Sheffield mumpreneur creates a juicy culture loved by celebs
After the festivities, there inevitably comes the detox...As waistbands and guilty consciences groan under the excess of Christmas, thousands will resolve to get healthier in the New Year.
And some will be planning their counter-attack on the calories while they are still on their third helping of roast potatoes.
“If last year is anything to go by, the website orders will start arriving mid-afternoon on Christmas Day,” says Sheffield entrepreneur Germaine Smith, boss of a leading detox juicing brand recently valued at millions by capital investors.
JuicetoU started at her kitchen table three years ago with a £20 juicer from Tesco. It is now the go-to product for health-conscious folk across the UK – and an ever-growing celebrity following.
From her factory unit off Abbeydale Road, Germaine and her team whizz up hundreds of flavoursome juices every week for couriers to deliver fresh to customers.
They are poised for the post-Christmas rush. Orders are expected to triple. A huge supply of fresh fruit and vegetables is on order and five extra staff are on standby.
A healthy percentage of those orders will probably be heading to the homes of the rich and famous. Her celebrity clientele started with friend Nicola Mclean, a TV personality. She tried JuicetoU in 2012, tweeted about its complexion-boosting, weight-busting properties and the resulting frenzy as friends of the former I’m a Celebrity and Big Brother contestant clamoured for ‘the miracle juice’ crashed Germaine’s website.
Then the smart-thinking mum-of-two got the entire cast of TOWIE onboard. She ensured the stars had a pack of her detox juices on their doorsteps on their return from filming a hedonistic Towie Vegas special.
After that, business soared for the 43-year-old mother of two. Her brand became an established market leader as the juicing craze took off, and was one of the first ever to distribute juices by post.
Such is current demand for her pure fruit and vegetable blends, every week she and her Sheffield team spend an entire day on the JuicetoU production line, juicing up three-day and five-day detox collections and carefully packing them in ice inside made-to-measure poly-lined boxes ready for couriers to get to their destinations within 24 hours.
The rest of the week is taken up on dealing with orders, buying fresh stock – and getting word out on social media.
JuicetoU has 12,000 Instagram, 30,000 Twitter and more than 2,000 Facebook followers.
“I have built my business entirely on social media,” says Germaine.
“I spend 30 hours a week on it, promoting new products and forwarding customers’ reviews and tweets about how much better they feel after giving their digestion systems a break for a few days, how their skin is glowing and how they lost a few excess pounds in the process.”
Germaine has cannily built up her brand by sending her detox packs to beauty bloggers and journalists, resulting in coverage in glossy magazines Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan and in the Daily Mail.
Scores more go out to those in the headlines. TV presenter Gaby Roslin tried a JuicetoU in the run-up to the 2015 BAFTAs, Abbey Clancy and her dance partner on Strictly drank JuicetoU for energy during training and so did a number of the most recent I’m a Celebrity contestants.
More than 100,000 juices have been sold and orders regularly wing their way to chef Aldo Zilli, Strictly judge and former ballerina Darcy Bussell, comedian Joe Pasquale, former Rolling Stones wife Jo Wood, Sadie Frost, singer Grace Jones and Kerry Katona – not to mention thousands of ordinary health-conscious customers the length of the country.
From school drop out to market leader
No-one expected 13-year-old school drop-out Germaine Smith to end up owning a celebrity-endorsed brand valued in the millions.
In fact, no-one expected her to end up with much at all. One of a family of six with a single mother, she grew up in Park Hill, struggled with dyslexia and left Hurlfield School, now Springs Academy, armed with an abysmal attendance record and not a single qualification.
But she had heaps of determination.
Within months she had her own stall on Chesterfield Market.
“At first I dealt in junk - I called it vintage! Then I started making clothes out of bed sheets,” she recalls.
By 18 she had made enough money to set up a second hand shop in Crookes, with stock coming from car boot sales.
Numerous other businesses followed. After the birth of her first daughter Molly, now 21, single parent Germaine set up a children’s dress agency. She then secured a start-up grant from the Prince’s Trust and launched a tanning and beauty salon which ran until she had her second daughter Macie, now 11.
However after her designer lingerie shop on Ecclesall Road folded, leaving her with personal debts of £80,000, she resolved not to go into business again and focused on her own health instead. Things didn’t quite go to plan.
“I’m a typical woman - I worry about looking good and feeling slim and healthy and I’ve tried every diet, potion and pill going,” she says.
“I started researching healthy eating for myself and bought a £20 juicer from Tesco. Friends asked me to make juices for them, then their friends started placing orders.
“Things escalated to the point where I was spending 10 hours making juices several days a week and I realised it was crazy not to go into business again.”
She called in a nutritionist, researched guidelines from Trading Standards, found premises, a courier company and had protective packaging designed inside four weeks.
Germaine chose not to allow the investors in and continues to grow the JuicetoU brand herself. An app has just launched, her 12-bottle three-day pack (£91 delivered) and 20-bottle five-day version (£141) sell in their hundreds every week and new drink Blac launched in October.
It contains the latest buzzword ingredient – activated charcoal – said to be a potent natural detoxifier which debloats, helps with digestion and hangovers and improves skin.
“Charcoal has been used for medical purposes for many years and clients come back again and again for it,” she says.
“They might want a white Christmas, but they are clamouring for a Blac New Year.”