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Aberdeen doctor and dad-of-three has big ambitions for CBD venture

Lee Allen hopes to make Phyte Club a nationally-recognised brand.

Dr Lee Allen, of Phyte Club. Image: DCT Media
Dr Lee Allen, of Phyte Club. Image: DCT Media

Every Monday, we ask small businesses key questions. Here we speak to Aberdeen-based doctor Lee Allen about Phyte Club, which sells CBD products online.

How and why did you start in business?

I’ve always had a creative mindset and the desire to start my own business. I was just waiting for something that feels right. I love the idea of creating something from nothing, and the excitement of trying something new.

It was a combination of circumstances that led to my interest in CBD (cannabidiol, a natural substance found in hemp plants). It started when a friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer, and mentioned they were reading about cannabis and its potential anti-cancer properties.

Phyte Club CBD products. Image: Lee Allen

Around the same time, I read about an MMA (mixed martial arts) fighter using CBD to help combat inflammation and aid recovery after a fight. I had never heard of these effects before, so started reading about CBD.

It turns out the world anti-doping agency removed CBD from its prohibited substances list in 2019. The use of CBD in sport is a growing market. Similarly, CBD can be added to cosmetics and skincare for its natural anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

There seemed to be a gap in the market for a reputable, medically-backed and health-focused CBD business – so I set up Phyte Club.

I’ve had a few business ideas in the past and never taken the leap, but as a doctor it’s in my nature to want to help people. The prospect of combining this with a small business seemed like a great idea.

How did you get to where you are today?

Getting started was the biggest hurdle. Once I had made that commitment, I found there is a lot of amazing local support available. Business Gateway has been fantastic, and I attended a lot of their evening classes before starting up.

I also think perseverance is key – so many businesses fail because it’s easy to give up when things get difficult. But once I have my heart set on something, I give it 100%.

Who helped you?

Everyone who has liked and shared my @phytedoctor social media posts, and recommended Phyte Club. They have made a huge difference. Word of mouth is such a powerful way to grow, and a lot of my new custom comes through recommendations.

My three kids are always enthusiastic and keen to help. They love helping me out when I do pop-up retail days.

The Federation of Small Businesses has also been a great support and has a wealth of resources available that I’ve found really helpful.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever had?

Everything you’ve ever wanted lies just outside your comfort zone. Get comfortable being uncomfortable – that’s where growth happens.

What is your biggest mistake?

Not starting sooner. I’m a bit of a perfectionist at heart, and I’ve learned that prioritising progress over perfection is the way to make things happen. You can always fine tune things once you’re up and running.

What is your greatest achievement?

Juggling family life, working full time in intensive care and running a small business every day.

Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

How are you managing rapidly rising costs and how could the government help?

I do as much as I can myself in the day-to-day running of Phyte Club. This helps me learn and understand the intricacies of running a business and keeps costs down.

Brexit is problematic for me as some of my products are imported from laboratories elsewhere in Europe. Streamlining the process would be helpful.

What do you still hope to achieve?

I’m hoping to see my products on the shelves in shops one day and would love for Phyte Club to be a brand that’s recognised across the country.

What do you do to relax?

I find it hard to switch off sometimes but going to the gym really helps me wind down. I also love spending time outdoors and the sea air is always therapeutic.

What are you currently reading, listening to or glued to on TV?

I’m  reading Rebel Talent – Why it Pays to Break the Rules at Work and in Life by Francesca Gino. It’s written by a professor of business at Harvard University and the title really appealed to me. It gives a fascinating insight into why the most successful people among us break the rules.

Image: Lee Allen

What do you waste your money on?

I can’t stop buying Nike trainers – it’s an issue. Otherwise, I think I’m relatively sensible with my money but my wife might disagree.

What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?

Feed our dog Marley, then grab a coffee.

What do you drive and dream of driving?

I drive a VW Golf and also have a Triumph Street Triple motorbike. I’m a bit of a petrolhead so my dream car would probably be a McLaren 720S.