Risk Capital Case Study - Peter Saunders

The courage and willingness to take calculated risks in business is something that all successful entrepreneurs have in common.

Indeed, some of Wales’ most successful entrepreneurs are those who recognise that investing money in new businesses can lead to the largest rewards.

Peter Saunders is one such entrepreneur. His first risk in business involved resigning from a lucrative career in chemical engineering at BP to work for a small honey farm in West Wales. Within five months, the aspiring entrepreneur had agreed to buy the business, and set about turning Holgate honey farm into a national venture.

Life became my business school,” Peter says. “I learned things intuitively, and did what I thought was right. Quite often I’d get it wrong, but by the second or third time, I’d learned. It was a real life experience.

Peter soon spotted an opportunity for innovation in the growing health food sector. He developed the business into Halo Foods and began producing healthy snack bars, sweetened using honey instead of refined sugar.

It was a profitable idea – one that caught the attention of confectionary giant Rowntree, who later approached Peter with an offer to acquire his business.

They recognised my entrepreneurial nature and the culture of the business, and wanted that to continue,” Peter explains. “The only difference was I had all the resources I needed, and lots of expertise I could draw on. We were with Rowntree for six years, and the business rocketed.

Things didn’t go quite so smoothly when Nestlé took over Rowntree in 1988. When his factory was threatened with closure, Peter stepped in and bought the business back, risking his own money to save the company. By repositioning and re-energising the business, he turned things around and enjoyed 12 further successful years as an independent company.

Peter sold Halo Foods in 2004, switching focus to help fellow entrepreneurs create successful businesses. He is particularly passionate about investing in Welsh businesses, and was named UK Business Angel of the Year 2012 for his willingness to risk his own capital on the ideas of other entrepreneurs in Wales.

As well as generating financial reward, being an angel investor can bring about transformative social change. One of Peter’s latest ventures as chairman and lead investor at the Sure Chill Company involves using innovative technology to help save the lives of children in some of the poorest countries in the world.

We’ve got to create an entrepreneurial culture in Wales, to show people here that profit and success aren’t dirty things – they’re good things for everyone and they are good for Wales, Peter stresses.

Being an entrepreneur comes from the heart. It’s about belief and conviction, and being willing to take a risk. Some things will fail – not everything can succeed – but that’s a healthy part of a vibrant ecosystem.

If you believe in your business idea, have thought about it carefully and are comfortable with taking that risk, do it!