Full of Dreams
Guka Tavberidze, who moved from Georgia to Britain at the age of 7, left a high paying job for the sake of his dreams and independence. In five years, his juice producing company aims to reach $200 million in turnover.
Even though the juice market is fully saturated in the UK, the founder of ‘Savse’ juices – Guka Tavberidze, believes that there is still some room for him on the market. It seems that other retailers agree with Tavberidze. Savse juices are already available at Selfridges and Harrods, and in a short while his products will appear on the shelves of Tesco and Sainsbury, which will make Savse juices accessible to a larger segment of the population. But even before that, preliminary estimates show that Savse’s annual turnover will reach £2 million this year. Back in 2014, Forbes magazine listed Savse among seven most promising startups on the UK market.
Today, this time on behalf of the Forbes Georgia, I have the honor of introducing you to Guka Tavberidze, who is here in Georgia on a short visit. By his own account, running the company takes up all his time. Therefore, at this point he has not thought about bringing his business to Georgia. However, he believes that the business climate in Georgia is good for this kind of business.
He is a little nervous during the interview. He starts telling his story over and over again. He fully acknowledges the fact that his story might be an example that will inspire new startups. He is obviously well prepared and seems to have very specific messages for those, who like him, are ready to put a lot on the line in order to start their own business.
“At some point I realized that I did not want to be part of someone else’s (employer’s) plan. I wanted to pursue my own plans and dreams. That is why I left a high-paying job. I wanted to take some time off in order to realize what would give me pleasure and independence,” Tavberidze recalls.
He tends to get very emotional when he tells his story. He is trying to show me that the results he achieved did not come easy and required a lot of patience and persistent effort. He had to overcome a lot of frustrations along the way, and he would not have succeeded without great determination and faith in his ultimate success. He understands that establishing your name on the UK market is viewed by most in Georgian society as a great success, but he has even greater ambitions. He wants to show the scale of growth he has achieved in a very short time. He also realizes that the experience and story of a young boy from Georgia might be so attractive, that the Savse brand might get lost along the way. Savse’s turnover has increased year after year. Today, the company’s turnover is $11.5 million. Over the next five years, Tavberidze plans to increase that number to $200 million. According to current estimates, the company’s revenue in 2017are expected to reach approximately $2 million, and by 2018 it will increase to $5.5 million.
We are pressed for time. He has to rush for another interview after this. That is why I did not ask him the questions that had already been answered for the Guardian. He left Georgia at the age of 7. However, the story pertaining to the juices started in Georgia 30 years earlier, when his mother Nina was pregnant. The doctors found out that she was suffering from a severe iron deficiency and recommended that she increase her intake of apples and spinach.
“My mother brought a blender and started experimenting with fruit and vegetables. She let her children taste the final product of her experiments. Guka, Sofia and Sali were happy with the results, even though they never knew what the juice was made of,” he notes.
His experimentation with fruits and vegetables continued even after moving to Great Britain. Tavberidze remembers coming home one day after he had quit his job and was in search of his own thing. After watching his mom’s usual routine, he asked a question that changed the life of his entire family. What if we share the thing that we like so much with others too? He still laughs when he remembers his mother’s reaction: “Are you out of your mind, Guka? What do you know about doing business?”
Guka found the answers to all these questions. However, it wasn’t an easy process.
“As it turned out, having an idea was hardly enough to persuade an experienced partner to invest in a promising idea. The first time I got rejected it was a real blow for me. But now I understand that everything happens for a reason. At the time, I had neither experience nor any knowledge, but I refused to give up,” Tavberidze recalls.
He says that as long as you don’t compromise on the quality and the idea, the rest can be solved.
“Cold pasteurization” was the main method that would make my product different from everything else on the market. Using this method preserves the taste, vitamins and minerals that are, as a rule, lost in the boiling pasteurization process,” explains Tavberidze, as he recalls an incident when the entire batch was spoiled because workmen used an old method for making juices. After that, Tavberidze became a more attentive manager.
“I got rid of the so-called counselors, and I tried to poke my nose in everything. I wanted to know everything that was happening in the company,” he says.
However, it’s one thing to produce a high-quality product and another thing to sell it. Especially on the UK market, which is exceedingly saturated and strictly regulated. Tavberidze would not have been able to pull this off independently. He needed to identify the right retail chain that would carry out exclusive distribution of Savse. Tavberidze set his sights on Selfridges.
“I came upon the Selfridges’s retailer on Linked-In. I stormed him with my messages, but he did not reply. Finally, I took a few cans of my juice and went straight to his office. The office manager asked me if I had an appointment with him, and when I told her that I didn’t, I was told to leave. What was I supposed to do? I left the office and got into the car. I was about to start the engine, when it suddenly dawned on me: I came this far and now I was ready to give up? It was then that I realized that I could not give up so easily. I waited in the car for more than two hours. I met him as he was leaving the office for lunch and acquainted him with my product. He was watching me and listening. I could tell that he was more impressed by my perseverance and determination, than the product itself. It worked. Savse is now sold at Selfridges, and not only there,” he said, with noticeable pride in his voice.
Our interview is coming to an end. He asks me how it went and apologizes for not being able to do the interview in Georgian, since he understands the language, but is not fluent enough to do a half-hour interview. I shook hands with him and caught myself thinking that it would be great to have more success stories like that, after all, success is contagious…