ARTICLE / THE MAKING OF... SERIES The making of...

What happens when you’re in a category that’s constantly being attacked by start-ups and challenger brands? As consumer tastes and retailer demands scream out for new and innovative products… maybe you’re stuck in the day-to-day unable to work out your plan B, C or D? What do you do? Well, after twelve-plus years working collaboratively with food and beverage clients across Australia and New Zealand… Matt Gibbins and Simon Hakim, co-founders of creative branding agency, Hunter, not only understood their clients’ pain points… they decided to act upon them to provide a solution… and that’s where Rightful was born.

The making of... Series

Start up

Welcome to The making of... blog series. To start, can you give us a bit of a background into who you are and where you’ve come from?

Hello, we're Simon Hakim and Matt Gibbins, co-founders of Rightful - a food and beverage innovation business. We're also the co-founders of the branding agency Hunter. Which works with start-ups, scale-ups and those bigger more established brands that are in the need of a reboot. Before that, we worked for and co-founded other agencies.


With such a strong background in branding, what made you take the leap into food and beverage? 

Over the last 3-4 years we've noticed a real shift in the market when it comes to food and beverage innovation. Basically, the bigger established companies are great at selling, distribution and production, but not very good at innovation. This is why you see so many challenger brands attacking every single market segment.

In addition, those more established players are using outdated playbooks, are too slow to react to consumers' needs and fail to build future value for the business... and this is where we come in. We’ll do this by developing new ideas utilising a combination of micro-trends from billions of data points, a differentiated approach to branding, NPD as well as feedback from sales teams and retailers.


You're right, there have been so many new, ethically-minded brands entering the market. It’s definitely an exciting time to be in the category. What research did you do to arrive at where Rightful is now? How did you test your product-market fit?

We've been working in food and beverage for twelve-plus years now. We've worked with multi-national, national, regional, and smaller businesses in FMCG so understand a lot of the pain points. So based on this we first created our hypothesis, developed our business model and then reached out and spoke to as many people as we could to get their honest feedback… allowing us to make iterations along the way.

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Where are things now? Do you have any first versions of the product?

We're now at a point where we’re starting to put our theory and business model into practice. We’re developing our own products and are collaborating with like-minded businesses, and are also looking at creating joint ventures with large FMCG/CPG companies that are interested in (and need) alternative value-creation opportunities.


Ok, let’s talk about funding. How are you initially funding everything?

Like so many other start-ups we've bootstrapped Rightful. Mostly it's been our time which is ultimately paid for by Hunter. However, in order to scale quickly we're seeking a $1m pre-seed investment. The goal is to become self-sustaining in a year and provide our investors with a return in 3 years. As business owners already, we have a great deal of experience and we believe it's not a real business until we’re making a profit.


Branding? We think we know a bit about this already. Naturally, your collective branding experience came into play here. Tell us about the process and how you arrived at the identity you have today.

This was super simple for us as we created our core identity in-house. The thinking behind it was that we wanted something exciting and playful, something that matched our passion and also more so the energy of the ever-evolving hospitality sector and food scene. We’re loving the loud, colourful buzz the look creates. It really does epitomise Rightful’s energy.

For us, branding isn't just about what you see, hear or read... it needs to be driven by a higher purpose, awesome culture and of course at the end of the day amazing products - the stuff that people actually want.

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The identity definitely gets your attention. How is it helping with awareness? How are you getting the word out there? How are you scaling the brand or your products?

Matt and I throughout our business life have been extremely humble. We've seen way too many people shouting and yelling about what they're doing... but then when you look closer it's all just smoke and mirrors. So being mindful of all that, we're highly targeted with our communications. If you find out about Rightful it's because we want you to know about it.

Having said that, we've started and scaled many many brands for clients... so we'll use every inch of our experience and network to get the word out there... but only when we're ready.


Now you’re a couple of years in, what challenges do you think you'll face moving forward?

Right now it’s all about investment. This is all very new to us and something we're continuing to learn about. We don't want to partner with just anyone. They have to be the right fit, and vice-versa we have to be the right fit for them as well… and whilst there are plenty of people with money, we want them invested in what we’re doing.


Getting the right sort of investment can be key in any start-up’s journey. A lot of the time, it is a case of hunting out the smart money whilst avoiding dumb money. That bodes well for the future. So, knowing what you know now, what advice would you give another entrepreneur who is embarking on their own startup journey?

Firstly, stay true to who you are - if it doesn't feel right or make sense then pivot, iterate or divert to something else.

Secondly, do what you love and love what you do - if you're not waking up each day with excitement and passion then your heart’s not in it.

Finally, bring something new to the world - we’ve always been against cookie-cutter solutions and me-too products. So whatever we do it has to be good and relevant.

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