Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Joey van Koningsbruggen, 29 years old and started Jimmy Joy in May 2014 at age 24 to make nutritionally complete meals.
We create different products to make eating as healthy as easy as possible. Our products are: Plenny Shake, Plenny Bar, Plenny Drink. The meals are ideal for anyone who wants to eat fast but avoid fast food because they value nutrition. It is popular amongst high earning, ambitious males in big cities. They use it to kick start their day and as fuel during demanding work hours; think coders, accountants, top-level gamers, etc. Another audience is sustainability-conscious and vegans. Our products are plant-based and have a long shelf life making it 3.5 times more sustainable than an average Western diet. We also compensate for our CO2 emissions through charities like TreesForAll.
We currently make around $440,000 per month. I started in my dorm room and expanded globally over the years.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I got annoyed with having to choose between healthy or fast food. So I set out to create healthy fast food. Which then became a mission to create the healthiest meal scientifically possible. Starting with interns from the University of Wageningen and by partnering with a large manufacturer of baby food, the first recipe was created to be as close to health recommendations from the World Health Organisation.
When the company grew I hired a food technologist, a research analyst and worked with certified dietitians to do in house research to improve further health. Food is more than just the nutritional makeup however and recent updates focussed on flavor and sustainability too. Real fruit was added to improve flavoring and the highest quality ingredients were sourced to create not only the best in nutrition but also in texture, creating a smooth milkshake-like experience.
When I started there was nothing like it in Europe, I made it because I really wanted the product to existing here like it did in the US. The US company was focussed on making meals as close in the experience of drinking water. I immediately felt the need to work on taste. Even though the focus of our meals is nutrition, the taste is still very important, which is why I started with different flavours and options, flavoring with real fruit, vanilla sticks, and cacao.
Create something you’ll love
The idea wasn’t very validated at the time. I wanted it, soon my friends wanted it, then their friends, etc. It grew from there and got a lot of media attention, BBC, Men’s Health, etc.
Later a lot of other companies joined with big funding, Huel started making nutritionally complete meals in the UK with millions in funding only one and a half years after me, a company called Feed popped up two years later also with millions of funding.
The idea is very validated now but back then it was a very bizarre thing to be able to have all nutrients for a meal in one go, which the media loved. The free press was lovely but we had to change our name because we got sued for the former brand name.
I got a lot of free press because a friend of mine wrote a piece for Vice. He really liked the fact that I was a drug dealer once and so he made it a prominent part of the article which made it go viral. It got translated and published on all the Vice sites in the world. That spiked interest, which drove more journalists to write my story. It got really crazy, I got invited to a big national talk show, the BBC made an item on us. At one point I was even followed around by an entire video production crew trying to make a reality TV show out of my life. Joey’s Wereld it was called ‘Joey’s World’ in English. I enjoyed the whole ride but it was a little over the top. Media trembled over each other just to write and shoot the exact same item that another outlet already made just because it did well there. It was fun nonetheless and it drove a lot of traffic so I am not complaining lol.
When I started the company I just finished college and had no funding at all. At one point we had a 14-day backlog and used the funding from customers to actually create the product. Those early customers are really what made the company and were very supportive for example during delays, almost like friends, the internet is such an amazing place. As long as I was able to explain what I was doing in blogs and video’s they were very forgiving on delays.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
When I started I used pea protein which tasted horrible. Because I told my friend that I was going to live exclusively off my recipe for 30 days I felt the need to improve the taste and switched to whey and soy. After selling some meals I used the money to gather nutritional expertise and instructed them to create the healthiest meal scientifically possible. Most iterations after that first recipe were focussed on health & nutrition. I currently employ 3 MSc in nutrition to work on that.
We do our own production because outsourcing is expensive. I think it is great to make healthy meals accessible so the price is a big factor. This is a picture of me in our first production space.
After this one, I invested $220,000 to build a BRC certified production space which is under pressure so no particle from outside can come in. Employees enter via a lock system. We also automated the majority of the production process, mixing, filling and sealing of the bags.
Describe the process of launching the business.
There was no real launch of the product. I started making videos for my friends on Youtube and Facebook about a recipe I made and my commitment to live off it for 30 days.
Three days later a writer who is well known in Holland asked if he could join so I made some meals for him. He shared my videos amongst his social media following (30-40k) and more people contacted me if they could have some.
Work hard, fail fast.
I created a simple website using WordPress and orders came flowing in. Back then the production process was very labor-intensive so I soon found myself creating meals full time. I had to order and weigh all 18 individual ingredients. Because I was getting them from B2C sites they quickly could not supply my demand so I had to switch stores and brands, each with different densities of the active compound, which had to be factored in during the production process, making it even more time-consuming.
I hired my roommate and remodeled our 60m2 house in the center of Amsterdam into production space. The kitchen, the living room, we used everything for production. I removed my bed and slept on a mattress under a large table which I used to weigh micronutrients on.
It was quite a hectic period because there was a lot of media attention, which demanded time, I carried all individual orders to the post office, which was heavy and time-consuming, I did supply chain management by buying dry the local stores, delivery times were slow so there was a lot of customer support, the ingredients that I did order B2B confused delivery chauffeurs because I requested pallets to be delivered to the center of town and to be left on the pavement so I could carry the individual 25kg bags 4 stories up.
I hired two more friends, they still work in my company today, but I ran out of space. Which is why I sold 30% of my stocks to a guy who had a small warehouse and promised to do the production. It later turned out to be the worst decision of my life.
I started working with a manufacturer of baby food to create our micronutrient premix. It took some time for me, my newly hired food technologist and them to work out the formula but when we finished, it saved so much production hassle. It dropped our ingredients from 18 to 4 and we could finally aim to lower delays.
We switched from my business partner his warehouse back to Amsterdam where I rented space of 250 m2 which was 9 meters high. Because we could stack pallets on top of each other it seemed to last us for years. I did $1,700 in the first month and $350,000 in the 4 months after.
The growth kept increasing however and six months later we had to move to a 2000m2 warehouse close to the harbor of Amsterdam.
Below you see one of our two production areas where we produce our Plenny Shake Active which is a product that is higher in protein and in a bigger bag, which we produce manually.
In the second year, we did 4 million in revenue and I wanted to expand into the US. I made a verbal agreement with my former business partner to create a new legal entity to do the US from for liability and tax reasons and that I would run R&D and marketing from it.
I resigned from the company as CEO and created the new entity to become CEO again there. I saw this as a small foot as I trusted my business associate and did not do proper legal work. It was a big mistake. I saw my paycheck disappear while he increased his own salary 2 fold. He started doing business with himself creating a distribution company that charged $3 per package more than what we were paying. When I found out it was very difficult to get back. I hired a lawyer and battled for two years. The company dropped 40% in revenue under his leadership. I recently settled in the arbitration to buy back his stock. Now half a year in we are growing again. 13% in the first quarter, building it back up slowly.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Word of mouth is important. We fuel it by having loyalty and refer a friend program. We run ads on Facebook and Google mainly. We aim to sell a starter box in which new customers get a free t-shirt, shaker, and scoop so they can familiarize themselves with all our products and choose their favorite in a second order.
We remodeled our house into production space. The kitchen, the living room, we used everything for production. I removed my bed and slept on a mattress under a large table
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We are profitable and are focussed on launching more products and flavors. We are also expanding in the US were we recently set up local fulfillment in LA and NY for fast deliveries. We just launched a new bar called the Plenny Bar which is completely vegan making all our products entirely vegan.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I really only have cliches to mention here tbh: work hard, fail fast (A/B test), trust but verify, take time to choose business associates wisely and have clauses to break up quickly when things go south.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We use Shopify as a platform and offer subscriptions. We are about to launch three new plant-based bar flavors and are actively improving our whole product line still on a mission to make the healthiest meal possible.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Four Hour Workweerk, Tim Ferris. The main takeaway is to do what you love, reduce your cost of living to be able to live off your hobby asap. I never worked for anyone as a result. I started for myself as an artist painting portraits of people and experimenting a lot with art and eventually food.
I also really like Ending Aging from Aubrey de Grey. The reason I like Jimmy Joy is that it helps be healthy. But eventually, though we will still die from the damage that occurs from being alive. Aubrey proposed a damage repair approach to medicine which recently has really taken off. Google started Calico to combat aging with a billion USD in funding, Insilico Medicine uses AI to dramatically reduce the time to discover drugs to help repair damage from old age, Jeff Bezos invested in Unity targeting the removal of senescent cells etcetera, etcetera. The whole longevity field is exploding right now with billions in funding and it all started with this book from Aubrey de Grey and Peter Thiel funding him. A great and more recent book on the same topic is from Harvard professor David Sinclair called Why We Age and Why We Don’t Have To who did some amazing work in generating mice and is now starting clinical trials.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Create something you’ll love. I was a visual artist before this and would not have the energy to persists if I did not truly want this product to exist. I think Naval Ravikant is a good guy to follow on this topic on Twitter.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
I fired, hired, reshuffled and rehired the team after I bought the company back and am currently not hiring.
Where can we go to learn more?
- Website (This one if you are in the US)
- Personal Twitter (in Dutch)
- I sometimes write on my medium in English: Medium
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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