Gordon Belch: Investment fund accountant by day, entrepreneur by night
A full-time job at one of Australia’s most demanding investment banks hasn’t stopped Gordon Belch CA from kicking off his own health drinks brand.
Gordon Belch has always been a talented athlete. Growing up in Glasgow he enjoyed athletics and ran for Scotland as a schoolboy. He was a well-respected player on the tennis court and made a name for himself locally as a teen on the rugby field.
Sport began to take a back seat when he first went to university, studying Law with Accountancy achieving a First-Class degree from the University of Aberdeen, but not for long. After a few visits to the university gym he developed an interest in bodybuilding, which requires an almost religious adherence to a workout regimen and consistent dieting.
After four years of grind he set his sights on a bodybuilding show. This took place in between his second and third year of ICAS exams. He stepped on stage at the Scottish championships, finishing third and earning a place at the European Championships.
Gordon then turned his attention to an entirely new challenge, decathlon, in which he made it into Scotland’s top five performers and top 30 in the UK.
“Life was quite hectic at that point,” Gordon, now an asset management finance executive at Macquarie Infrastructure & Real Assets (MIRA) in Sydney, says. “I was working at KPMG, studying for professional exams and training seven days a week for the decathlon.”
“I would begin every day with the same nutritious formula. Essentially, I wanted to compile a proper meal into a blender and get everything I needed in one, healthy drink. I wanted to feel full, save time and money, but know that I was getting all the nutrition I needed.”
So what was in this amazing mix?
Initially, it would contain a full banana, a lot of oats, honey, some berries, protein powder, flax seeds, fish oil, a scoop of vitamins and minerals and some water, and maybe some almond milk. As I was putting it together each morning I always wished it was easier. I wished it existed as an affordable product. That’s what gave me the idea for vybey.
Did you immediately begin working on the development of vybey?
No, the real work didn’t begin until I came to Australia. Back at university, I pitched it to a few friends and they didn’t think it would work. So it was parked at the back of my mind, but I was still thinking about it over the next couple of years as I worked at KPMG in Glasgow, in the financial services audit department. That’s where I did my CA qualification.
And then you came to Australia?
Yes. I’d been here on a backpacking trip in 2014 and, after earning my CA, I wanted to take a CA adventure abroad. So I came out here with no job. But I’d been speaking with recruiters and had interviews lined up. In fact, I arrived on a Thursday and had several interviews on the Friday.
You ended up at Macquarie, a company well known for its very powerful work ethic. How did you find that corporate culture?
Macquarie is filled with people who are ambitious, competitive and intelligent. It’s a fantastic environment if you want to develop.
What are the challenges in your work?
I undertake a finance role in an investment fund that invests in infrastructure assets around the world and it is a very diverse role. It is completely end-to-end financial management, so I’m doing everything - budgeting, cashflows, distribution management, board paper writing, investment sell down funds flow, financial modelling, and more. It has really added to my business and technical skills gained from my CA training.
So how did you find the time to start vybey?
As soon as I arrived, in early 2018, I checked out the market and didn’t see anything similar – a total nutrition, superfood liquid meal. I began Googling bottling factories and food consultants, and I cold-called them. It took about a month to start getting somewhere. Then I met with the food scientists to help produce on a commercial scale. Once I’d paid their fee, which wasn’t small, there was no turning back! I now work on weekends, at nights, during lunchtimes and early mornings. I have a co-founder back in the UK so we operate around the clock. I also have a few contacts back in the UK who had set up similar companies and they’ve been great mentors.
What stage is vybey at, now?
The food scientists and branding agents have helped since October 2018. There was a lot of tasting and going back and forth around the nutritional panel. It took three months of continuous phone calls to convince one of only two potential co-packers – the people who bottle, mix and sleeve the product – to take on the relatively small, minimum order. They’re in New Zealand. Getting the 15-plus suppliers negotiated in price and coordinated to arrive on time was pretty tough. But I was there when the first factory trial began and it was nothing short of magical to see your idea come to life!
Are you ready to retail?
The first batch – about 1500 bottles – cleared quarantine two hours ago! vybey’s market is health and fitness, and busy professionals. We’ll be distributing by the time this story runs.
Has the entire project been incredibly difficult?
Incredibly difficult, yes. It’s all been about managing your time, staying disciplined and making sacrifices where necessary. I used to train seven nights a week, so in my head, I’m simply replacing that training time with building a business. That way, it doesn’t seem so bad. It’s been an absolute roller coaster so far, but it’s what I’ve always wanted to do, and I’m not giving up.
About the author
Chris Sheedy is one of Australia’s busiest and most successful freelance writers. He has been published regularly in the Sydney Morning Herald, Virgin Australia Voyeur, The Australian Magazine, GQ, In The Black, Cadillac, Management Today, Men’s Fitness and countless other big-brand publications. He is frequently commissioned to carry out copywriting and corporate writing projects for organisations, including banks, universities, television networks, restaurant chains and major charities, through his business The Hard Word.