How footballer Hal Robson-Kanu took lessons from sport and created a successful business

A lot has happened in the five years since footballer Thomas ‘Hal’ Robson-Kanu’s Cruyff turn and finish sent Wales into the semi-final of the Euros.

The Premier League star’s forever-immortalised strike against Belgium – later named goal of the tournament – propelled him into the limelight in 2016.

But achieving success at the highest level of football is only one string to the ex-West Bromwich player’s bow.

Not long after the (now-famous) goal, Mr Robson-Kanu had an idea to launch a business. An interesting move for a top-level athlete perhaps?

To him, it was perfectly in line with his sporting career; health drinks to help athletes recover from injuries.

The 32-year-old told BusinessLive he suffered from “severe inflammation” after surgery as a teenager and was given turmeric-based shots by his father, who would mix up the recipes at their West-London home.

“I remember a week where he incorporated all the raw natural ingredients which we had researched – and it completely changed my life,” he said.

“It allowed me to have the career I’ve had; it allowed me to recover and get back to training and ultimately have a very successful career.”

The shots are not a replacement for medicine – but rather a herbal aid to help with rehabilitation. In recent years, Mr Robson-Kanu said he has become aware of a growing interest in health drinks for recovery in sport.

“[My father and I] realised there was a massive gap in the market for a quality, effective option,” he told BusinessLive. “What was on the market really wasn’t functional and wasn’t actually adding value to people’s lives.”

The company – Turmeric Co – launched in 2018, and three years on business is booming.

The drinks are all made in the UK and are stocked nationwide in Wholefoods, Planet Organic, Harvey Nichols, and at David Lloyd gyms.

The firm is still based in London, but employs 20 people full time as well as another 10 specialists and consultants. It is also currently in the process of opening a new 15,000 sq ft facility near Cambridge as part of its expansion plans.

The company supplies the majority of Premier League clubs, including Liverpool, and has partnered with English Premiership Rugby clubs including Leicester Tigers and Sale Sharks, as well as sporting organisations such as British Gymnastics.

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Earlier this month Turmeric Co signed a deal with second division club Bristol Rovers, which will see the first team players and staff receive the natural nutrition shots on a daily basis.

But it’s not just league sports which are interested in Mr Robson-Kanu’s turmeric drinks. According to the sports star, his firm has now reached 100,000 customers – and most of those are sales directly to the consumer.

“The majority of them are 35 to 45 years old, who are male and female, and are looking for natural solutions. It’s not only [a drink for] elite athletes,” he explained.

Unlike many companies in the UK, which were forced to close or reduce operations amid the pandemic, Turmeric Co has seen a surge in demand for its products in the last 12 months.

“The biggest challenge was during lockdown where demand went through the roof,” said Mr Robson-Kanu.

“We were growing at one point 50% month-on-month and it was crazy. Managing that and not letting the customers down is the biggest achievement and the biggest challenge when you are scaling.”

Lessons from a sporting career Hal Robson-Kanu celebrates scoring for Wales against Belgium at Euro 2016

Mr Robson-Kanu said he has taken “lots of lessons” from sport into his business career.

“It’s not easy setting up and launching a business. Running a business day to day is very demanding, but that is part of the journey. It’s the same in football.

“You start off as a youngster in football with ambitions and aspirations, and you have to apply yourself daily, consistently, in order to get there – and business is exactly the same.”

According to the star, a “high level” of attention to detail is needed in preparation for football – especially at the top level of the sport – and it’s the same for business. But he also acknowledges the importance of a team.

“Football is a team sport and you can’t achieve anything without the team. That is something I have taken away from sport into business.

“As CEO of the business I am very conscious that the team is everything and the team is what gets you to where you want to go.”

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Mr Robson-Kanu’s advice to other entrepreneurs looking to set up a business is to be “really passionate” about whatever it is they are doing – because of the challenges that will undoubtedly arise.

He is certainly no stranger to adversity; he underwent several surgeries as a teenager after breaking his leg and, just last year, sustained a broken arm in a match between West Bromwich and Southampton.

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“You will consistently face challenges. It’s not about a quick buck,” he said. “Whether it’s making a change or bringing something to market, or doing something better, whatever that passion is, it is key – and what you have to harness and have at your core and as your purpose.

“If you have that purpose, it doesn’t mean you will be successful but it means that you are going to be more likely to be successful as you face those challenges.”

Looking to the future, the company is eyeing international expansion, something Mr Robson-Kanu describes as a “massive step”.

“[It is] something we are extremely excited to begin to execute on,” he said. “There is a long long roadmap in place, but there is a plan to launch into Europe and then further afield.”

So what keeps the sports-star-turned-businessman motivated to run his company?

“For me, every time I see a review that says about the positive impact the range is having on a customer’s life, on a family, that makes me immensely proud and motivates me to continue working and driving forward.”

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