About Time You Met: Andrew and Simon Salter, the Founders of DIRTEABy Angelica Malin
DIRTEA is a unique range of powders and super blends which harness the healing powers of mushrooms, adaptogens and ayurvedic herbs to naturally enhance your wellbeing. We chatted to founders Andrew and Simon Salter about their wellness business following burnout, the lessons they’ve learned along the way, and the misconceptions about medicinal mushrooms:
Can you give us a brief overview of your backgrounds and how you came to start DIRTEA?
We have spent 12 years building brands and businesses. We have been instrumental in the conception and growth of brands as diverse as global social movement Feeling Nuts, the comeback of heavy weight champion David Haye, lifestyle concierge app Velocity Black, venture firm The Venture Collective, live events Indaba X and Letters Live, and clean meat start-up Mosa Meat.
Such hectic working lives led to almost a total burnout almost 6 years ago for both of us. We were so focused on being the CEO of businesses that we were disregarding being the CEO of our own bodies and as a result, our physical and mental health started to suffer and new chronic symptoms like lack of sleep, anxiety, brain fog and panic attacks were presenting themselves more and more regularly.
After seeing a doctor and being presented with no real cure, we decided to go in search of something which tackled the root of the issues we were facing. By chance, we were introduced to a tea master in London, and she presented us with the concept of mushroom teas made using some of the world’s most researched functional mushrooms: Reishi, Cordyceps, Chaga and Lion’s Mane. Both of us were intrigued by the history and the instant well-being and calming effects of drinking these teas and committed to using them over the next couple of weeks to really see the effects. It wasn’t long before we both started to feel better, our sleep was improved, stress and anxiety were under control, and we had more clarity than ever, it really was quite amazing. This led to a lightbulb moment, and after sharing the many, many benefits with friends and them experiencing the same advantages as us, we knew we had to spread the message about mushrooms, and DIRTEA was born.
Have you always been entrepreneurial?
We’ve always said that we’re unemployable, knowing from a very young age that the traditional route of employment wasn’t for us. We consider ourselves to be unconventional in that manner, always looking for ideas and innovation, and determined to build businesses that we’re passionate about which probably means that entrepreneurial qualities have always been present in us both.
We’ve always understood the importance of working beyond the 9-5 and truly becoming a specialist in your field to make a real difference. We’ve absolutely thrown ourselves behind all the projects we’ve worked on, which is what has made them all successful. We also realise the value of building and cultivating relationships as well as challenging the norm to bring about real change.
Were there any bumps along the way and would you have done anything differently if you could turn back time?
There were many, but rather seeing if we would have done something differently, these bumps were a lesson. Should we ever encounter that bump(s) again, we are now prepared with confidence, greater knowledge, experience and surrounded by an awesome team who share the same enthusiasm and mission.
What would you say to someone wanting to start their own wellness business?
To anyone wanting to start their own wellness business, we would say ask yourself one question: Do you categorically, unquestionably believe in the product and what it is you want to launch? If the answer is yes, then think beyond starting a business and focus on the benefits that you can offer people when it comes to their health and wellbeing, which is priceless. Make yourself a specialist in the area, understand the research, get friends and family to experience the benefits and immerse yourself fully in the space, assessing how you can do better than your competitors and truly innovate the market.
Why are you so passionate about medicinal mushrooms and what changes have you noticed since incorporating them into your wellness regime?
Because they healed us both mentally and physically. They gave us a greater sense of purpose, which has seamlessly allowed us to realise that it is our remit to share these hidden warriors of the forest with the masses in clever engaging ways to improve the betterment of others’ wellbeing.
Collectively they have improved the full spectrum of our wellbeing. No more brain fog, consistent energy with no spikes or drops, and from Insomnia to sleeping like a champion.
Breaking them down:
Chaga in the morning is like throwing an S on your chest as it improves the strength of your immune system with a slow drip of energy, so no morning fatigue (and it’s also brilliant for skin).
Lion’s Mane stimulates the growth of new brain cells in your Hippocampus increasing concentration, focus and reducing anxiety.
Cordyceps have the ability to force more oxygen into your muscles and lungs. It has enhanced our physical ability to consistently nail Personal bests (PBs) in endurance training such as running.
Reishi aka the calming mushroom calms the nervous system down and has helped us both go from no sleep to the perfect sleep cycle. It helps to calm the mind and initiate sleep.
Are there any misconceptions about medicinal mushrooms?
There are so many misconceptions about medicinal mushrooms, that it’s actually hard to know where to start! We’ve really made it our mission to reinvent the narrative around mushrooms and make people understand that 1. They’re not psycho-active and 2. Even though we say medicinal mushrooms, they’re functional mushrooms or adaptogens which consistently adapt to the body’s stresses. With DIRTEA, we’re really aiming to challenge these misconceptions and educate about the many, many natural benefits that mushrooms can offer.
One of the biggest challenges for us is the perception of mushrooms in general – but the reality is mushrooms are their own kingdom and there’s over 5.1 million species of mushrooms as much as there can be some poisonous or psychedelic varieties, there are also many functional, medicinal mushrooms which can offer tangible health benefits to absolutely anybody.
What insights would you give to people looking to take their business to the next level?
From our experience, we would say, surround yourself with intelligent people and those who also believe in you. So, for example, for years we’ve surrounded ourselves with people who study mushrooms, also known as mycologists. We’ve also surrounded ourselves with foragers and those who are as fascinated with fungi as we are. This is in addition to getting to know great business leaders who are happy to share their insights with us and who believe in us and understand our vision and how we can scale our business. All in all, the people you surround yourself with are crucial.
What steps have you taken to ensure the DIRTEA brand is sustainable?
In truth, for any start-up, it can be incredibly difficult to be 100% sustainable. However, we’re committed to sustainability and it’s something we take seriously and are transparent about. At the moment, we’re looking into mushroom-based, mycelium packaging, as well as different ways that we can transport our mushrooms from the wonderful farm in China where they’re grown to maintain their power and potency. Our products are recyclable and we have some new products in the pipeline which really embody the sustainable message and DIRTEA brand ethos.