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A former McDonald’s worker from Melbourne has revealed how he set up one of the UK’s most successful drinks businesses from his kitchen table with no investors – and it’s now worth millions.
Daniel Cray, 34, founded Phizz with his primary school friends, Jonathan Knight, 40, and Rory Simmance-Freemantle, 34, in 2015.
Eight years on the company sold with eight millions units in 2022 with the number expected to double in 2023.
The drink is used by the Liverpool Football Club as well as many A-listers and reality TV stars.
The trio, who are all dual UK-Australia citizens, noticed how dehydrated they became while regularly flying between Melbourne and London. They wanted a solution for a drink that would hydrate them, and taste good.
‘Phizz began as an idea shared between myself and two friends who frequently travelled between Australia and the UK,’ Daniel told Daily Mail Australia.
Daniel Cray, 34, who is originally from Melbourne, founded Phizz with his friends, Jonathan Knight, 40, and Rory Simmance-Freemantle, 34, in 2015
‘During our flights, we were shocked to discover that we could lose up to six litres of water due to dehydration, with two litres lost every 10 hours.
‘This sparked our obsession with the impact of dehydration on overall wellbeing.
‘We recognised that the UK is a mature market for effervescent tablets and with Heathrow airport seeing three times more traffic than the entire population of Australia, we saw an opportunity to make a big impact.
‘So, we decided to go big or go home and bring Phizz to the UK market’.
The company was off to a great start, but tragedy struck when Rory was diagnosed with bowel cancer during the pandemic, forcing him to step back from the company and move home to Melbourne.
‘Working with friends at the beginning was a great way to launch Phizz. We all lived together, worked at our kitchen table and breathed Phizz 24/7,’ Daniel said.
The company was off to a great start, but unfortunately tragedy struck when Rory was diagnosed with bowel cancer during the pandemic, forcing him to step back from the company and move home to Melbourne
‘However, we also learned that mixing personal and professional lives can be challenging, especially when tough situations arise.
‘During COVID, our co-founder and close friend Rory was diagnosed with bowel cancer.
What is Phizz?
Frustrated with the need for separate multivitamins, electrolyte powders, and sports drinks, Daniel says he and his team were determined to find a better solution.
They asked a friend, a PhD neuroscientist and graduate of Oxford University, to join them in a quest for a product that could effectively hydrate and replenish essential daily nutrients in a single solution.
‘After packing up our lives and moving to London to self-fund our business, we spent nine months working tirelessly with a Swiss research laboratory to bring Phizz to life.
‘Today, we are proud to offer a product that represents our dedication to solving the problem of dehydration and providing a convenient, all-in-one solution for optimal hydration and health.
The brand was founded in 2015 by four Australian friends.
They say a gap in the market was clear when they couldn’t find an all-in-one solution to support their wellbeing when travelling.
Phizz 3-in-1 effervescent tablets were developed and quickly gained traction with pro sport and airlines.
Poised for expansion, the business received multi-million investment in 2020 and has been on an accelerated growth journey since, rapidly becoming the fastest growing effervescent brand in the UK.
‘While it was a difficult time for all of us, we rallied together to support him. I’m happy to say that he’s now in remission and back in Australia, though he has pursued a different path.’
Daniel, who studied Business & Marketing at Monash University, is now the only managing founder at the company which means he’s taken on more responsibility, leading a team of nine.
‘Although the team has evolved, I’m still very close to my original co-founders who remain on our board,’ he said.
As the company was entirely self-funded, they had ‘very limited’ budgets when they started out.
Within six months of business Phizz was stocked at the Grammys and within 12 months it was onboard Emirates planes.
Fast forward to February 2021 and Phizz gained its first national retailer, Sainsbury’s.
The UK’s biggest supermarket, Tesco joined the roster of stockists in 2022.
Selling to airlines, pro sports teams and hotels has given Phizz not only necessary revenue, but also recognition and credibility.
‘While we eventually secured external funding to help us scale our operations, our early success was a result of our own hard work and determination to create a truly innovative and high-quality product,’ Daniel added.
‘Phizz has made an impact in the world of sports and entertainment.
‘Hundreds of professional athletes from Premier League Football to international cricket have purchased and used Phizz, and we’ve become highly popular at a podium dominating F1 Team this season.
‘Our product has been requested for Love Island [UK] for the last two years, was an essential in the Geordie Shore house and has even appeared in dramas like HBO’s Industry,’ he added.
Despite their setbacks, Phizz is now the fastest-growing brand in its category and has more than 3,500 distributors across the UK. In 2022, Phizz they sold eight million tablets.
Daniel’s success is a far cry from his childhood in Melbourne, where he worked as a pharmacy delivery boy before getting a job in McDonald’s and eventually as a barista.
‘I started working at a young age, delivering prescription medications on my bike for a local pharmacy when I was only 12.
Within six months of business Phizz was stocked by the Grammys and within twelve months it was an amenity onboard Emirates, fast forward to February 2021 and Phizz gained its first national retailer, Sainsbury’s. Tesco joined the roster of stockists in 2022. Selling to airlines, pro sports teams and hotels has given Phizz necessary revenue, but also recognition and credibility
‘At high school I worked at McDonald’s and during my university years, I worked as a barista to support myself financially.’
Daniel says he learned hard work from his grandfather, who moved to Australia from Bolton, Greater Manchester in the 1960s.
‘He was a salesman turned entrepreneur, starting several ventures throughout his life.
‘Despite facing challenges and experiencing failures along the way, he persevered and remained an inspiration to me.
‘He passed away recently, but his entrepreneurial spirit lives on in me,’ he said.