I tend to get up around 7:30am unless it needs to be earlier. Our two Bengal cats, Kooga and Sabre, are always very snuggly in the morning which makes it harder to get out of bed! If we’re going to London we’re usually on the cheap train at 4:30am and we have to get up ridiculously early for events sometimes, but neither of us find it easy and I’m not going to pretend we’re like these entrepreneurs who have a religious 5am alarm and perfectly honed routine before they start each day!
My current routine is kind of seasonal. In the winter I prefer to exercise and shower in the evenings to make mornings easier, but in summer I naturally wake up much earlier full of energy. We don’t have curtains so daylight wakes us up. If Simon is feeling particularly keen he might bring me a cup of tea (yes, tea!) in bed.
Simon feeds Kooga and Sabre and we’ll both drink a glass of water with a shot of sole (Himalayan pink salt solution) in. I eat amazing Hedgehog toast from Abel & Cole with loads of real butter and marmite, or a bowl of my homemade muesli with oat milk. If I have time, I’ll make a mega smoothie to take into the office, usually with kefir, oat milk, green veg, linseeds, collagen, cacao, banana and berries. Simon is into keto so he skips breakfast and instead has a cup of TRUESTART with coconut oil.
I try not to go on my phone until I’m in the office. I don’t think mindlessly scrolling through notifications and emails is remotely productive – in fact, it’s the opposite and tends to stress me out! It’s much more efficient and less stressful to sit down and allocate blocks of time to respond, so that’s what I do.
TRUESTART HQ is literally at the end of our street which is very handy! We’re usually in the office by 8:30am at the latest and my first job is prioritising what needs to get done that day. Simon and I usually have a list of things to debate and decide, so this is what mornings are for. We have a whiteboard of priorities which are my first port of call – is each one up to date? These are more important that responding to my emails which is a bottomless pit of a task if I’m not careful.
Lunch: Meetings out of the office or lunch at my desk
Every day is very different, I probably average three days per week in the office and other days I’m out with customers, potential customers, partners or at events. If we’re out of the office it’s always a very busy day – in London I will pack the day out with back-to-back meetings. If we’re driving somewhere together we use the time productively as a meeting and if I’m on my own, I’ll listen to some non-fiction on Audible.
In the office, I tend to have lunch at my desk which is usually soup and a Tunnock’s caramel wafer (I’m addicted) or a cheeky fresh chicken and chorizo wrap and vegan brownie from Friska across the street. I’m getting through about a punnet of blueberries a day at the moment too! I’m a fan of lunch meetings where possible as I think they’re a good use of time. We’re in Bristol’s city centre so there are loads of lunch options locally. Friska usually wins!
2018 is a huge year for TRUESTART, we’ve gone all-in on a super-vibrant rebrand and range reset that will pull TRUESTART out of a niche sports focus and into lifestyle, with broader appeal and phenomenal new products. It’s the critical next step in becoming the world’s #1 energising coffee brand. I cannot tell you how excited I am about this; it feels like TRUESTART is becoming the brand it is truly supposed to be.
Afternoon: Emails, customer service and social media
In the afternoon I plough through calls and emails. I still do all our customer service and social media so I make sure that’s up to date. Recently we’ve massively improved our time management and unless we have an event in the evening, we aim to finish work by 7pm. This hasn’t always been the case – last year we would regularly work past midnight. The fact that we’re stricter with ourselves now makes us more efficient in the day and allows our brains to rejuvenate. We used to suffer pretty badly from burn out every few months, so we had to do something!
Simon and I tend to work 6 days a week, utilising a day over the weekend for strategy stuff (when the rest of the world isn’t expecting us to be answering emails!)
Over-arching strategy, brand and marketing falls to both Simon and I as Co-Founders. As CEO, I’m focussed mainly on sales, partnerships and anything outward-facing. As COO, Simon oversees the operational side of the business, manages finances and heads up everything related to products. Safe to say he’s got his hands full at the moment with our new range reset which launches in June!
Evening: Dinner, R&R and hypnobirthing
The evenings are all about wellbeing for me. This is time for Simon and me to be husband and wife rather than Co-Founders. We eat together, one of us will cook a random meal which is always decided last minute from whatever is in the house. I don’t enjoy browsing supermarkets or taking much time to do food shopping but we love great food, so we have an organic fruit and veg box, eggs, Hedgehog bread, butter and kefir delivered every week from Abel & Cole then an organic meat and fish box every 6 weeks from Field & Flower. We love eating out too, especially with friends. Bristol is a foodie’s paradise!
We also exercise (usually yoga, spinning or swimming), might go for a walk, play with Kooga and Sabre and generally talk about life. This does include TRUESTART but not detail. We might read a bit, again non-fiction – I’ve currently got ‘Sapiens’ by Yuval Noah Harari on the go which is absolutely excellent – and right now I’m drinking Whittard’s chilli hot chocolate most nights! This pregnancy has turned me into a chocolate fiend!
Bed is around 11pm and my phone goes on charge out of my reach when I’m in bed. We meditate every night including falling asleep to recorded visualisations – this is part of our hypnobirthing practice and we are both in love with it. I fall asleep quicker, sleep more deeply and wake up feeling well rested. I’m determined to continue this as much as possible after the baby is born.