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How Andy Albalous Won Gordon Ramsay's Future Food Stars Award & Built Drops of Heal

By Hanaa Yousof




CBD has become the solution for the ages. With topicals, supplements, and a plethora of products marketed towards general wellness and ease of mind, the substance has become regularly inexplicably intertwined with daily peacefulness. And as the market for it grows stronger, CBD has begun to transform from its initial label, addled with stigma, to something more accessible and important for a wide community. Whether in a medical capacity, or beyond — its growth doesn’t seem to be tapering off anytime soon.


This week on Blocks2Bags, our host Bejay Mulenga MBE went straight to the source, sitting down with Andy Albalous who founded CBD-infused olive oil brand Drops of Heal to cultivate a new and innovative way to use CBD in day-to-day life. For Andy and the Drops of Heal team, the goal is “to revolutionise the way you take CBD and most importantly, make it more accessible to everyone”. With his product winning a co-sign from internationally renowned chef Gordon Ramsay on ‘Gordon Ramsay’s Future Food Stars’, Drops of Heal looks to be the next big product in CBD, offering new solutions for people interested in using it.




KEY BLOCK GEMS FROM ANDY ALBALOUS & Drops of Heal


  1. Your fear of failure will hold you back — If you’re too afraid of failure, your project will never get off the ground in the first place. Through founding his own company, Andy found value in establishing with himself that continual trial and error only meant improving and honing whatever your speciality may be — there’s value in hopeful naivety and letting yourself try.

  2. Explore a niche within your niche to understand your customers — In trying to grow Drops of Heal, Andy and our host Bejay spoke about the importance of regularly going back to your consumers to improve your brand and solidify its presence within entrepreneurial spaces. ‘Exploring a niche within your niche’ isn’t as complicated as it sounds; all this means is digging deep and trying new niches within the space you occupy, and actively including customers in the process.

  3. Don’t underestimate the power of knowledge; learning is a constant — Ego in entrepreneurship is easy to gain, but even more difficult to rise above; don’t assume that your learning journey has ended after you’ve found success — there is always more to mind.

  4. Train yourself to train your mind — Speaking about the value of personal training, Andy highlighted the way this impacted his clarity of thought and approach to his business, particularly in being able to have the space to achieve calm and more time.

  5. Find your ‘why’ — What motivates you? Understanding your vision is key to curbing stagnancy and making sure that your business survives through bouts of imposter syndrome and general self-doubt.

DESTIGMATISING CBD & WHY OLIVE OIL


While CBD has managed to metamorphose from its original roots, earning a more trusted reputation as a go-to tool for people wanting to dig deeper into wellness spaces, it doesn’t come without its caveats. For Andy Albalous, who is part-Syrian and part-Irish he was directly enmeshed within the intersections of its still often stigmatised nature, and the more celebrated aspects of it. Particularly in the vein of exploring the many personal reasons why people may want to use CBD — whether this is for sleep, mental health, or easing physical pains, as Andy has dealt with — demystifying CBD and subverting the more taboo associations was core in establishing the values of Drops of Heal and cultivating the product.


With this in mind, Andy reflected on why olive oil was the perfect base through which to launch Drops of Heal and cement it as a go-to brand for CBD-based products. With the fat-soluble CBD and olive oil, the mix in of itself went well together. Add to this the logistical and efficacy-based benefits of the product (what with the inability to label a CBD-based product as anything other than food due to legislation issues), and cultivating the brand felt like a no-brainer. But beyond this, it was the accessibility of it that really emboldened why it fit so well; olive oil is a ‘cupboard item’ — it’s not a product that you need to actively integrate into your day-to-day experience, because we unconsciously already have. And if you were wondering how best to use Drops of Heal, Andy recommended 1 tablespoon (not heated) over food like hummus for an easy addition to quick meals.



BUILDING A BUSINESS & FEAR OF FAILURE


What does it mean to build a business? The answer is different for everyone, and understandably so; for Andy Albalous, Drops of Heal had the unique experience of its launch-day coinciding with the beginning of the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown. Safe to say, surviving through a pandemic gave Andy and the team confidence in the viability of their product and its longevity in entrepreneurial spaces. So how do you sustain this longevity, and ensure it doesn’t just fade away as an ‘idea’?


For Andy, failure is at the core — but maybe not in the way that you think.


“Don’t underestimate yourself, and don’t underestimate the obstacle”, he said, arguing that fear of failure is actually more dangerous than failure itself.

Why? Because failure offers you key insights into what works, and what doesn’t work so well. While its true that in an ideal world, we would launch a product and have it shoot to immeasurable levels of success easily, without this trial-and-error mode of operation, you lose out on the process of elimination and the ability to really understand your product, and how you can continually improve it over time.


In the words of Andy, “fail hard, fail fast”. If you back yourself enough and trust the naivety that comes with starting a business, you’ll unlock incredibly valuable insights into the world of entrepreneurship. Strategy may be a good thing, but so are bold choices that will propel you forward eventually.



FINDING THE NICHE WITHIN YOUR NICHE; A LIVE MASTERCLASS WITH BEJAY MULENGA AND ANDY ALBALOUS


Here at Blocks2Bags, we’re always looking to find mutual value in conversations surrounding entrepreneurship; both on our end from our guests, and to our guests from us. So for anyone looking to adapt their brand strategies and grow their business, our host Bejay talked to Andy about how to grow his product and survey the market, particularly in a space like CBD where the legislatory issues we’ve discussed mean that reviews can quite literally make or break the product. Here’s the breakdown:

  1. DILEMMA — If you’re familiar with CBD-based products, you’ll also be aware of the split in the market with more targeted products such as topicals and drinks. For Drops of Heal the shift to targeted products is specifically food-based, with a real focus on areas such as meal deals. However, the dilemma for Andy is surveying the market, particularly in the vein of understanding consumers to bolster the brand.

  2. STRATEGIES AND SOLUTION — Connecting with your audience is 🔑 here. Bejay suggested that Andy bring together some of his most regular customers and best minds, organising small groups of round tables and ideation workshops. Opinion-wise, this doesn’t have to be just limited to the product itself; conversation on everything rom cost, surveying and understanding their habits, and the future of the brand is incredibly valuable.

  3. FINDING THE NICHE WITHIN YOUR NICHE — The concept may seem convoluted, but actually, finding a ‘niche within your niche’ is simpler than you’d think. Keeping Drops of Heal and its motivations to expand into food in mind, Bejay recommended something like a supper club using CBD-based products, or engaging with up-and-coming chefs in challenges where they can actively contribute to the brand and potentially win equity. To sum up — finding a niche within your niche means just challenging creative bounds and exploring ways you can market your niche product in ways that haven’t been considered before.

  4. WHY — At B2B, we’re always considering new ways to connect to your audience. This approach is just one of the many; surveying your audience and collaborating with them in such a manner allows you to build audience avatars and really target and specialise your products. Because what do some of the most successful brands have in common? Creating and constantly enhancing their ‘audience community’; people who will actively sign up for waiting lists, engage with polls online, and be responsive and hungry for your next ideas.


WHAT IT’S LIKE WORKING WITH GORDON RAMSAY & ANDY’S EXPERIENCE AS A FUTURE FOOD STAR WINNER


Before officially founding Drops of Heal, Andy went on to win his respective season of ‘Gordon Ramsay’s Future Food Stars’. Ever heard of the ‘Dinner with Jay-Z vs $500K’’ hypothetical that went viral a while ago? Andy said that through working with the no-nonsense, world-revered chef, he almost had both. Direct access with a food industry professional was core in developing Drops of Heal; Ramsay’s knowledge and results in a market that’s extremely difficult to break into was incredibly valuable for Andy.

But despite the immediate prestige and the label that comes attached with such a win, Andy still has managed to retain a keen sense of focus and sharp understanding of the ‘why’ behind Drops of Heal — changing the way people consume CBD and how they care for themselves. Steeped in a work-ethic he was entrenched in growing up in a single-parent household, and vicariously witnessing the ethos behind such experiences, he argued that learning doesn’t end after success.


“I know the sort of person I can be, so why would I be stagnant?”, he said.

This also meant learning to look beyond the cameras, ensuring that his priorities didn’t fall towards what the cameras were seeing. He credited things like training as one of the ways he would use and still uses to keep him focused on the journey, helping him achieve clarity of mind and buy more time. The future of Drops of Heal is bright, with their product on the way to becoming one of the go-to CBD brands, and the results of his mindset and attitude towards entrepreneurship offer a core insight into achieving longevity.


Ultimately, he said: “We are the vehicle of whatever business we’re running. The vision, or the visionary, stops at you”.

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