Eureka! Slõ Drinks

25th February 2014 by louise

Slo and steady wins the race!

A chance conversation was the catalyst for Matthew Done to start Slõ Drinks; a company that produces thickened drinks for people suffering with dysphagia (the medical term for chronic  difficulty swallowing). Here Mathew tells us more about his lightbulb moment, and the challenges he faced in this week’s instalment of The Eureka Diaries…

Slo Drinks

Matthew was working for a company that produced pureed meals for dysphagia patients. He’d just finished presenting a range of texture-modified meals at a hospital, and as he was leaving, he asked “Are you looking for anything else?” The response was “A pleasant drink”.

The comment stayed with Matthew. When he got home, he looked up thickened drinks and found out that he knew the company that produced the powders used by the NHS (UK National Health Service), but he didn’t know anything about the market. So he began asking all of the medical professionals and  patients he met about their thoughts on thickened drinks.

He discovered that there were lots of issues with the powders. Patients said that they were hard to use, affected the flavour of drinks, were chalky and grainy, and the powder separated from the liquid.

It was clear there was a need for something better, but his real Eureka Moment came when he watched a video of someone trying to mix a thickening powder into a drink: “They got more on the table than in the cup; it looked like a snow scene from Narnia!

So after this lightbulb moment, Matthew spent the next few months developing prototypes. But after the first drinks were developed, Matthew ran into difficulties: “The initial ones were rejected, and some of the therapists said I was wasting my time as my competitors dominated the market.”

And so began a series of really tough, time-consuming challenges for Slõ Drinks. Matthew encountered a lot of reluctance from the NHS, who had been contracted with a thickening powder company for 10 years.

He also faced criticism from medical professionals who thought he was crazy for taking on the big companies, and at first no one was willing to take a chance on Slõ Drinks. “Getting into hospitals in the first place was very hard-going.” said Matthew.

But Matthew didn’t give up, because he knew there was a real need for his product. His hard-work and dedication eventually paid off when he took his drinks to the Manchester Royal Infirmary (A hospital in the North West of England): “I presented a selection of hot and cold drinks that were quick to prepare, didn’t have lumps, weren’t gritty and didn’t have a chalky aftertaste. And they liked them!”

The day after the presentation, the Royal Liverpool Hospital got in touch, and the following week, orders from two other hospitals followed. Success!

Medical practitioners and patients told Matthew that it would be great to have the drinks available on prescription once they left hospital, so another steep learning curve began: “I spent nine months preparing an application to the UK Government’s approval committee, NICE. The cold juice drinks were accepted, but the hot drinks were rejected as they felt there wasn’t a need for them.”

But having discussed the need for hot drinks with the community and clinicians, Matthew knew that he had to try again. So he persevered, resubmitted his application and two years later they were approved. Go Matthew!

Slõ hot and cold drinks are now being used in hospitals and prescribed across the country.

Slow Drinks

Unsurprisingly, Matthew’s advice to other would-be start-ups is to stick at it, even when it’s tough. “You need to be wholeheartedly committed – if you’re not, you’ll struggle to make it through the inevitable setbacks.”

Matthew also believes there’s always a solution: “When it’s not staring you in the face, go right to the heart instead. Just relax for a bit – you can get annoyed and frustrated, but there’s always a way in the end.”

Matthew’s story shows just how important hard work and perseverance is when trying to start a business. Even in the tough times, and when people told him he was crazy, he kept going. We salute you, Matthew!

Comments (10)

  1. Rachel:

    So awesome! I work with residents with dysphagia on a regular basis, and they would absolutely love Slo Drinks (especially the hot drinks, many of them want coffee more than anything)! Thanks for a brilliant concept (and nice design ^_^).

  2. Steph Clark:

    That’s really cool!!! Very inspirational!!!

  3. Hashim:

    Very inspiring read. Has given me confidence to dust myself off and try again!

  4. Judy:

    I am a MOO card fan and user. Love them. Your story goes to the heart. I’m a never give in or give up woman when faced with the market place. As frustrating and discouraging as it has been for finding that ”eureka” place, I have to trust that it’s mine as well. I have a gift and exercising it by making art is my purpose I believe. I make one of a kind art and that is my forte, pleasure and focus. Production work has been a dead end and disappointment each and every time I’ve gone that way, so I’m following my heart’s desire. Always hoping for that crack that lets the light break through. Trusting and working with the light playing all around.

  5. Suzanne:

    Thank you so much for sharing this story. It’s comforting to be reminded that other businesses, especially startups come across all types of challenges. …that this is normal, and that with perseverance we can all get around our sticking points.

  6. Judy:

    OOps, forgot the most important part. Bravo, and kudos galore Matthew for holding the dream . JT

  7. Blair Pettrey:

    this was great! what a true example of dedication & hard work paying off; go Matthew!

  8. Fiona:

    I looked after my dad with oesophageal cancer and swallowing was a real problem for him. Hospital food was dire and I spent hours making tasty food and drink he could swallow and enjoy. There is such a need for tasty and edible products – I would have bought them if I’d known about them. Don’t forget to advertise them to the public too – we can then ask for them or buy them ourselves. Well done, this is a real need but keep them tasting like real food and drink

  9. Rick:

    Just shows you that creativity commitment and a lot of guts can move even a huge organisation like the NHS and give the big corporate competitors a run for their money. Nice one Matthew you could be the next Mr Dyson. The idea of hot and cold drinks is great but the addition of slo alcohol is amazing in bringing back some extra quality of life for the poor people who are affected by this condition. Go get em Trail Blazer.

  10. june:

    Congrats Matthew , you have created a great product and much needed . My brother had Cancer and like most terminally ill patients food is always a issue .He was recommended the NHS Brand, but found they where unpalatable and made him ill .
    what a pleasure it would have been to have the option of Slo Drinks . I agree your Brand should be available to the public ,the sooner the better .

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