Founded by Maciek Kacprzyk and Karina Sudenyte, Get Wonky is a vibrant drinks company that’s refreshing palates while helping to save the planet.
The Cardiff-based company uses misshapen fruit and veg discarded by commercial outlets in Britain every day, to create juices that are as delicious as they are environmentally friendly.
The firm’s impressive growth and fascinating story enabled Get Wonky to taste sweet success of its own, when Maciek and Karina secured the award for Young Entrepreneur of the Year in the South Wales & West region of the NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards 2017 and our National overall Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
Appearing live in interview with Wynne Evans on the BBC Radio Wales breakfast show last week, Maciek explained more about this innovative company and how it’s helping to create jobs in the Welsh capital.
Wynne Evans (W): It’s lovely to welcome you to the show, Maciek Kacprzyk! Let’s talk about the business first if we can; it’s called Get Wonky.
Maciek Kacprzyk (M): That’s correct.
W: Right, what is that about?
M: Two years ago, I saw a poster saying that 4 million apples are wasted every day in the UK, and I wasn’t entirely sure if it was actually every day, or if it meant every year. I checked it out, and apparently it is every day. So that’s incredible waste; I decided to save the planet and make a good thing out of the situation.
W: Four million apples go to waste every day!?
M: That’s correct.
W: Just because they don’t hit the right grade, or what?
M: That’s because of the shape of the apples, due to strict market rules – the relationship between retailers and farmers and many other different circumstances. But, yeah, mostly it’s about the shape and the size.
W: That’s an incredible amount of waste, though.
W: So, you decided you would take this fruit and veg and make it into juice.
M: Yep – so I just took recipes from my nan.
W: From your nan!?
M: Yeh, that’s correct – we didn’t need to work on the formulation of the product for long, we just opened the book and said ‘OK!’
W: You went: “Nan, Nan?! What did you used to put in your….” Laughs Ok, so what flavours have you brought in here?
M: Strawberry, apple, beetroot and chokeberry.
W: I’ve got here…chokeberry. I don’t even know what a chokeberry is.
M: It’s time to try, then.
W: It’s time to try, it is, yeh. OK, so I’m going to open this. So, now we know what the business is about – making this juice – which looks great, by the way. But let’s go back to the start now then. You’re Polish; where in Poland are you from?
M: I’m from Wroclaw.
W: Where is that?
M: It’s in the south west of the country, not far from Czech Republic and Germany.
W: OK, so what brought you to the UK? (I’m just cracking open the chokeberry.)
M: OK – enjoy! Well, love brought me here, really.
M: Yeh, I met Karina, my partner, in 2013 in London. I just went for a couple of days to visit my friend and I met the love of my life.
W: What, you met somebody when you were just visiting London for just a few days?
M: Just a few days, that’s correct.
W: Where was she, then?
M: She was living in London…
W: OK, and you bumped into her in the pub, or something?
M: Absolutely – yeah.
W: No! Really? I love this story, I love it!
M: Yeah! So, then I went back to Estonia to study law for one year, then I came back to Poland again for another year of law studies, and I just decided that I didn’t want to live the long-distance relationship anymore, so I came to the UK. I also didn’t want to suspend my studies, so I found out that my university had a bilateral agreement with two universities in the UK; City University in London, and the University of South Wales.
I had a choice, to go to London or Wales, and I had a wonky idea and made a wonky decision with my wonky mind and just decided to go to Wales. I had been to London many times so I just wanted to see something new.
W: (Laughs) Did you know anything about Wales before you came?
M: Well, I knew the capital is Cardiff. I knew that you guys were trading coal in the past…
W: And that was it?
M: Pretty much, yeah.
W: You moved to south Wales; what’s the first day in south Wales like for somebody from Poland coming to live here?
M: Um, it was a Sunday, approximately 3pm, and we were waiting at the train station to go to Treforest where the campus is, and as the train approached we heard the announcement being made in Welsh. We didn’t understand anything! (Laughs) But the following announcement was in English, so it was fine.
It was pretty fun; hard to find accommodation at the start, because it was Sunday and all the agents were closed, but yeah, we managed that in the end and it was all pretty fun.
W: And that was it! So, you finished your studies – what was your degree in, law?
W: So, you did your law degree, you did your studies. Did you ever practice law?
M: I had an internship in Poland, but I didn’t really enjoy it. It was a bit boring…
W: So, what made you think ‘I’m going back to Wales’?
M: Actually, I developed the business when I was here, so I graduated, but during university time I was already developing in business. At the time I joined a business accelerator run by NatWest, so that was at the same time. When I graduated I decided I wasn’t going to go to the law industry.
W: So, there’s always been this entrepreneurial spirit inside you?
M: Oh absolutely, since the age of 5, when I was manufacturing shoes made of paper and selling them to neighbours. That was very profitable because, really, they were just giving me money for doing nothing!
So, that was the beginning. I was also doing something illegal – selling drinks at school! – maybe the guy in the nearby shop wasn’t the happiest person in the world because of this, but that was my second venture.
When I was 16 I started stock trading, so that was a bit more serious. To be honest, I still don’t understand why I went into law studies, because I was studying both here and in Poland.
W: But now you’ve got this successful business in Wales.
M: I have no regrets at all!
W: I’m very much enjoying the chokeberry, by the way. So basically, you take the misshapen fruit and veg that people don’t want; that’s 4 million apples every day, so how many worldwide then?
M: Three trillion every year.
W: Three trillion apples every year go to waste because they’re misshapen?
M: That’s correct.
W: So, you’ve taken them and made them into wonderful drinks, one of which I have with me at the moment. So, we have your story, let’s talk about you setting up the business, Get Wonky.
M: Yeah, so we started in October 2016. It took us approximately six months to create the crowdfunding campaign and get a bit of money. We raised £2,500, but at the end of the day when we sold the rewards to people, we were left with £800.
That was enough to start, even if it wasn’t a lot. So, the beginning was obviously hard but we decided that once we had the product, we just needed to to take it to the people. Instead of sitting in the office and mailing people, I loaded the van and we went from shop to shop and we got into forty cafes in Cardiff, high-end cafes – quirky places – so it was great.
The biggest surprise came in July last year, when we heard we had secured a deal with Restaurant Associates, which is the part of Compass Group, the largest catering company in the world.
At the time I was saying to Karina, ‘Look, we’ve got just £800 and we’ve managed to get a deal with this company, so if we get some more money, imagine what we could do.
W: So, at the moment you’ve reached this kind of stage where you can’t grow any more without more investment.
M: Absolutely, yeah, cash is the king, so we need to get approximately £150,000 to fulfil more orders and make wonky fruits great again.
W: But it’s also a success story as it is at the moment, because how many people are you employing?
M: So, we started – obviously, just me and Karina,
W: Karina’s your wife,
W: Fiancée and business partner,
M: And mother of twins as well.
W: You’ve got twins, just throw that into the mix as well!
M: Yeah to make it even easier for us! So, with other employees that’s eight people in total at the moment. We’re trying to hire one more person too, so we just wanted to offer work experience to someone from Wales – from Cardiff.
W: How important is it to you to keep your Welsh roots and keep the company here in Wales?
M: It’s incredibly important for us; we are trying now, hopefully with government support, to bring every single aspect of our business to Wales. Currently, some of the parts are still outside of Wales – in England or Europe. We just want everything within 15 miles of our office; that would be amazing. So, that’s why I want to hire as many people as we can from Wales.
W: It’s a fantastic story, and you’ve had success as well. You won a NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Award – how important was that to you?
M: It was super important and a huge surprise. We never expected that we could win, even here in Wales, locally. We did that, and then we went to London with it too, and it was all ‘Veni Vidi Vici’ really, so we went there and we won. It was super important!
I had an interview with The Express newspaper the other day and the journalist couldn’t believe that we had won the award! I said ‘Yes, check on the website!’
W: That’s great! It’s brilliant that you’ve come to Wales and that you’re building this business in Wales as well, so thank you.
M: Thank you so much for having me.
W: How can people find out more about Get Wonky?
W: There we are then, head to the Get Wonky website or check them out on Twitter. Maciek, thank you very much.
M: Thank you so much, Wynne.