The healf Founders On: Disrupting The Fragmented Wellness Industry

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London, UNITED KINGDOM healf, a new online destination for health brands, is on a mission to tackle a decentralised and fragmented wellness industry. The innovation-led startup, founded by brothers Lestat McCree and Max Clarke, identified an overpopulated marketplace with unsupported promises and poor quality products – and have set about solving it.

Here we caught up with the duo to understand what the new definition of ‘healthy’ really is for the modern wellness consumer, why accessibility is still a problem, and how they plan to differentiate themselves as the single destination for everything consumers need to live a healthy life.

On the new definition of health… 

Max: Health is today being made unnecessarily complicated. A healthy life involves just doing four very simple things every day: eating well, moving a little bit, looking after your mind, and getting a good nights sleep. It doesn’t need to be complicated and by thinking about these 4 foundational pillars – Eat, Move, Mind, Sleep – everyday, our view is that you will feel healthy and start to see your life grow. That’s it. 

Lestat and I discovered this through our personal experiences – Lestat suffered physical burnout from an Iron Man, amateur boxing and Jiu-Jitsu, and I was trying lots of the typical “answers” to health from the occasional green juice, spin class or downloading a meditation app – but it was only when I bought everything together that it clicked. Health is a whole that when in sync is so much more than the sum of its individual parts.

Lestat: It’s a good point – what actually is healthy?! Who can expect anyone to know nowadays with all of the different opinions flying around social media and the internet. There is no seal of approval in the industry – the mainstream go-to health stores sell rancid supplements with low quality ingredients, so how are they supposed to be trusted? Just like the B Corp Certification has done amazing things for sustainability by separating the good from the bad, with our strict product curation process we hope to do the same for health – to cut through the noise and show that if a product is a part of healf then it is officially healthy.

On the issue of accessibility… 

Lestat: There is a structural problem in the industry whereby there are so many amazing health brands popping up every day but no central place to access them. At the moment if you want to shop the best health brands, it looks like paying shipping multiple times, having multiple accounts and passwords on different websites. This is fundamentally inefficient. 

Then you have the A word, Amazon, in which we are seeing a trend of consumers really lacking the community and trust from this platform. Can Amazon really guarantee the quality of supplements from the 100,000s of merchants on their platform? We’re not sure after hearing stories of customers ordering vitamins and ending up with an empty jar…

On evolving trends… 

Max: Not too long ago many people thought health was just about green juices and spin classes, or building muscle, but health is so much more than that. This mindset led to a wellness industry that wasn’t well – people were constantly thinking they had to be better than they were yesterday to be their “best self” but really that is not healthy. You are your best self everyday – it doesn’t matter if you’re having a bad day or enjoying some chocolate (we all do!) – health is an adaptable circle where every day is a new beginning, not a straight line with one direction.

Luckily, society is now beginning to understand this and trends are showing that things such as self-care, mindful eating or just simply having a bath are on the rise. Health is not go go go and it is amazing to see that the world is reversing from this always-on mentality, which is inherently unhealthy. The foundations of a healthy life have been forgotten about for a long time. That is why we called ourselves healf – we want to put the foundation (f) into health.

On the four pillars as a differentiator… 

Max: This leads nicely onto our four pillars of health – Eat, Move, Mind, Sleep – which are becoming a true differentiator in the way we exist. They have resonated with our community since day one, which is a powerful validation that they were looking for a trusted source that felt more authentic and personal to guide them through a complex market and help make choices easier. Having the pillars we really differentiate ourselves from the other platforms out there that only look at one part of people’s health. This is important as it follows on from the key trend that people are starting to become more aware of the importance of balance in a healthy life – which is exactly what the four pillars highlight.

On gaps in the market… 

Lestat: There is no credible high-quality destination someone can currently go to buy everything they need to live a healthy life. The market is split between nutrition and fitness or yoga retailers, lifestyle destinations or local spiritual and self-care shops. All of these places say that they’re promoting a healthy life but really they’re only selling products that support one aspect of it – vitamins & supplements stores might provide a crucial element of health, but what happens when someone wants to move their body, be more mindful or improve their sleep. The market is missing a single destination for everything that you need to live a healthy life.

The beauty market has been consolidated in a similar way over the last decade by large retailers such as Cult Beauty and Feelunique (both sold for £275m and £132m respectively last year). The same is waiting to be done to health – consumers now care just as much, if not more, about how they feel on the inside as to how they look on the outside. And ultimately it’s how we feel on the inside that affects everything else.

On raising early investment… 

Lestat: For us the gap in the market is so clear and, gratefully, several angel investors were equally passionate about the mission and provided us with an initial bit of funding nine months ago to help us build our website and build a base layer of inventory. Since then we have proven the concept and experienced extremely exciting growth which has now led us to the point where we’re just about to close a much larger round of investment. Our growth and the extent to which people shop across the four pillars is pure justification that consumers are asking for a trusted place where they can get everything they need to live a healthy life.

We are also very grateful to have been part of the government kickstart scheme which allowed us to bring together the most talented, passionate and hardworking team we could have asked for who will lay the foundations for healf to become an industry-defining multi-generational company. 

On the future potential for healf… 

Max: When we started the company it came from a simple idea of how we can get what we learnt about health around the four pillars to as many people as possible. This is very much in the making with the healthy products/tools we are providing to 1000s of people every month. However, we do not intend to stop there.

Health needs not just a retail destination but a content and service destination. We intend to fill it with the first ever complete well-being brand. In the future we see a world where you don’t have to go to your doctor as long as you are regular at healf. Prevention always beats treatment in our eyes.

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