Shaper: Guka Tavberidze

Show aired on 10th March 2018

Transcript

Elliot Moss
Good morning this is Jazz Shapers, I’m Elliot Moss, thank you very much for joining. Jazz Shapers is the place where you can hear the very best of the people who are shaping the world of jazz, blues and soul and brilliant they are too and right alongside them we put someone who is shaping the world of business; we call them Business Shapers. I am sure you have met a few of them along the way. Today you are going to meet a lovely man called Guka Tavberidze – and I hope I have said that properly. He is Georgian though has been in the UK a long time, he is the founder of Savzé and I hope I have said that right as well. Savzé is the new kid on the block in terms of cold press smoothies and it’s made a bit of an impact. You are going to be hearing all about that very shortly. In addition to hearing from Guka you’ll be hearing from our programme partners at Mishcon de Reya some words of advice for your business. Guka Tavberidze is my Business Shaper. He is the founder of Savzé – all these words you are making it difficult Guka and you haven’t said a word yet and all these words I’ve got to get my head round – it’s lovely to meet you, thank you for coming in.

Guka Tavberidze
It is an absolute pleasure to be here, thank you so much.

Elliot Moss
Now you make cold press smoothies for a living?

Guka Tavberidze
Yes.

Elliot Moss
Why?

Guka Tavberidze
Because I was tired of watching the giants of the industry brain-washing consumers that their smoothies were healthy and they were not and I wanted to do something about that. Before 2013, before we launched you could not go into any of the retailers of coffee shops and so on and buy healthy and delicious and nutritious smoothies that were cold pressed and raw and now, thanks to everything that we have done and thanks to us leading the way, you are able to.

Elliot Moss
And just to be clear, cold pressed means what exactly?

Guka Tavberidze
Well everybody wants a raw product, something that you make in your kitchen right. The trouble with that is the convenience factor, it takes a lot of time, effort, it’s messy and plus when you create something it hasn’t got much of a shelf life so you cannot keep it for the next few days and so on.

Elliot Moss
So this is basically a healthy way of making a product by using a certain technology which enables it to be pressed at a super cold temperature? Is that basically that?

Guka Tavberidze
Absolutely but to understand the term itself ‘cold pressed’, cold pressed is how you actually prepare the ingredients.

Elliot Moss
Okay.

Guka Tavberidze
How you preserve them is a whole different matter. So the different types of preservations well in the past, well in the past and currently its pasteurisation, it’s something we use to cook and kill the bacteria to then be able to give the product shelf life and I felt that, you know, I wanted a raw product and I am sure, I thought there must be other consumers out there who also want a raw product and have something that hasn’t been cooked and there was nothing out there that could do that and then I came across something which is called HPP – High Pressure Processing.

Elliot Moss
Now this is like – I feel like I am in a chemistry class – so we are going to jump from chemistry to a bit of biology and a bit of nomenclature as well, a bit of naming. Tell me about Savzé, what does it mean? It’s Georgian because you are Georgian, you came across and we will talk about this a bit later, from Georgia when you were seven but Savzé means exactly what?

Guka Tavberidze
Savzé itself means crammed. So our product is crammed full of goodness so I felt it was really an appropriate name to call it Savzé. It gave the brand authenticity but also it means something and when launching my main concern was that I wouldn’t have much of a marketing budget and when consumers are out shopping and identify new products and so on, I wanted a sense of mystery around the brand and for consumers to be able to pick it up purely because they are used to all the other traditional products because they are already on the market and I wanted them to pick up something different and having a different name which Savzé, not many would understand what it would be, I felt more people would be able to pick it up and once they pick it up I felt more would be able to buy it and once they bought it I felt that was the main thing because once you’ve tasted a product and felt how raw and nutritious it is, I felt more people would be coming back to it and that was the case. Hence the reason why we grew it as quickly as we did from the beginning. I wouldn’t say the name had too much to do with it but at the beginning it was key…

Elliot Moss
An important part?

Guka Tavberidze
…an important part.

Elliot Moss
We are going to find out much more about how that rapid journey has happened, how you have been so successful shortly and also I want to delve into your, your family because your family had a big part in influencing where you have gone with your career.

Guka Tavberidze
Sure.

Elliot Moss
Much more coming up from my Business Shaper, that’s Guka Tavberidze.

I am with Guka Tavberidze and he is the founder of Savzé and Savzé is a cold pressed smoothie and they have been doing rather well even though you only launched the business about four years ago. Now I would like though to find out why smoothies and what I understand from the research is that your mum would make smoothies for the family? Is that right? Is it as simple as that?

Guka Tavberidze
Yes. Growing up me and my sisters, we always had a lot of fruit and veg at home and she would experiment, in those days blenders weren’t available, so she was juicing and she was juicing quite frequently for us so we grew up drinking these nutritious juices and the great thing was we weren’t aware we were drinking vegetables so it was a great way for her to sneak those powerhouse veg in without us knowing what it was and we were happy to drink them, it was delicious and nutritious at the time.

Elliot Moss
Now you moved across from Georgia with the family?

Guka Tavberidze
Yes.

Elliot Moss
When you were seven, mum and dad and… how many sisters do you have?

Guka Tavberidze
I have got two sisters.

Elliot Moss
Two sister’s fine and obviously your mum is making these lovely things. Tell me a bit, you moved over as a family but things shifted and often people are defined by what happens in their lives. You know I meet a lot of entrepreneurs and there is always a strong thread of a relationship with a mum or a dad in some way and people always talk and I meet lots of people whose mums had a big influence and lots whose dads did. Tell me a little bit about the family dynamic because I believe that you came over as a family but in fact your father kind of left quite soon afterwards. Tell me a little bit about how that might have impacted you and why you are sitting here today being a successful entrepreneur?

Guka Tavberidze
Yes, when we came over my dad literally – I was seven – my dad literally left within a year of us moving to the UK. We were living in extreme wealth and comfort at the time, my dad was really, really wealthy and he left, he broke up as a lot of parents do but when he broke up he literally took everything and me and my mother and my sisters were left literally in extreme poverty. So having all the comfort and all the things that we enjoyed and had to literally nothing to the point where I was embarrassed to even go to school with the type of clothes that I would be wearing or even in extreme cases, in the winter I would be taking my jacket off before I even got to the school so people didn’t see what I was wearing. But it’s not really, I guess, it’s not where you are from or what faith or religion or what colour you are that terms who you become as a person. It’s who you want to be and what you are willing to do to get to where you actually want to be. None of that has ever happened to me in the past, I’ll never use it as an excuse or if I ever talk about it I am sobbing or crying about it, I talk about it as in it’s not what where you are from, where you could lead or determine where you get to, it’s what you want to become and what you are willing to do to become.

Elliot Moss
And were you super clear then from a young age that you needed to be tough, that you needed to do things for yourself because you’d seen stuff change for you? Is that what it was?

Guka Tavberidze
Well no at a young age you are just a kid and all that happening is not easy and I grew up thinking life was as such. I wanted the nicer things in life, I wanted the nice houses, I wanted the nice cars and like you do as any kid but I got to the point where I didn’t believe any of that was possible. I believe that some people are born into certain families and certain you know, wealth and they have certain extreme great jobs or situations or opportunities because of the families and I didn’t have that and at the time I was very lost and got to the point where even at University I was very lost. I dropped out and then at twenty, twenty one, that’s when life really hit. I got you know, what was I going to do? I didn’t have another penny to rub on to another to make three. I just had no idea what I wanted to get out of life. I wanted the good things but I didn’t know it was possible. But the reality is that you know, everything that we see, touch or feel or see all these great companies or all these innovators or all these people who are succeeding, not everybody has had the breaks in life. They have all had to work for it and more people, and even myself, I had to understand that ‘look you can pretty much do and want and be anything that you want to be and you can impact the world’ you just have to believe in yourself and do things for the right reasons.

Elliot Moss
We are going to pause it right there and we are going to find out what you did next and how you actually ended up setting the Savsé business. Much more coming up from my fascinating guest, that’s Guka Tavberidze in a couple of minutes and before that some words of wisdom from our programme partners for your business and they are the people from Mishcon de Reya.

This is Jazz Shapers and I am Elliot Moss. Every Saturday I speak to someone who is shaping the world of business. I have spoken to many hundreds of brilliant people shaping the world of business over the years. If you would like to go and listen to a few then you can go to iTunes, put in the words ‘Jazz’ and ‘Shapers’. For the next week you can listen to my Shaper today, Guka on catch-up at JazzFM.com or any time if you are so lucky as to have one, you can ask Alexa ‘play me Jazz Shapers’ and it will. It’s brilliant, it’s so clever. Guka Tavberidze is my super clever Business Shaper today and he is the founder of Savsé and Savsé are the smoothie, cold press smoothie people and they have come from nowhere to become one of the leading smoothie brands in the country. Help me understand this Guka, you were talking before about you know, your childhood and very openly too and you got to that sense of feeling lost and you dropped out of University. How did that person then move from there to setting up a business? Even before the success thing, how did you even know where to start and who to talk to?

Guka Tavberidze
When I dropped out of University at that point I had no idea. I went for a job interview after job interview, I think it was over forty job interviews, even places like Next where rejecting me as a sales assistant, it was embarrassing and it didn’t look like anything was going to happen. Out of nowhere I got a sales position at a pharmaceutical company and one thing I was really curious about was why was one person selling same product earning more than the others in the same time that they were working on the same product and I remember going to the person who was doing really well and asking him in terms of you know, what is it that you are doing that’s really setting you apart from everybody else and what he said to me was ‘I read a lot of books’ and at that time I did not like reading books. A few months later I wasn’t doing as well as I could have and I was walking past Kings Road Waterstones and I remember to this day, walking in there and I walked into the business section and I saw all these business books and my eyes literally lit up. It was like one of those moments where it was meant to happen where all these books from Anthony Robbins to Brian Creasey to many, many others that you know, shape and change the way you think about certain things, you go from the negativity of poor me and poor that to thinking completely different. I was talking different, I was more energetic, I was more positive, I wanted to do more and I felt like anything was possible and my outlook changed my… what I was earning changed, I was becoming by day more successful and instead of going out you know, as a lot of young individuals do, drinking and partying and so on, what I did was I almost locked myself into self-study. I wanted to learn more about how people became successful, I wanted to learn more about what made companies great, how did they become companies in the first place, how did they become good and how did they go from being good to great and yeah, after a few years of working for somebody else, I got to the point where I didn’t want to work for anybody else anymore, I wanted to have a company of my own, I wanted to start something out of nothing and turn it into something magnificent.

Elliot Moss
And we are going to hold it right there because I want to hear just how magnificent you became in a moment. Guka Tavberidze is my Business Shaper today; founder of…

Guka Tavberidze
Savsé Smoothies.

Elliot Moss
Savsé Smoothies yes, and you say with a nice… you can say it much better than I can obviously. We were talking about your journey.

Guka Tavberidze
Yes.

Elliot Moss
From, from you get your job, you start reading, you, as you said, you almost locked yourself in a room and just learnt over a period of years what it would take to make a company, to create a company.

Guka Tavberidze
I think that’s important.

Elliot Moss
But tell me about then what happened because I want to know how you actually got to Savsé. I believe you had some savings? I believe you had the recipes from your mum? But then what? How did you go from this?

Guka Tavberidze
I didn’t have any of that at that point. I did have some savings because over the years I was understanding… see there is a lot of people that you can speak to and say ‘look do you have goals’ and they’ll say ‘yes’ and ‘where are they?’ ‘Well they are in my head’, ‘Well that’s not the right thing’. If you have goals you’ve got to put it on paper and you’ve got to pursue it with everything that you’ve got. I had goals and over the years even at the beginning I had these crazy goals that I wanted to have my own company. Well how do you have your own company? It takes money. So I was saving quite a lot. Whilst still working for somebody else I had no idea what I actually wanted to do or what this magnificent company was going to be, the only thing I knew was that I wasn’t wanting to work for anybody else, I wanted to start something of my own. So one day out of nowhere around 2011 I just quit. Just cold, just like that. Without knowing exactly what I was going to do, I just wanted to have that fear. I knew that if I stayed I would be working there for a very long time.

Elliot Moss
And how old were you at the time Guka?

Guka Tavberidze
I think…

Elliot Moss
Seven years ago.

Guka Tavberidze
…around twenty five, twenty six.

Elliot Moss
Okay so you quit and from quitting to creating this business, just give me the two or three key things that happened really briefly?

Guka Tavberidze
For six months I couldn’t find anything. I regret and all of a sudden I felt ‘Oh my God I gave up this incredible job and I’ve got nothing in the pipeline’. I was looking at doing all sorts of different exports from Georgia to England but the key thing was I wasn’t passionate about exporting somebody else, again it came down to I wanted to start something of my own and grow it out of nothing instead of working on somebody else’s so one day I come into… fly back to London, in my mum’s kitchen and she is making these incredible smoothies, I am really down thinking ‘Oh my God what am I going to do next?’ and I am tasting these incredible smoothies and I am thinking, I ask myself the question you know, this is delicious, this is so nutritious, I love this, I miss this. How do I get my hands on my mother’s smoothies without having to see her on a daily basis? And that was the incredible thing, I genuinely couldn’t, I couldn’t go into any of the retailers. I mean today you go to whether it’s any coffee shop or any supermarket and you see these delicious cold pressed smoothies but back then, around 2011 you couldn’t.

Elliot Moss
And then, okay so you’ve got this now. Now we are in 2013, you launch your business. You have to think about manufacturing. You have to think about supply chain stuff?

Guka Tavberidze
Yes.

Elliot Moss
Ingredients. You have to think about a team? How does it, how did you create that at the beginning? That’s the bit I am just interested in before we hear some more music?

Guka Tavberidze
Sure. So I am sitting there in my mother’s kitchen. I’ve got this great idea that you know, there’s definitely a gap in the market. The key thing is well how do I take what my mother has in her kitchen, those key powerhouse vegetable and fruits and put them together and bottle it up and put it on shop floors, in retailers or in coffee shops without compromising on quality, nutrition and taste. I had no idea. How do you preserve the products, where is the factory where you get the labels from. Any of that. I was completely raw as an individual as well as the juice itself. The only thing that I did know was that the way the other smoothies were made on the market weren’t as healthy as they were perceiving themselves to be through marketing and other forms and I wanted to do something about that. I wanted to give consumers in the UK and around the world the freshest smoothies possible.

Elliot Moss
And just to be clear now, how many people work in the business?

Guka Tavberidze
Twenty six.

Elliot Moss
And your turnover is a ten million pound plus business and you are in how many? Waitrose?

Guka Tavberidze
We are pretty much in all the retailers.

Elliot Moss
Not bad eh from the little idea back in 2011. Final chat will be coming up with Guka Tavberidze.

My Business Shaper today has been Guka Tavberidze. We are still with him and I feel like we could spend three hours talking about all sorts of stuff and about where you’ve come from and how you’ve done what you’ve done. You’ve now got this proper business, as you said, there’s twenty six people in it. You are well distributed. Can you quite believe that you’ve done it? As you look back to that guy when he was a young kid, ashamed if you like to wear the jacket or you know, felt embarrassed at the gates all the way through to dropping out of Uni and feeling lost. You move on and there’s a period of time when you just quit and you’ve educated yourself before that. I mean we are talking about lots of different versions of you and now you are a successful entrepreneur. Does it… do you pinch yourself?

Guka Tavberidze
I do. I do literally every day but I also love every day, all the disappointments, even all the obstacles, the challenges. There is a message in every one of them but the key thing that I always talk about is that you know, when you talk about long-term success and how can something can become successful I always talk about the fact that your chance for long-term success is only as strong as your reasons for wanting to start in the first place and mine wasn’t about money and earning millions and so on. It was never a consideration or a factor. My only thing, reason for wanting to start in the first place was giving the consumers the best possible product that wasn’t already out there. And that was really important to me to give the consumers the best possible products and when I was told that the way I wanted to make it, the way my mother was making it in a kitchen raw and as natural and as fresh as possible wasn’t possible and I had to compromise on the ingredients and only pasteurisation was possible, I absolutely refused to compromise. I refused to compromise because I wanted to do things the right way. If something was going to have the longevity and this was going to become a global brand, then I knew I had to be innovative and I had to keep going despite the challenges, despite the obstacles, despite what people said and find the right way of making it and when I came across HPP and cold press, I was literally blown away.

Elliot Moss
It strikes me Guka that you love a challenge. It strikes me that you thrive on it. If you were finding this too easy do you think you wouldn’t be doing it? Is there something in the fact that its difficult? Have you, are you drawn to the difficulties that are all around an entrepreneur’s life?

Guka Tavberidze
I am drawn to the fact that yes challenge is a massive part of it. I enjoy and I thrive off challenges but I also thrive off the fact that we’ve got the best possible product in the market and yes we have giant competitors but without Goliath, they would be just David as well so I thrive on the fact that you know, one day this is going to be huge as well.

Elliot Moss
I have no doubt it will be huge Guka because you are a pretty tenacious person to say the least. It’s been a real pleasure talking to you, thank you for your time.

Guka Tavberidze

Guka Tavberidze was born in Georgia but left at the age of seven and moved to London in 1994. He reportedly grew up in a “health conscious” family, with his two sisters Sophia and Salli and mother Nina, who often experimented with fruit and vegetables to make tasty smoothies. Prior to founding Savsé (pronounced sav-say), Guka dropped out of university and found it difficult to find employment. He realised that he wanted to “pursue [his] own plans and dreams” and left a “high-paying job” at a pharmaceutical sales company in search of his own business idea; before starting to look at introducing smoothies on the market. Guka has said that if he were not an entrepreneur he would have been a footballer or a rugby player: “anything that allowed me to play or compete against somebody.” Guka still lives in London and speaks three languages; English, Russian and Georgian.

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“I was tired of watching the giants of the industry brainwashing consumers that their smoothies were healthy and they were not and I wanted to do something about that.”

“Savsé itself means crammed. So our product is crammed full of goodness…We were drinking vegetables so it was a great way for [my mother] to sneak those powerhouse veg in without us knowing what it was and we were happy to drink them, it was delicious and nutritious at the [same] time.”

“[They] broke up, as a lot of parents do, but [my father] literally took everything and my mother and my sisters and I were left in extreme poverty. I was embarrassed to even go to school with the type of clothes that I would be wearing.”

“I had to understand that you can pretty much do and want and be anything that you want to be, and you can impact the world – you just have to believe in yourself and do things for the right reasons.”

“I got a sales position at a pharmaceutical company and I was really curious about how one person selling the same product could earn more than the others. I asked a successful salesman ‘what is it that you are doing that’s setting you apart from everybody else?’ and he said ‘I read a lot of books.”

“I was walking past Kings Road Waterstones and I remember walking into the business section and my eyes literally lit up. It was one of those moments where it was meant to happen, where all these books – from Anthony Robbins to Brian Creasey to many, many others – shape and change the way you think about things. You go from the negativity of ‘poor me’ and ‘poor that’ to thinking completely different.”

“I got to the point where I didn’t want to work for anybody else anymore, I wanted to have a company of my own, I wanted to start something out of nothing and turn it into something magnificent.”

“I am tasting these incredible smoothies and I am thinking, this is delicious, this is so nutritious, I love this, I miss this. How do I get my hands on my mother’s smoothies without having to see her on a daily basis?”

“It was really important to me to give the consumers the best possible products and when I was told that the way I wanted to make it, the way my mother was making it in a kitchen-  raw and as natural and as fresh as possible – wasn’t possible and I had to compromise on the ingredients and only pasteurisation was possible, I absolutely refused to compromise.”