INTERVIEW: GEROGE KONYASHCHENKOV


For the second edition of our IN CONVERSATION series we bring you the founder of LabOrganic. The company’s growing business blends science, nutrition, and healthy living through their best-selling juices, superfood blends and raw and gluten-free foods and snacks. Based in London’s chic Covent Garden, the company is expanding to other locations around London this year. 


When did you start up Lab Organic? What made you start the business?

I started working on Lab Organic during the summer of 2013. At the time I had just finished my Bachelor’s degree at University College London and it was a perfect time to decide what I really want to do in my life. With several career options on the table ranging from investment banking to consultancy, I decided to follow my inner passion and make an impact on the world by doing something that really drives me and satisfy my ambitions.

 

I believe that the food that we eat and the nutrition that we get from food is astonishingly important as it makes us who we are. Getting enough nutrients is essential to our body and healthy, unprocessed “free-from” food make our bodies feel light, gives us high energy levels, allow us to maintain a healthy metabolism and reduce bloating while strengthening our immune system.

 

We created Lab Organic with this idea in our hearts. We wanted to help people realise the importance of being healthy and happy whilst educating them about the health benefits of consuming transparent, organic, real food. We want to bring nutritious fast food to our customers.


What did you find were the main challenges when you were starting out? What challenges do you continue to face?

Setting up a new business from scratch is a challenge in itself. We started two years ago without much expertise or experience in the industry. We really believed in the company and the benefits it would bring to the society! With this in mind we opened the very first cold pressed juice bar and health store in Central London! We prioritised finding and maintaining a great team of enthusiastic people who were as passionate about the business as much as we were. We believe that the key driver of the success of any business is its staff. Another challenge was finding the perfect store location. Central London is very competitive and it is not easy to find a good location. I remember we looked at dozens of potential locations over a timeframe of four months until we found the location at 58 Neal Street. It was worth the wait in the end!

 

Everyday we face several challenges in meeting our daily management goals and KPIs. We are a growing business in a very exciting and rapidly expanding industry. The main challenge and priority for us is to stay on top of competition and to make sure that we are doing our best everyday as a team.


Tell us a bit about your childhood or background and how you feel it has influenced you today?

I think that my journey really began when I arrived to my boarding school at the age of 13. My school was one of the leading schools at sports. After classes I devoted my time either to practicing sport, hitting the gym or jogging, which I loved. I also became interested in nutrition and started researching about the health benefits of food to help me perform better during exercise and feel stronger in general.

 

I tried to make healthy choices in terms of food, exercise and lifestyle and soon I got more and more into it. When I moved to London in 2008, I could not believe that such an amazing city had such a lack of healthy food that is easily accessible to the public. As my frustration grew every time I looked for a “clean” and healthy lunch, I decided to make an impact on the food industry and introduce real, natural, nutritious and organic food whilst increasing awareness about what we are actually eating. I really want people to think about what they are eating and understand the health benefits that the right nutrition can incur on their body and wellbeing.


What was your first job? How did your previous jobs influence Lab Organic?

Although I started my own business straight after graduating from University, I completed an internship at a well known investment bank in London. I learned how to organise and prioritise tasks, achieve goals while meeting deadlines and at the same time be flexible. I think that being involved in the corporate world for a short while allowed me to really understand and decide what I want to do in life. Without this experience I never would have found the courage and determination to start my own company.



What inspires you to create new menus and ideas for Lab Organic?

 My inspiration comes in many different forms, from trying new recipes, talking to partners and friends, listening to music, brainstorming or jogging. I constantly think about interesting ideas and concepts and try to implement them whenever possible. I like to be creative when combining ingredients and exploring food. When developing a new menu, we focus on seasonality of produce and look to combine ingredients to create exciting and inspiring flavours.


How are your juices made? What makes them different?

Our juices are made daily using a cold press mechanism. This method is different from centrifugal juicers as it makes richer, higher quality, fibre free juice which retains the nutrients, vitamins and minerals for up to 72 hours. All Lab Organic juices are made using fresh, organic ingredients and each recipe offers a wide range of health benefits and is designed by our in-house nutritionists using locally sourced ingredients. Our juices contain an abundance of vegetables and fruit, which are essential for optimum health. All juices have a higher proportion of vegetables to fruit.


What are the benefits of drinking your juices?

Our juices are made with a Norwalk cold press juicer, which is considered to be the leading juicer in the industry. Cold press is a juice production method that minimises heat and oxygen, resulting in the best tasting, fibre free juice which retains freshness and up to 5 times more nutrients and vitamins for up to 72 hours when refrigerated. Our juices are packed with vegetables and we ensure that we use only organic and freshly picked fruit and vegetables. Drinking cold pressed juices is perhaps the easiest and the best way to nourish the body because the fibre is left out of the juice, therefore, all the nutrients is absorbed into the body and digested at once, unlike food which takes time to digest. Our juices offer several potential health benefits including improved wellbeing, better sleep patterns, stronger immune systems and higher energy levels. Many of our customers enjoy the benefits of weight loss, feeling lighter and finding it easier to maintain a healthier diet and lifestyle.


Can you tell us a bit more about your juice cleanses?

Our juice cleanses are a great way to kick start the immune system, detoxify, purify the body and transition to a healthier diet and lifestyle! It is a juice cleanse programme which consists of a daily booster shot which you take in the morning followed by 6x500ml cold pressed juices. Juice cleanse is a liquid diet that lasts 1, 3 or 5 days while abstaining from eating solid foods. They are designed with help of our nutritionists to give you optimum nutrition and minimise the feeling of hunger. We offer 4 types of Juice Cleanse depending on the experience and health goals. Someone who has not done a cleanse before might enjoy the Mild Cleanse while an experienced, regular cleanser might decide to go for our signature Green Cleanse. Our juice cleanses differ from our competitors because we make the juices fresh, by request, every morning of the cleanse duration. The cleanse contains daily tips, a schedule and cleanse guide, as well as access to our wellness concierge who supports you through every step of the cleanse.


What’s your one health tip?

It sounds very simple but I always say, “think twice before you eat or drink something.” Think of the health benefits and the effects that a certain type of food will have on the body, your mood and energy levels. I believe that our performance greatly depends on what we eat. So before you eat a fatty steak or a bowl of potatoes, think what it will do to the body and what consequences it will have on your wellbeing. If you don’t want to feel heavy, why not swap a bowl of pasta for some hummus and fresh garden salad? Another example is drinking warm water with lemon juice in the morning. It’s an amazing way to start the day as it hydrates the body, gives it the boost of vitamin C and cleans the digestive tract. Once you really think about it and understand why you should do it every morning, I guarantee you will stick to it.


What do your friends and family think about your healthy lifestyle?

My friends and family have always been encouraging and supportive. It is amazing to see people around me switch to healthier choices and try to be healthier as well. I think that the community of health conscious people is rapidly expanding and people are exploring healthier living more and more.


What’s it like being healthy in London?

A few years ago, you could hardly find a lunch takeaway that was not a sandwich or a processed meal! Today London is very different. In the last 2 years so many healthy places have opened up it is actually hard to keep count. As people are becoming more health conscious and awareness is growing, all kind of places are popping up; from paleo only, vegetarian, raw, organic bars and cafes to exciting juice bars and vegan restaurants.


Why do you think health and fitness have become such a trend in recent years?

I think it is to do with several factors. People are demanding healthier choices as our mentality is changing and we are becoming more health conscious. Levels of obesity and heart illnesses in the UK are amongst the highest in Europe and it is becoming increasingly important to control our diets and educate ourselves about the dangers of not being healthy in the long run. More and more studies are focusing on the benefits of certain foods, new superfoods are being discovered and people in general are becoming more open to new types of food. All of this is exciting and these are only a few of the factors that are pushing this trend.



What’s your average day like?

I try to get out of bed at 7am. Green smoothie, cold brew coffee or Lab Organic Cleanse juice are some of my morning must-haves! Everyday is different but usually I visit our kitchens and overview daily production to make sure everything is ready and perfect in time for lunch. Lunchtime is very busy so I help wherever I can while supervising that everything runs smoothly during the rush hour. In the afternoon I sit down and have meetings with clients, partners and suppliers, sort our production schedules, manage the financials, marketing initiatives and prepare everything for the next day. In the evening I like to have a few hours to myself where I can do sport or meet friends before I spend a few more hours brainstorming, reading and working on ideas about the future and growth of the company prior to bed.


Do you think you have a work/life balance?

Absolutely! The great thing about being an entrepreneur and running your own business is flexibility. Not having set working hours allows you to work during times when you are most productive which fosters greater creativity, passion and drive. I am mostly productive early in the morning and after 7pm so I try to build my work around the times when I am most productive. I think this is something everyone should aim for. My days can be very long when I start work at 7:30 and finish at 10pm or they can be half days. However, I do always prioritise work and work with the notion that: “there is always something else work related you can squeeze into the day before you can relax”.


What’s the best part of your job?

I would not want to call it a job. I think it is more of a lifestyle that I get to enjoy everyday, while helping and inspiring other people to become healthier and more aware of their lifestyles. I really enjoy and value speaking to our customers, hearing their stories and learning more about their health challenges and accomplishments. We thrive to create a healthy community at Lab Organic and, every satisfied customer, positive review or comment, is the best part of the job for me because it reminds us why we are doing what we are doing and pushes us to keep inspiring even more people to transition to a healthier lifestyle for the long term.


What’s next for Lab Organic?

We have recently introduced JUICE BOX which is a tailored combination of juices and boosters that in combination are designed for specific health benefits. For example WELLNESS BOX is great for kick starting the immune system and maintain strong body metabolism while the PRE CLEANSE BOX is a great combination of drinks that is perfect to get our customers ready do do the actual juice cleanse.

At Lab Organic we are always looking for new ideas and inspiration. We are planning to open at least 8 more locations in Central London as well as introducing new, exciting products into stores such as Waitrose and Whole Foods. The company really believes in technology and we are always looking for ways to introduce innovative technology to support the growth of the business and help inspire and support more people that we could have ever imagined.

 

Find everything LabOrganic has to offer on their site. Get 10% off with VEMAG discount code when buying any of LabOrganic’s juices and juice cleanse boxes.


All images via LabOrganic.

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