Claire Harper

Commit to going after something as hard as you can, every time, no matter what. Look after your customers – all of them.

Claire Harper is the founder and MD of Greater Manchester (UK) based Harper Innovations, parent company of Muscle Moose. Following a period of rapid growth over the past 18 months, Muscle Moose products are now stocked across the UK, Canada, Europe, Middle East and New Zealand.

Harper Innovations originally focused purely on distribution of SmartShake, the Swedish born original innovative compartment shaker, made from BPA free, DEHP free plastic, which the company still distributes. The business purchased the Muscle Moose brand two years ago and introduced three innovative products in quick succession. Since then the brand has accumulated a loyal band of fans, including original health and fitness customers, gamers, slimmers, students, busy parents, office workers and anyone looking for a healthier alternative energy drink or snack.
Claire is a keen health and fitness enthusiast. She has represented GB in bodybuilding and Taekwondo and is also a keen drifter who can often be found driving at drift days around the UK.

Believing that everyone should have easy access to healthier alternative snacks, Claire continues to work with her team at Harper Innovations to produce innovative protein fortified products. Mentoring children from a young age regarding opportunities in business is also a key priority and Claire is active in several peer support and mentoring groups.

Where did the idea for your company come from?

Harper Innovations began with SmartShake. I saw a massive gap in the market for an innovative shaker with handy compartments that didn’t have the nasties in the plastic that so many shakers still have. No brand in the UK was offering a shaker with compartments; when I discovered SmartShake, I knew I had to bring it to the UK market, so I started Harper Innovations. I wasn’t sure exactly how and in what direction I expected the company to grow but I knew there were endless opportunities if I wanted to create them.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

There’s not really a typical day at Harper Innovations – one day could be new product development in the office, another could be an event in Germany, another on a race track supporting Moose Juice branded cars and another day might be finalising supermarket contracts. The key things I look to for productivity are delegation, omitting negativity and present time consciousness. To be productive, you must delegate some tasks to others. It can be difficult letting go when it’s your own business.

How do you bring ideas to life?

If I have an idea, I start working on it straight away. You can get too caught up in planning and if you are busy planning, you’re busy not getting things done. You can deal with issues and learn from them as you go along; the most important thing is to get started.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Seeing protein become more widely understood and utilised by the mainstream is very exciting. For years it has been misunderstood as being something for bodybuilders only, which was an inaccurate assumption. Protein is a key element for a healthy diet and there is a reason that you see big brands promoting the protein content of products that have been around for decades when previously it wasn’t mentioned. People have a higher awareness of what is required for a healthy diet and are seeking education on nutrition and health in a more proactive manner than the preceding years. It’s an exciting time not only for those of us that have been involved in protein products from the start but also for society as a whole; the more we educate ourselves on health and fitness, the more we can make educated decisions on what we choose to eat and it is now the customer that is driving the change and not the companies selling the product, which is a much better way to be.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Fitness training. It can seem like the most unimportant or irrelevant activity when you have a million other things on your “To Do” list but that thirty minutes to an hour in the gym or at a class clears the mind more than anything else. I can have brain fog and feel like there is never going to be an end to my list of things to do or not know the answer to an issue that needs dealing with and I can guarantee that after training everything is clearer/ in perspective and the answers appear. Being able to ‘switch off’ is essential if you want to achieve true productivity.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Keep doing what you are doing. I always knew what I wanted long-term but was never sure what journey would take me there, so was very open to everything. The hardest part was having others around you who want to influence your choices and attempt to put doubt in your mind because what you are doing is different to their journey/ choices.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

I would say that it isn’t that nobody agrees with me on this, it’s more that people don’t want to say it out loud through fear of being seen as anti-feminist or anti-women, which could not be further from the truth. Some women in business awards/ groups do more to harm the progress of achieving full equality than if they didn’t exist by perpetuating gender stereotypes or encouraging women to think just because they are female they “deserve” success or makes them think they are a victim due to their gender. Anyone who works hard deserves success, it’s as simple as that. Attitudes are changing and we’re way further on than we used to be and whilst some women-only groups provide effective mentoring, others unfortunately seem to do more to put space between women and business than help them move forwards through ineffective mentoring.

The success of a female business person is going to happen with or without women-only support groups and women-only awards because hard work achieves results that aren’t gender dependent.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Fitness and positivity are things that should be repeated regularly. Fitness is an activity and it is relatively easy to get into the habit of exercising but many people forget that positivity is a chosen approach and you have to make a conscious choice to choose positivity over and over again. Cheesy, I know but if you can visualise it, it can happen. If you don’t believe in it, how do you expect others to?

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

Commit to going after something as hard as you can, every time, no matter what. Look after your customers – all of them.
Remember that you’re doing business with people, not processes. It can be difficult, especially with all of the technology involved in business today, however remembering you’re working with people and acting accordingly is the best strategy for growing business.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Nothing is a failure, only a learning curve. I embrace things going wrong; it’s how we learn, become stronger and grow.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Can someone invent a foot hammock for on planes to make it easier to sleep when on a plane. There has to be something out there?!

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Some really bad chintz items for our marketing office. It’s all so bad that it’s awesome! It’s now a fully kitted log cabin – divine.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

Google. Whatever you’re looking for, Google is a great place to start as it has the largest information resource to check against and reduces time spent wondering “what if it’s this or that or something else” – you can Google most things and find out quickly.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Probably ‘What I Know For Sure’ by Oprah Winfrey – a great ‘pick me up’ book that grounds you and has some great nuggets of wisdom.

What is your favorite quote?

“Grow a pair and crack on”. Someone asked me what advice I had for women in business and that was my answer. There are many inspirational business leaders you can refer to for quotes and that’s great, however sometimes realising it’s you that has the power to achieve success and the only person you need for inspiration is yourself can be one of the most empowering and inspirational things you do as a business leader.

Key learnings:

  • Never underestimate your own potential or doubt your ability to succeed.
  • Prioritise health and fitness for a successful business.
  • Remember you are doing business with people, not processes.