United Kingdom

Entrepreneur quits secure City banking job to set up juice company after discovering aloe vera

A former City banker quit his job in the square mile to launch a drinks company that now turns over £10million a year. 

Alex Lai, 30, of London, landed a plumb job at BNP Paribas after graduating from King's College London with a degree in mechanical engineering. 

But in 2014 he decided it was time for a change of career and left finance in order to set up his own business.  

Alex launched a range of aloe vera juices called Simplee Aloe and has seen even more success since branching out to CBD-infused drinks under the brand name Drink 420. Both are sold under parent company Raylex. 

Alex Lai, 30, of London, landed a plumb job at BNP Paribas after graduating from King's College London with a degree in mechanical engineering. But in 2014 he decided it was time for a change of career and left finance in order to set up his own business. Alex launched a range of aloe vera juices called Simplee Aloe. Pictured, with aloe vera plants

He explained: 'Our goal is to be the champions of independent plant based beverages, shaking up shelves to make the world healthier one sip at a time.'

Describing the differences of his day-to-day now from when he started, he added: 'You cannot plan your day to day at a start up as it's just so different everyday… One thing is for sure is there isn't a boring day.'

Alex has seen even more success since branching out to CBD-infused drinks under the brand name Drink 420, pictured

The turning point in Alex's career was a backpacking trip to South East Asia. 

Alex tried aloe vera and noticed how the plant - long recognised for its medicinal properties - improved his digestion and skin. 

He said: 'I noticed many consumers drinking and eating raw Aloe Vera plants and after trying it out myself, I discovered the incredible benefits to my digestion and skin. 

'From there I was on a mission to introduce this incredible plant to Europe and curated a brand of Aloe Vera beverages, Simplee Aloe.' 

Alex drew on the example set by his parents, who emigrated from Hong Kong and run a chain of restaurants in Windsor, as well as the experience he had gained in investment banking. 

He worked from his kitchen, mixing and experimenting with flavours, until he landed his first deal with Sainsbury's.

Four years on, Simplee Aloe is now one of the fastest growing 'functional drinks brands', distributed in over 3,000 outlets and projected to deliver over £4million in retail sales across the UK this financial year. 

Simplee Aloe is now one of the fastest growing 'functional drinks brands', distributed in over 3,000 outlets and projected to deliver over £4million in retail sales across the UK this financial year. Pictured, Alex selling the drink early on in the company's growth 

His growing brand has seem him venture into a new beverage range, Drink 420, a group of CBD-infused soft drinks. Pictured: Can of the drinks

Alex, who was also named in Forbes' 30 under 30, also has 12 employees covering sales, marketing and manufacturing.

His drinks are stocked nationwide in retailers such as Waitrose, Sainsbury's, Asda, Whole Foods Market, Planet Organic, The Cooperative Food, WH Smith's, Wasabi and online with Ocado and Amazon. 

His growing brand has seem him venture into a new beverage range, Drink 420, a group of CBD-infused soft drinks. 

Alex said: 'I saw opportunity in other plant based beverages like with the adoption of CBD. 

'There was a huge gap in the market where consumers were looking for more natural and better -for-you beverages.

'The needs of consumers were not fulfilled by the likes of Coca Cola and Pepsi who were influencing the market with sugar ridden beverages with no real innovation. 

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