To celebrate Proto-col founder, James Greenwell’s birthday, we sat down and caught up with him on all things Proto-col, life and what he’d take to a desert island with him.
To start things off James, why are you all about collagen?
The simple answer is, because it was the collagen protein that helped me to recover and repair after my potentially career ending injury when I was competing as an elite athlete for Great Britain.
I ruptured my right Achilles tendon during a running session in 2003, where the doctors in the sports team at the University of Bath basically said that it was the end of my career as I knew it. Under the guidance of Professor Greg Whyte, it was collagen as a supplement that I turned to, which supported my body and allowed me to recover in record time.
It instigated the Proto-col story, and it is now my go-to protein that allows me to still continue to train at Olympic level.
That’s amazing, showing the real power of collagen! Speaking of Proto-col, what’s your favourite product in the range?
My favourite product right now is the Complete Collagen sachets. I love the massive dose of collagen first thing in the morning because I know my body requires the 8,000mg of collagen to support the abuse that I put myself through in my training programmes.
The vitamins and minerals really support my body function as well, I feel brighter and more energised –De coping with tiredness and fatigue better! Plus, I really love the taste of them!
So, how do you decide if a product has what it takes to make the Proto-col cut?
It basically comes down to the scientific evidence behind it – whether the product will deliver the results that we require it to do. It means that the customer will experience the results that we promise.
What are you most proud of?
There’s two things I’m most proud of – the first is building a brand from my back-bedroom, with the financial risks I have taken over the years to build the brand to where it is.
In the world of sport, it was winning the triathle world championship in 2018 for the first time after many years of racing in my federation. I was the first man in history to defend the title in 2019 as well.
Now, moving onto the more personal stuff... have you got a motto you follow?
There’s actually a couple, the first my dad used to tell me as a kid for many years which is ‘If a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing well’ and the second is ‘To find your goal in life, you have to understand the passion behind it’.
Who really inspires you?
There are a number of people in different worlds that inspire me, in business, it’s Richard Branson. I met him once and he’s an incredible character. In sport it would be Sebastian Coe, he’s an inspirational athlete. And lastly, in Modern Pentathlon it is Richard Phelps. He was one of my teammates alongside Professor Greg Whyte and was the most incredible athlete of his time coming 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th in the Olympic games and finally becoming an Olympic champion in 1993.
Describe your perfect day to us, whether it’s a workday, or a rest day
The perfect workday doesn’t start ridiculously early, but around 7am. I’ll be in the pool with my coach and teammates for a good 1 hour swim session before coming to work. It’s then being surrounded by a motivated, passionate, enthusiastic team that share my passion and enthusiasm for the brands and strive to develop them throughout the day. Then I get to train again in the evening, at least one or two events.
The perfect rest day, however, would be waking up at my home in Majorca, with my friends and family around. Starting with a run when I wake up and spending the morning on the beach, having lunch with friends and family, where I can enjoy a glass of wine and great seafood. Possibly an open water swim in the afternoon and a BBQ in the evening on the roof terrace.
Looking back, if you could give any advice to your younger self, what would it be and why?
It would be to embrace change faster because I followed a pattern in business for many years that I believed to be right. I think embracing change and technological advancement is something we could have done maybe a year or so earlier than we did and put us in a different place. That said though, I have guided us through a global pandemic and two recessions, and we are still here successful and admired as a brand, we live to fight another day. But, I do wish in hindsight that I had moved a little bit faster into the digital world – but as a brand we will now make up for lost time.
And finally, if you were stuck on a desert island, what three things would you want to have with you and why?
Oh I love this question! Number one, my brother because he’s great company, number two a fully stocked bar so we could have a drink on the beach. Lastly, a fully fuelled 65-foot long Sunseeker boat, fully staffed, so we can leave and go wherever we want, when we want, so we aren’t trapped on a desert island anymore!
That’s a good one, I don’t know why I never thought of that before!
Thinking outside of the parameters, it’s an entrepreneurial thing – nobody said you had to adhere to the rules, nobody said you had to stay on the island!