At any given time, the Seedrs platform is home to a number of inspiring entrepreneur stories, across every sector from finance to food and beverage – and Damien Lee’s journey in creating Mr Lee’s Noodles is exactly that.
We sat down with Damien to find out how his game-changing quick noodles recipe is transforming a beloved household staple for the better.
What is Mr Lee’s mission, in your own words?
Mr Lee’s Pure Foods are all about improving healthy food choices globally, for time-pressed people and meal occasions. In short, we believe that everyone has the right to quick, honest and tasty food.
Our mission is to disrupt on-the-go foods with our award-winning instant noodle range, new Congee rice porridge and expansion of our food-tech innovation.
What was the inspiration behind the business?
A few years back I was diagnosed with late stage four cancer and my prognosis was just weeks. Naturally, I was devastated, but I knew I had to act to fight it; first and foremost as a single father, I wanted to ensure I was around for a long time formy two young sons. Being a firm believer in ‘you are what you eat’ I immediately took all the nasties out of my diet. It was during this time I found I couldn’t have my favourite snack of instant noodles anymore because they were so full of salt, sugars, Es and artificial preservatives. I made a pact with myself then that as soon as I got better, I’d create noodles that didn’t have nasties in. This led to the creation of Mr Lee’s Noodles!
What differentiates you from other players in the market?
Mr Lee’s use only the finest freeze-dried ingredients, real beef, generous chunks of 100% chicken breast, real broccoli florets, real cauliflower – you name it. The noodles and their six diverse flavours are uniquely crafted from authentic Asian recipes, those that I grew up with as a kid back home in Australia. They have recreated exactly my vision – amazing tasting noodles with absolutely no nasties!
This freeze-drying process is innovative and disruptive for the convenience food industry, drastically changing the quality of food on-the-go. Our competitors limit in comparison, as they primarily use dehydrated ingredients which pulls most of the nutrients out and fills them with junk, they often use flavourings that create one over-saturated taste, meaning every bite is like the last. Mr Lee’s offers a completely different experience!
How did your previous career experience prepare you for this?
With all the businesses I have ever built, they’ve been in industries I’d no experience within, this allows me to lead with a fresh new perspective, carving new routes to market through industries that may not have changed for many years.
How will the proceeds from this round help the business grow?
Our brands & food-to-go propositions will expand further in Europe and Asia-Pacific, simultaneously launching nationwide in the USA in 2020.
Across three continents our business is scaling-up with new foods and partners joining our existing range & customer-base. We are seeking capital to fuel our May 2020 USA launch, and accelerate other existing business.
How has your brand strategy/identity evolved over time?
Since this initiative began, Mr Lee’s has created significant benefits to both our customers and employees. Our promise to provide quick, honest and tasty food for all has taken shape due to a fast route to market, particularly in export, impressing both stakeholders and customers. Our robust marketing strategy has placed suitably healthful, allergen-considerate, convenient products in front of several influencers, and the business has seen increased engagement from active communities, including; coeliacs, diabetics, vegans, people trying to lose weight, busy parents, students, professionals and more.
With a significant gap to fill in the instant noodles sector, Mr Lee’s has caused a shift in thinking from the once ‘nasty noodles’ mindset, to providing products more reputable and honest about their ingredients, and also introducing vending machines which uniquely offer hot and healthy options in contrast to the standard models people are used to.
What are the key values and skills you look for in members of your core team?
Get the people around you that are better than you at certain skills. When you’ve got people with those skills sharing your vision,then you know you’re in the right place.
The business has benefitted through greater retention due to a high-degree of passion for the brand shared by the team (which is one of the main requirements to work at Mr Lee’s), the companies global outreach leading to business travel opportunities and cultural endeavors to inspire the team and nurture global business thinking.
What’s the most valuable piece of advice you can give?
The advice I would give to budding entrepreneurs or start-up owners is not to be held back by the norms of your industry, and certainly don’t be deterred by not having experience. Everything can be learnt on the job and being new to the industry isn’t necessarily at your detriment. Use your creativity to innovate the market and don’t follow the same path that other entrepreneurs have taken. The giants of the market that are stuck following the same old strategies and creating the same old products can’t keep up with the ever-changing demands of the consumer at the moment, so this is a great time for start-ups to get ahead of the game. Get in there, take your own path and get the job done.
In light of the Covid-19 crisis, Mr Lee’s is offering free delivery and 20% off for all UK orders here to help with the current crisis.
To find out more, visit Mr Lee’s pitch.