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Purpose-Powered: The Journey Of TrueStart Coffee

Updated: Aug 1, 2023

Hooked on coffee? You're not alone: we're now firmly a nation of coffee-lovers. Yet you may be shocked by just how much caffeine can be found in your daily cuppa. Independent, ethically-focused Bristol business TrueStart Coffee is now on a mission: to re-define caffeine in coffee with tasty brews that are better for people and the planet.

TrueStart coffee range

Helena Hills is the CEO and Co-Founder of TrueStart - the carbon negative, B Corp certified, family-run firm that makes delicious, healthy and energising coffee.

Alongside her husband Simon, Helena has taken this challenger brand to incredible heights in recent years. Packed with antioxidants, TrueStart’s colourful coffee is good for both people and the planet. The brand's signature positive energy is spreading far and wide - and can now be found in over 2,000 retail outlets and hundreds of offices across the UK.

Diagnosed with ADHD as a child, Helena is also a self-described Neurodiversity champion who has been on a real journey of self-discovery herself in recent years - and now considers ADHD to be a key ingredient in driving TrueStart forward.

Helena joined Second Mountain Comms' founder Ben Veal for episode 19 of Good Journeys with Second Mountain, the podcast series that explores the lives of inspired people and their inspiring stories.

Episode 19 of the #GoodJourneysPod is out now. Listen/watch:


"There is a better way"

TrueStart is a proudly family-run, British coffee brand that is intent on doing things differently. Over the course of the last eight years, over 20 million feel-good moments have now been celebrated over a cup, or can, of TrueStart coffee, with the brand also removing 12.5 tonnes of sugar from UK diets every year.

"The whole reason TrueStart exists on this planet is to spread massive positive energy and help people to feel good," says Helena.

"Coffee is incredible; it's a vehicle for that [great] feeling. We really feel that energy is contagious - and if we can use our incredible coffee to spread more positive energy then it will create this butterfly effect and people will hopefully pass that on."

TrueStart cold brews

For founders Helena and Simon, TrueStart's mission goes beyond creating tasty coffee. As a proud Certified B Corporation, the business is fiercely independent and committed to working in an ethical and sustainable fashion across its entire supply chain.

"We can't continue with this situation where our population is being mined by 'megacorp' organisations that genuinely do not care about the quality of what is going into your mouth but also the impact of where the pound is being spent," says Helena. "We need to have a regenerative economy that works for everyone."

"We [TrueStart] are not here to take business away from another independent business down the road. We are here to take market share away from the big boys and show that there is a better way."


"We really believed in the idea"

"Absolutely mind-blowing,"remarks Helena on the #GoodJourneysPod, "is that the caffeine level in coffee varies wildly; in a cup, you don't know whether you're drinking anything from thirty milligrams of coffee up to over 600 milligrams ... surely it would be a good idea to create a reliably-caffeinated coffee that makes you feel good every time without giving you the crash or the jitters? We really believed in that idea and learnt about all the variables that affect caffeine levels in coffee ... very long story short, we created a sourcing and testing process to make sure that the caffeine levels in our coffee are consistent."

This mission, made clear from day one, remains at the very heart of the TrueStart brand: "We launched eight years ago as the first - and still - the only coffee in the world that has a stable level of caffeine, so you know you're going to feel great every time, without the jitters."

TrueStart certified B Corporation


"I experience daily life quite differently"

A key strand of Helena's story as the CEO of such an ambitious challenger brand is her own struggles with ADHD. Diagnosed as a child, it has only been in recent years that Helena has started to come to terms with - and accept - her neurodiversity as a key strand of her identity.

"I find emotions really hard to regulate; this is really common for people with ADHD," Helena shares openly on the #GoodJourneysPod. "I feel emotions deeply. I have this paralysing level of empathy for others and I find that quite often really overwhelming. I feel emotion physically through every bone in my body. I used to think, how are other people just going through life, hiding that pain so well? And the fact that they're not feeling it just explains everything!"

There are distinct similarities between Helena's journey of neurodivergent self-discovery and that of autistic author Pete Wharmby, who appeared on the 'Good Journeys with Second Mountain' podcast earlier this year to talk about why the world isn't built for autistic people.

Diagnosed as autistic as an adult, Pete's belief is that our world today needs to fundamentally change to meet the needs of all - and this clearly mirrors Helena's own perspective:

"When you're trying to live in a society that is not really set up for how your brain works, you spend most of your days wondering what the hell is wrong with you. That relief and realisation, that actually there isn't anything wrong with me, I'm just wired differently to a lot of other people, is relieving. But it's also quite upsetting for the person who has been so stressed and confused and sad for so long ... I've learnt a lot about myself. The big thing for me has been that I've been able to give myself a bit of a break and, and also start to credit a love of the things that I've come to love about myself with my ADHD."

Helena Hills CEO of TrueStart Coffee

Episode 19 of the Good Journeys with Second Mountain podcast is out now.

Listen | Watch | Subscribe | Join the Conversation.

Good Journeys with Second Mountain podcast


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