Forbes 30 under 30 starlet and University of Northampton alumni, Julianne Ponan, had to fight her way to the top as her health food empire expands.
Fast emerging as a pioneer in the ‘free-from’ food market – Julianne, 29, was included in 2019’s Forbes 30 under 30 list for Retail and E-commerce, following the rapid growth of her company; Creative Nature.
In 2012, Julianne completed a management buy-out and became owner and CEO of Creative Nature – a brand of allergy-safe, superfood snack bars and baking mixes.
Her products are now stocked in 11 countries worldwide and thousands of major UK stores including Asda, Sainsbury’s, TK Maxx and Lloyds Pharmacy.
When she found out her name was among Forbes’ list of Europe’s young innovators, Julianne was taken aback.
Julianne said: “To be honest I didn’t believe when I was told, I thought it was a wind-up. It was surreal to see my name up there with people that I have admired for years. Plus I’m a huge Harry Potter fan, so to be up there with Daniel Radcliffe was just amazing.”
“It‘s given me a real sense of achievement. It’s all about change and growth – being able to just push through adversity.”
The Management and Finance joint honours graduate says the key to her career success since leaving university is a never-say-die attitude.
“It’s all about determination and persistence,” Julianne admits. “It wasn’t easy in the beginning when we were looking for investors to come on board. I was told that I was ‘just a little girl’ and that I’d never succeed. People laughed at our financial forecasts, I was told I wouldn’t ever get into a major supermarket, but we managed that at the time with just two people, Tesco were the first to take us on and then we launched nationally. Fast forward to today I’m on the Forbes 30 under 30 list.”
No stranger to adversity, Julianne has suffered from anaphylaxis from an early age, which is the driving force behind her business and her range of ‘free from’ foods.
She added: “Straight after University I went over to Beijing and got a job in banking, came back to the UK and did a management buyout of Creative Nature. I changed the whole company from top to bottom, launched a new range of products. I suffer from anaphylaxis so I decided to go into making food that was safe for me, such as the snack bars the baking mixes and the superfoods.
“I am allergic to all nuts, chickpeas, lentils and sesame products – so what we are doing is catering for people with the top 14 allergens. We do snack bars and baking mixes that cater for gluten free, dairy free, wheat free, nut free, soya free, etc.
“It’s really hard for people with these allergies to not only bake at home, but to also attend things like children’s parties or friends’ houses and feel safe to eat whatever has been made.”
Julianne credits the University for providing her with a solid foundation to start her career in business.
She adds: “In terms of the finance side, the University of Northampton gave me the skills I needed to start my business. Learning a balance sheet from the accounting side, understanding a profit and loss statement, I managed to take those skills and apply them to my business.
“I had some really great lecturers, I especially liked when they invited some of guest lecturers over from America. I found they gave you those ‘knowledge nuggets’ if you like, that I could take and use in business – and it was a lot more practical based.”
On whether she had any advice for current students looking to follow in her path, Julianne said: “Start as young as possible and start small. You don’t have to do everything on a large scale straight away – as long as you take action and you believe in yourself that’s what matters.”
For more information on studying Management, please click here.
For more information on studying Accounting and Finance, please click here.