The winning formula: how a footballer turned founder scores big in business

Thomas ‘Hal’ Robson-Kanu, former professional footballer, is now the Founder and CEO of one of the UK’s fastest-growing health brands – The Turmeric Co.

Robson-Kanu has spent the majority of his life playing professional football, having signed for Arsenal when he was just 10 years old.

“Football has always been my bread and butter, and I’ve been fortunate enough to play for the likes of West Brom, Reading, and Wales,” he said.

Now, he is the proud CEO of The Turmeric Co. – a functional drinks brand that naturally supports the overall health and wellbeing of people from all walks of life.

Kicking off a new career

But Robson-Kanu hadn’t always dreamt of starting a business. “From a young age, my focus was solely on football. But when we started seeing sugary, processed turmeric shots appearing on shop shelves, we knew we had to bring our functional product to market to give consumers a natural, healthy product that actually works. So, in 2018, The Turmeric Co. was established!”

The Turmeric Co.’s formula was actually birthed out of necessity, as Robson-Kanu experienced his own health challenges around inflammation. After severely injuring the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee, he became tired of trying the ‘conventional’ solutions recommended by doctors, that simply didn’t work.

“My father and I started looking into natural remedies, and turmeric kept cropping up in our research as a potent anti-inflammatory,” he notes.

Using raw turmeric root as the key ingredient, Robson-Kanu and his father experimented with different combinations of ‘superfoods’ (a lot of juicers and blenders were destroyed in the process, he admits!), and they eventually struck gold with the formula that now fills hundreds of The Turmeric Co. bottles a day.

Robson-Kanu admits that the entrepreneurial world has been rather competitive and challenging, but having his father by his side on this journey has been incredible. “From developing the formula in our family kitchen, to winning five awards in one night at the Nourish Awards, it’s been a life-changing experience for us so far.

“We still have so much work to do, but I couldn’t think of anyone more knowledgeable, passionate, and reliable to elevate this business with,” he said.

From dressing room to boardroom

Looking back, Robson-Kanu said that the interpersonal skills that he picked up whilst playing football such as discipline, time-management, and self-motivation geared him up for starting a business.

But he also made plenty of excellent contacts in the sporting world which now means his business is thriving.

“Our formula itself is rooted in sport, which is why the likes of Brentford FC, Liverpool FC, and Leicester Tigers Rugby Club have fridges full of our shots.

“Whilst playing, my teammates at West Brom noticed that my recovery time from performance was significantly faster than others. I remember having to bring bottles upon bottles into training for the team and their families to use, so it’s safe to say that the ‘buzz’ around our blends originated from the dressing room.”

Scoring goals in business

The Turmeric Co.’s growth has been immense over the past five years.

The company recently won big with ‘Black in Business’ – a Channel 4 and Lloyds Bank initiative to help boost Black-owned businesses. The Turmeric Co. was among five black-owned businesses that were selected to win advertising support and mentorship.

“This incredible initiative doesn’t just support us with tailored business advice from professionals, but we will also have a bespoke advert created for us and broadcast on Channel 4 from January 2024,” Robson-Kanu explains.

The company also recently closed a Series A fundraise, with its main investors being the founders of Rubicon Drinks, as well as comedian and TV presenter, Joel Dommett.

“Our business is doubling (potentially tripling) in size this year alone, and if we want to take it to the heights I know we can reach, taking on external capital will help us reach that next level,” Robson-Kanu said.

The winning formula

It’s hard for Robson-Kanu to choose his favourite moment to date but he notes that “scaling our production and fulfilment site from our family home to a state-of-the-art HQ in Cambridgeshire was a ‘pinch-me’ moment. [Also,] knowing that we are positively impacting the lives of thousands every day has also got to be up there.”

And whilst every startup has its ups and downs “challenges’ are invaluable lessons,” notes Robson-Kanu. “So, I wouldn’t say we have had to overcome anything. Adversity can be inspirational – just look at how our shots came about!”

What’s next for the Founder and his company you may ask? Well, quite simply: “More products, more distribution, more innovation, more wins!”

This article originally appeared in the November/December issue of Startups Magazine. Click here to subscribe