5 MINUTES WITH....LAURA JACKSON, CO-FOUNDER OF POPCORN SHED

Popcorn. It doesn't get better as a tasty treat. The little crunchy puffs of air have been experiencing a golden age of popularity due to the wide diversification in flavours and popping methods. We were delighted when Laura Jackson, co-founder of Popcorn Shed, agreed to be interviewed as we're big fans. Popcorn Shed are bringing the gourmet popcorn to the foodie palate with panache and some moreish varieties. She talks about what drove her to set up the business with her cousin Sam....

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1. What drove you to create Popcorn Shed?

My cousin Sam and I discovered gourmet popcorn during a trip to the US, and on returning to the UK we realised that great tasting and high-quality popcorn was not easy to source and spotted a gap in the mainstream market. We had always flirted with the idea of running our own family food business together, and in a moment of madness around our 30th birthdays, we had a “now or never” moment.

2. What's the biggest lesson you've learnt from starting up Popcorn Shed? 

That creating a brand and business is not a static thing. You don’t just launch and that’s it. You need to be nimble and constantly reacting to feedback and adjusting to improve.

3. What's the one piece of business advice you wish you'd been given when you started? 

Talk to everyone and share your idea. Feedback and advice is invaluable. There is a tendency for people to feel like they don’t want to share their business idea for fear that someone may steal it. However, unless your idea is so revolutionary and the barrier to entry is very low, it is very unlikely to happen! Be bold and just do it! What’s the worst that can happen? I always say it’s ok to try and fail but it’s not ok to not try.

4. Was there ever a point when you wanted to give up? 

I’ve definitely had my moments! But running your own business has high highs and low lows so you learn to become resilient. I don’t think giving up is really in my blood. 

5. As cousins, does this bring up complications in your business relationship when it comes to making decisions? 

We’re very close, more like brother and sister so although we do fight, it’s never personal. It’s always for the good of the business. I think running your own business has enough stresses so having a business partner who you can fully trust and rely on is a must. We have complimentary skills but the same work ethic so it works very well.

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6. What's been the biggest milestone for the business so far? 

There have been so many! I think for me it was getting our first fan letter.

7. Who is your inspiration? 

My father. He is a very hardworking man who was the first professional in his family and now runs a very successful business. 

8. What keeps you motivated? 

Popcorn Shed is all about enhancing those sharing moments that matter so hearing how much customers love the taste of our popcorn and our brand keeps me buzzing.

9. What other entrepreneurs do you look up to? 

Two other female food entrepreneurs who I really respect are Camilla Barnard and Pippa Murray. Camilla is the founder of Rude Health (the healthy eating brand). They started their business with no food background in their kitchen and today they have a huge range, stocked nationwide and she launched it with 2 young kids! I also think that what Pippa has achieved with her nut butter brand Pip and Nut is incredible and she isn’t even 30 yet!

10.  If you weren't doing this, you would be.... 

Hmmmm… probably what I was doing before- digital project management, making sure you can subscribe for binge TV and keeping your online banking working (most of the time!).

https://popcornshed.com

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THE FEMALE FOCUS: IT'S TIME TO PRESS FOR PROGRESS

 Jess, Clo, Nat striking a pose...

Jess, Clo, Nat striking a pose...

Wow. What a few weeks it's been. Some serious girl power vibes have been coursing through our conversations and work, and we've loved it. As part of our initiative, The Female Focus, in partnership with Jess and Nat of Mac & Moore, we have talked to so many talented and inspiring women who intersect many different sectors and roles, to get their views on what it means to be a woman in the business world. But more than that; we probed into the change we need to see this year to support women to create a truly balanced society. So here's a round-up of what they had to say....

We can be unwelcoming to other women
— Rosh Thanki, trailer Editor and lifestyle Instagrammer

First, we asked them what the biggest issue or barrier for women in business is. What really came through was that the working environment is masculine in nature and male-dominated in power, which makes the creation of change a challenge. Emma Sexton, Founder of MYWW and Broadcaster for Badass Women's Hour, said: "(We need to) change our working culture and one dimensional view of what makes a successful leader. Work is masculine in nature and until we value feminine values and leadership qualities as a viable alternative women are going to lose out.” Sarah Welsh and Fara Kabir, co-founders of Hanx, the first luxury vegan male condom designed for women, highlighted that it's the underrepresentation of women at the top, which means that good habits can't trickle down. They told us: "The number of female CEO's is ridiculously low in comparison to our male counterparts. There is still more to be done with regards to pushing women to reach their potential in leading roles." The pattern is particularly prominent for women belonging to an ethnic minority. Sheeza Anjum, social media and digital content specialist, has worked with some of the biggest creative and digital agencies in the world, "but unfortunately every single time I step through the door I can’t help but notice there is a serious lack of role models and mentors for women like me." 

I’ve sadly seen so much lately about women pulling up the ladder behind them
— Antonia Taylor, PR specialist

And there is not enough support for women who are having children to provide flexibility for them to do so. Freelance PR consultant and founder of Little Gnashers, Victoria Dove, is one of them. She said, "Many employers are missing out on top talent because they can’t arrange their businesses to offer flexible working hours. We all have mobiles, laptops and the internet so it really shouldn’t be an issue anymore for office-based jobs."  Work Well Being founder Louise Padmore thinks that, whilst the rules around shared parental leave go some way to evening out the balance of responsibility for childcare, for many men there’s a workplace culture that still makes this feel like an unacceptable thing for them to do.

But it's not just men building barriers to equality, it's womankind too. Rosh Thanki, trailer editor and creative lifestyle Instagrammer, highlighted: "We can be unwelcoming to other women in the same industry". There is also the well documented 'imposter syndrome' - a fear of failure - which has a big effect on many women and something we,  as women, have to push to overcome ourselves in order to break the cycle. Heidi Budino, Freelance Global Sustainability & Social Purpose consultant at Shell, pointed out, "As a society we still associate authority with a man which leads to women often feeling like they need to downplay their authority, doing things like apologising". Founder and CEO of You Make It, Asma Shah, offered up some steps in the right direction, "We need to hear more from women who have experimented and failed and that this is okay, because you learn more from failure than from successes." We need to create positive role models out of failure.

We often put on a brave face when times get tough. We accept burdens and say that everything’s fine. But if we spoke up and out more often we might have to deal with less crap.
— Caitlin Evans, Poet and Senior Planner at MBA

It's not just habits we have to shift but fundamental systems that have historically inculcated the male focus.

So what's the solution?

Caitlin Evans, a Senior Planner at MBA, thinks that the status quo environment means that women just put up with it and won't speak out, "We often put on a brave face when times get tough. We accept burdens and say that everything’s fine. But if we spoke up and out more often we might have to deal with less crap. I want to open up really productive, ongoing conversations." There was a resounding response from the women we spoke to that they are all planning to delete the apologies. It's got to start somewhere and our narrative should be apology-less but we need to push harder for progress. Heidi Budino adds, "I’m going to be more aware in meetings when men are in the room, bring female colleagues into the conversation if I feel they’re hesitating to speak up or call a man out if they’re talking over me and not letting me finish."

“Bring female colleagues into the conversation”
— Heidi Budino, Freelance Global Sustainability & Social Purpose consultant at Shell

When it comes to building flexibility in the workplace for mothers, Jaxx Nelson, founder of Whisk Deliversan online delivery service for new parents, has plans for her fellow female friends who are family planning. "I’ll be encouraging (them) to speak openly with their company management about work flexibility. It's so important for women to be able to maintain our fought-for careers and have the family life we want."

Antonia Taylor, a PR specialist, believes that mentoring will help. "I’ve sadly seen so much lately about women pulling up the ladder behind them. Having a mentor earlier on in my career would have been game-changing. So I’d like to invest in that, possibly working with other women in my field to create something meaningful."

There's a long road ahead but the conversations building and building, and women are opening up and shouting louder. But they, as well as men, need to push harder to see the change we want to see. 

The Female Focus doesn't stop here. CLO PR and Mac & Moore will be teaming up for more activities with the lens angling on women in due course, as well as continuing to talk to mavericks who are trying to change up the status quo and pull the matriarchy up in their wake. Watch this space!

 This illustration was expertly drawn by Louise Ormerod, a Senior Designer at ZAK agency

This illustration was expertly drawn by Louise Ormerod, a Senior Designer at ZAK agency

THE FEMALE FOCUS: WE PARTNER WITH YOU MAKE IT

As part of our joint series with the talented girls at Mac&Moore, The Female Focus, we want to share with you some exciting news. We will be partnering with You Make It, a charity which offers creative programmes for women to equip them with the tools to transform their lives through personal empowerment. The mission of You Make It falls within the Sustainable Developments Goals set out by the UN to end poverty, promote good health and well-being, provide life-long learning opportunities and fight gender inequality.

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Since You Make It launched in 2011, 82% of women supported are in sustained paid employment, working on their own start-ups or have accessed formal education places. It was set up by Asma Shah out of anger at inequality in London. The first years of her life were turbulent, her mother fleeing a violent marriage and taking Ms Shah and her three sisters with her. Despite that, Ms Shah, who has held management positions at Channel 4, the Roundhouse and Creative Skillset, always believed she would go to university and get a good job. Yet, she says, many black and Asian working class women lack self-confidence and a sense of a “right to the city”. She says of You Make It that it’s not just about giving tools for employment but addressing the stuff that really holds women back, like lack of confidence and networks.

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As part of the scheme, CLO PR aims to create positive impact by providing mentorships to two women to help them reach their potential. We’ll be supporting them with training in PR, marketing and social media skills, as well as ideas for how to promote their businesses to wider audiences. We can’t wait to get cracking and meet Honey Malaolu, a local fashion designer based in Hackney and Hera Williams, founder of Aspire Girls Squad, a community interest company offering support to young girls aged 10-16 years old.

Watch this space!

THE FEMALE FOCUS

It’s feverish here at CLO PR. And it’s not due to colds and flu. We’ve been gearing up for International Women’s Day on Thursday with a host of activities, to make not only the day but the whole week count. This is a day (and week) to celebrate what it means to be a woman in 2018 and open up conversation to address the issues that many of us are facing in the workplace and day-to-day.

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The focus of this year’s International Women’s Day is #PressforProgress: to pledge to take action in some way, however big or small. What the circling and bubbling of #Vote100, #MeToo and #TimesUp has highlighted is the need to act, now. We cannot stay still or silent. If the Suffragettes could see where we were today in female empowerment they’d probably be very disappointed at the little progress made. They put their lives on the line, we just have to be a bit more shouty and productive.  

When I started up the business a year ago it was to feel empowered personally and free to do things a little different in PR (and business). During the transition I was filled with so much doubt about whether I could do it and be successful independently. I am definitely not the only one. Imposter syndrome has appeared in front of so many women similarly. I have come through the other side and the freedom I get from doing what I do on my own terms has given me so much confidence. I want to help other women push through and get what they want.

At CLO PR, we believe in generating #positiveimpact in everything we do - from servicing our clients, to supporting others to grow in skills and confidence without rules. Creating positive impact for girls and women is at the top of the agenda. We’ve partnered with the glorious #girlboss duo Mac & Moore to entertain and inspire. Throughout the week we’ll be speaking to some ridiculously talented women in the freelance, start-up and business world to discover exactly what the current momentum on female-focused issues means to them, and what they’ll be doing in the coming year to #PressForProgress. It genuinely feels so great to take a unified stance with a collective of strong female characters. Because women get sh*t done. There's a shared determination to do something tangible and celebrate in helping each other move forward.

We’re kicking off with wisdom from marvellous female folk each day on our Instagram and Twitter pages (both @weareCLOPR and @macandmoore) and will keep you up to date with the initiatives we take part in during the week. We’re interviewing women for our #chowdown series on what makes business sense for our gender so please get in touch if you’d like to be involved. We need you! It’s time to come together and support the matriarchy. Progress is in our sights. Are you with us, or are you with us?!

5 MINUTES WITH RIKKE ROSENLUND, FOUNDER OF BORROWMYDOGGY

Ever wanted to have a dog but know you can't because you don't have enough space or you have a busy job that means it's kept home alone a lot. Meet Rikke, the young passionate Dane connecting people in the UK and Ireland to 4 legged friends through BorrowMyDoggy. She talks about her drive to create positive impact through the platform and build a friendly community that's keeping people and canines happy and healthy along the way. Read on, this woman has got packs of passion....

1. What drove you to create BorrowMyDoggy?

It all started five years ago when I borrowed Aston, my neighbour’s beautiful Labrador, for the day. As a young girl I had always wanted a dog, but my parents never acquiesced since my mother is allergic. Now as an adult, I’m not in a position to own a dog either. I absolutely adored my day with Aston, who instead of spending the day stuck indoors, enjoyed a wonderful afternoon at the park, attended a garden party, and met some new friends. I soon realised that lots of dog owners could use a helping paw looking after their dog, and that there are thousands of people, like me, who would love to take care of a dog for free, simply because they love them.

When I began talking with potential members, what I found was incredible. Story after story of dog lovers and dog owners who felt that they'd benefit emotionally and physically by connecting with like-minded people in their area. There was the the man who had an operation and needed help walking his dog, the family whose dog would always welcome more games of fetch and countless people who felt lonely. The stories kept coming in and it was clear there was a need. When a little girl told me her story of how much she wanted a dog, I cried. It was like hearing me as a young girl desperate for the loving companionship of a fluffy creature.

What started with me manually matching people and dogs has now turned into an online platform with more than 600,000 members across the UK and Ireland and an ever-growing social media community.

2. What's the biggest lesson you've learnt from starting up BorrowMyDoggy?

For anyone considering starting a business, make sure there’s a demand and that the business idea is solving a problem. With over 60% of startups destined to fail in the first 3-4 years, make sure you do something you love. There will be many failures and when the going gets tough, the tough needs to get going.

3. What's the one piece of business advice you wish you'd been given when you started?

Knowing that setting up a business takes a lot longer that you would expect, especially when it comes to funding. This would have been useful for my peace of mind!

4. Was there ever a point when you wanted to give up?

No. Just knowing people’s first-hand stories of how much BorrowMyDoggy is creating positive impact on local communities has kept me going. From neighbours forming new friendships to dogs being ring bearers at borrowers’ weddings, it is not an option to give up. I want to create more and more of these amazing stories. It’s my mission to make as much of a positive impact we can via our lovely community.

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5. What's been the biggest milestone for the business so far?

I would say the journey has been full of small ones so far. With every small milestone you realise how much further you’ve got to go. For me, the milestones need to do one thing: leave ‘Pawprints of Happiness’ on the lives of dogs and people. This is our goal as a company. Through the platform people are being more active, overcoming loneliness and making friends, whilst dogs are gaining more exercise, love and attention.

6. Who is your inspiration?

My parents. They set me up with the values of trying to make a difference. They’ve always been very active and engaged in supporting the local community and making time to help people. I hope I can bring some of my values into what I’m doing, both inside and outside of work.

7. What keeps you motivated?

The knowledge that the more we do, the more we can help and see the positive impact we want to see.

8. What business or brand do you look up to?

Being Danish, I am going to be impartial and say that I love everything that Joe the Juice is doing. From the hiring of talent, to matching the brand to the interior design and delicious juices and sandwiches, they’re getting it right. And of course Lego. They may have gone through some tough times, but they’ve stayed ahead of the curve and their product lines have always fed my imagination ever since I was a young girl.

9.  If you weren't doing this, you would be....

My answer is different today than it would have been 5 years ago. I think right now I’d be helping more people become entrepreneurs, including encouraging more women take the jump. Otherwise, I would definitely be doing something in the charity sector. Anything I do now or in the future needs to make me feel like it has a positive impact.

http://borrowmydoggy.com

 Bertie, the chocolate labrador

Bertie, the chocolate labrador

5 MINUTES WITH....LAVINIA DAVOLIO, FOUNDER OF LAVOLIO

At CLO PR we love sweet things. Sugary sweetness can make the world go round, right? We were delighted when Lavinia Davolio, founder of Lavolio, agreed to be interviewed as we've been watching her ascension into the confectionary hemispheres with a greedy eye. Have a read of what pumps Lavinia full of energy and passion to build a highly successful boutique confectionary, miles apart from her former career in finance.

1. What's the biggest lesson you've learnt from starting up Lavolio?

It’s something I didn’t know at the start but you need to put the customer at the centre. This sounds like marketing spiel but it’s not. You need to create a product that people love when they try it. Your product needs to be good enough to convince them to become ambassadors so that they can help tell your story.

2. What's the one piece of business advice you wish you'd been given when you started?

A mentor down the line once told me to choose what you’re going to be - as a brand - and stick to it. It’s been the best advice – you need to be the brand - live and breathe it everywhere. It’s all about consistency and brand awareness isn’t easy. Even the clothes I wear reflect Lavolio. People coming into my shop will notice that my scarf matches the wallpaper. You should see my car!

3. Was there ever a point when you wanted to give up?

No. It’s a rollercoaster ride and you feel the times when things go badly. You need to be an optimist. Resilience and persistence are key. There are moments when things aren’t going well, when I’ve made mistakes and changed direction. What helps me is to have a long term goal (rather than shorter monthly goals) where it’s not clear where the road will lead but I have the understanding that things will go wrong. I get a lot of clarity from listening to the customer experience.

4. What's been the biggest milestone for the business so far?

Six months in the making I was stocking in Fortnum & Mason. This created a lot of credibility and reach. A lot of other things have happened. It’s not magic and it’s hard work. We care about every single customer and we try our best to be better than the big guys. Opening our brick and mortar store in Parsons Green was momentous because it’s centred on listening to customers and wanting to give them that first hand experience. The store gives us a base to add on new services, such as  personalisation where people can build their own box of treats.

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5. Who is your inspiration?

Many different people inspire me in different ways. I reach out to people who I admire. You’d be surprised at who will become a mentor or sounding board if you ask. Everyone I admire have a lot more experience and have been successful and as an entrepreneur the one thing you don’t have is experience. In my case I wasn’t always in food and I’ve had to learn new skills such as digital marketing and brand building. It never gets easier as I’m always learning to do new things.

6. What keeps you motivated?

I’m driven by the desire to create and see something that was an idea becoming real. The shop existed in my mind - I could visualise it - while customers have helped it become a reality in various shapes. For me, a goal is a dream with a deadline.

7. What business or brand do you look up to?

When it comes to understanding brands I do a lot of research into trends. My previous career was in finance, which required me to know a lot of things. I used to read The Economist, now I read The Grocer! My friends make fun of me – they say I am an encyclopedia (my previous career in finance demanded me to know a lot of things). I take different levels of inspiration from different brands. For example, fashion and luxury for Lavolio’s communications. We are an alternative to chocolate but people like chocolate so we take inspiration from chocolate brands. The inspiration comes down to what the goal is.

8. If you weren't doing this, you would be....

This isn’t a job I got, I invented this job to reflect who I am. If it wasn’t creating chocolates I’d still probably be cooking because it inspired Lavolio. I’d be doing more writing and cooking.

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5 MINUTES WITH...CASEY BIRD, FOUNDER OF THE FREELANCE CIRCLE

Meet Casey Bird, who is trailblazing the advertising, marketing and design world to give freelancers the chance to anonymously share their experiences and get a heads up on agencies others love, or loath. The Freelance Circle is helping to change the way businesses think about and work with freelancers. We take our hat off to this lady....

1. What's the biggest lesson you've learnt from starting up The Freelance Circle?

I’d say one of the biggest lessons from launching my review site, The Freelance Circle, would be to ‘trust your decisions’. As a founder you need to really trust your own opinion and thinking – you know the answer, so why ask others? Don’t get me wrong, opinions matter, but only from the right people. Otherwise, you end up with an overload of different opinions and confuse yourself, when the only one that matters at the end of the day, is yours.

2. What's the one piece of business advice you wish you'd been given when you started?

Be patient. Don’t expect miracles overnight. When I first launched The Freelance Circle, I wanted to wake up the next day with millions of freelance reviews from all over the world and Beyoncé tweeting how badass my idea was. You have to work hard and dedicate thinking time to build a credible brand. These things don’t happen overnight.

3. Was there ever a point when you wanted to give up?

It’s been one year since ideation and 6 months since the official launch – so I’d hope I don’t want to give up yet! Over the last few years I’ve had many business ideas, however with this idea, I knew there was a real insight into it and a real need, and thankfully that ‘spark’ hasn’t died and instead fueled me to keep going.

4. What's been the biggest milestone for the organization so far?

In just 6 months we have now reached 200 organic reviews – no paid advertising, no paid search – just freelancers genuinely wanting to share reviews on their experiences and agencies ready to listen. That has to be one amazing milestone so far. The second would be 2 London based advertising agencies contacting us already to ask for more information on the reviews and asking to collaborate to use our insights to make their workplace better, not just for freelancers but permanent staff too.

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5. Who is your inspiration?

Generally speaking, anyone who is pursuing their dream and saying no to the status quo inspires me – people who put themselves out there and maybe fail or succeed, are inspiring. I am also constantly inspired by people who stand up for what they believe in, and stand up on behalf of those who can’t – or whose voices aren’t heard. But if I was answering the question in terms of just business I would say a mainstream inspiration is Richard Branson and an industry inspiration is Cindy Gallop.

6. What keeps you motivated?

There are 2 things, firstly the goal to make a difference to freelance and work culture and experiences both for the freelancers and agencies. And there’s the fact I love being my own boss.

7. What business or brand do you look up to?

Facebook and Virgin, both as businesses and brands. As brands they treat their employees fair and equal, offer brilliant maternity /paternity pay, work-life balance, unlimited holiday, flexible working. This is the future of work and how you retain great staff.

8. If you weren't doing this, you would be....

A travel writer.

 

https://thefreelancecircle.com

 

5 MINUTES WITH...SHEEZA SHAH, CEO OF UPEFFECT

Sheeza set up the crowdfunding platform, UpEffect, after she saw a great need to empower businesses doing good and give them the means to make a tangible impact on the ground. This young woman has big ambitions for social good in business. We're really excited about what's going to come next for the platform.

1. What motivated you to set up UpEffect?

While completing my Masters in Computer Science at the University of Nottingham, I volunteered for various nonprofits and continued to do so post graduation but soon learnt how inefficient the world’s most “reputable” nonprofit organisations were. Many aid projects required long-term solutions and most aid was dependent on donations which meant impact was always limited. I realised that we were going about it wrong - if we were to tackle today’s greatest problems, it could only be achieved and scaled through business.

After spending many months engaging with social enterprises and understanding best practices, in 2016, I launched UpEffectwith my cofounder, a crowdfunding and support platform for sustainable businesses doing good in the world. We're unlike any other crowdfunding website. Instead of simply providing another platform for campaigns to raise money without any help, UpEffect employs industry best practices to make sure founders are creating exceptional campaign pages and building a “crowd” to back their projects. In essence, UpEffect allows smaller fish that get neglected on larger platforms to convert their powerful ideas into successful campaigns, not only to meet a funding target but also to successfully launch a product to a loyal customer base.

Campaigns on most crowdfunding platforms suffer from limited curation, lack of personalised support, and mass-market focus.  In stark contrast, UpEffect’s enterprise solution approach and campaign consultant model drives their 100% success rate. Kickstarter and Indiegogo are not well positioned to support impact businesses as they rely on sensational stories and one-offs for their success. Hence, 56% of Kickstarter and 90% of Indiegogo campaigns fail, while 9% of Kickstarter campaigns have failed to deliver a single reward to supporters, essentially pocketing the crowdfunded money.  UpEffect is completely revolutionizing this model.

2. What’s the once piece of business advice you wish you’d been given?

I’ve made countless mistakes during the course of my journey. No one ever tells you how hard running a business is. The media has continuously glamorised entrepreneurship and painted many startups as “overnight successes”. There is no such thing. It takes a lot of resilience, tenacity and strength to run a business. 

3. What do you think are the qualities of a good entrepreneur?

Persistence. Most startups fail purely because the founder gave up trying. It takes many years of hard work, learnings and improvements before you start seeing results. 

I also think discipline and embedding healthy habits are vital in building a successful business. Looking after your personal health is the most important thing you can do for yourself, your customers and your team. 

4. You talk about embedding healthy habits into your schedule. What are your healthy habits?

When I made the decision to run a 100% remote business, I taught myself the importance of self-discipline. There are so many advantages to having the freedom and independence to work from anywhere in the world but staying motivated can be a real challenge if you don’t have structure. 

Every day, I plan my to do list for the next morning; a list typically made of 3 - 4 large tasks. This ensures that my brain is not scrambling for information in the morning or trying to remember all the things that I need to get done. It also means that I’m able to focus on personal development before I get started on work. I typically start my morning with prayer, a 20-minute run, getting ready and breakfast. Owning my morning and ensuring I make time for myself has been monumental in building a positive mindset. Also compartmentalising my days so that I focus on specific areas of the business in large blocks has really helped with task management. 

I try to wrap up the day between 6 and 7pm so that I have an evening to look forward to. Founder burntout is very real and incredibly tough to recover from. After having experienced it, I now take many measure to actively avoid repeating past mistakes of overworking myself. It’s just not worth it. Health is the most important thing. You can run a thriving business by managing your tasks and days well. It all comes down to discipline and organisation. 

5. What’s your greatest achievement so far?

Maintaining a 100% success rate in helping our companies get funded. It brings us so much joy to see the transformational journey of the entrepreneurs that we work with everyday. Witnessing an idea convert into a successful business and make a real impact in a community is incredibly satisfying. 

 Sheeza at the MC Awards.

Sheeza at the MC Awards.

6. What do you think defines success?

It’s very difficult to define success. I don’t perceive success to be a destination. but rather a journey. You achieve one goal, then you move on to the next. We keep pushing the parameters of success in our lives, whether it’s at work with regards to a promotion or landing a particular client at your business, or it’s with finding the right partner and having children. The list grows as we progress in life, therefore, I personally don't attach a definition to success.

7. What keeps you awake at night?

The ultimate goal of UpEffect is to help every business go ethical and aid the fight against all forms of poverty. I love that we’re a driving force behind many businesses that are actively working on building a healthier planet and raising the standard of living for many local and global communities.

8. What social enterprises would you love to work with?

Brands like Warby Parker, Lxmi, The Krotchet Kids and The Soular Backpack are doing incredible work in the field of social entrepreneurship. We would also love to work with more local businesses and artisans to raise awareness on their work and connect them to a global marketplace.

9. If you weren’t building UpEffect, what would you be doing?

Probably working as a tech product manager for a social enterprise. I couldn’t see myself working for a non impact based company, I would need to be contributing to sustainable change through my work.

https://www.theupeffect.com

5 MINUTES WITH....ED WOOLNER, FOUNDER OF POW DRINKS

Meet Ed Woolner, the man who helped to build Monster Drinks from nothing into a business worth £95 million in the UK and Ireland. But he hasn’t looked back at corporate life since setting up The Powerful Water Company and POW Natural Energy (POW). Ed got sick of justifying to friends what he was selling, which in his words was ‘on the same level as Benson & Hedges’. He set up POW to give consumers choice with a selection of healthy flavoured waters and combat the sugar overloads we see in soft drinks today. This guy is dripping in passion….

1. With strong knowledge and experience in the drinks industry, is there anything that has surprised you about building POW? Despite knowing my way around the trade comfortably, the level of tenacity needed to be an entrant is irrepressible. You’ll have the crap beaten out of you. No blue chip environment prepares you for it. You have to go through the emotion of not having money and being constantly up against knocks and embrace it all. It’s like doing an MBA – you have to go through the sh*t to understand what it’s like to work hard and succeed. There is so much luck and timing involved. Oh, and you need to be able to sell and sell hard. The founder of Clipper (Mike Brehme) once told me that “even if you can have a cure for cancer you still need to be able to sell it” – he wasn’t wrong.

2. What thing would you most like to change about the drinks industry? The bullsh*t in soft drinks. There is so much marketing flab about what’s healthy and what’s not healthy. And the big boys hold so much power over everything, which makes it hard for startups trying to break through. The big corporates need to be offering choice to consumers. Look at Coke; they’re not innovating or creating something healthy.

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3. What's the biggest lesson you've learnt from starting up POW?
The whole process has been humbling. I’ve learnt that you can’t bullsh*t yourself; you’ve got to be brutally honest. If you pretend you can do everything, you’ll fail. 

4. What's the one piece of business advice you wish you'd been given when you started?
Surround yourself with people better than you and who will do the things you’re crap at. There is a science to good brand marketing and this is an area where I fall down, among others. I’ve had to fill the gaps with the right people to do these jobs.

5. Was there ever a point when you wanted to give up?
I’ve got so close to it. From finance issues to not having the right people in the business, things you're not good at can knock you off course. But I’ve never been scared of failing. If I had to say goodbye to POW I won’t see it as failure. I wouldn’t give up the slog because I am learning so much all the time. And what does “complete the task” actually mean anyway?

6. What's been the biggest milestone for the business so far?
I am proud of the distribution I’ve created for the brand (this has played to my strengths). Making it through the hardest financial issues and making it into year 3 with good people involved has been a great milestone because the buck doesn’t just stop with me anymore. 

7. Who is your inspiration?
My family have been amazing – we’ve really pulled together. Setting up a business makes or breaks couples and my wife has been a trooper. She’s given me genuine advice and support when I’ve needed it. There have been times when it was only us two running the business…that was fun!

8. What keeps you motivated?
My belief in what trying I’m trying to do. Through POW I want to offer consumers healthier choices. But there’s much more we can do and I’m up for the fight. Getting cut through to the consumer is really hard with so much white noise out there. When I started I didn’t think beyond seeing something on the shelf, but actually the hard learning has only just started. The tough bits balance out the good bits, though. This business buys me and my family choices. I go surfing when the waves are good to clear my head and if I want to go for a run in the middle of the day, I will. 

9. What business or brand do you look up to?
Patagonia. If you’re creating a business, that would be it. They’ve proven that they can win at emotional consumption over material consumption. Finisterre, a local brand to us, are another that have nailed their mission and have created a great brand with a real point of difference.

10.  If you weren't doing this, you would be....
If money was no object, I’d be working with a brand or NGO with an environmental mission – an organisation that gives back to the community. My dream job would involve surfing too. If you cut me open, water pours out. 

http://powenergywater.com

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5 MINUTES WITH...JEREMY HIBBERT-GARIBALDI, FOUNDER OF COLLECTIVFOOD

Jeremy Hibbert-Garibaldi is trying to start a new food revolution. To transform the food chain for retailers and buyers in the UK food market. COLLECTIVfood is an online procurement platform where restaurants connect directly with hundreds of independent food and drink producers. French and Italian, he is passionate about food and business in equal measures. We find out more...

1. What's the biggest lesson you've learnt from starting up COLLECTIVFood?
Apart from sharing your vision and working on improving your product as a CEO, the most important is to build the right team around you and keep it together. This goes from having the right person at the right seat, to promoting the right culture for everyone to learn new things, be proactive and enthusiastic, to be able to share feedback and overall feel really part of the same journey. And this takes a lot of your time and energy, but is the most important driver of success and growth.

2. What's the one piece of business advice you wish you'd been given when you started?
Don't get distracted. Any action you make and decision you take need to help you achieve your targets. Also, don’t bother anticipating problems that you are not even sure you will face.

3. Was there ever a point when you wanted to give up?
No. When you start your own business, you quickly realise how it works: one step backward, two steps forward. The important thing is to keep moving on. I have been through a lot of down times, with team management, account management or fundraising challenges. If you start doubting it just becomes a distraction. Learn what you need from these challenging times, be open to criticism, be flexible, then leave it behind and keep moving and looking forward. Overall, I’m an optimist and a big believer in people.

4. What's been the biggest milestone for the business so far?
We are an online procurement platform where restaurants connect directly with hundreds of independent food and drink producers. The biggest milestone so far is when a great chain of restaurants started sourcing tons of chickens through us. It was the first time we validated our "win-win-win" proposition. Great quality chickens from an amazing family ran farm, straight to the restaurants who are now saving more than 20% on the price, and which means better quality dishes for the end-customers with the guarantee of transparency and traceability.

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5. Who is your inspiration?
This is a difficult question to answer to as it all depends on which topic. Current entrepreneurs and leaders such as Xavier Niel, Bernard Arnault, Oprah Winfrey, Larry Page and Jeff Bezos are all really inspiring. At some point Eric Holder also played an important role in my interest in ethics, laws and transparency. I am really into meditation so a lot of guides and spirituality are also playing an important part in my life.

6. What keeps you motivated?
The learning experience and the positive impact we can have on society. And all the difficult and successful times we share with the team.

7. What business or brand do you look up to?
I am amazed by Slack and how they built their product, including the choice of frameworks and technology. I am passionate about Elon Musk's projects and how these ideas force people to be creative, out of their comfort zone and open to change. Finally, I have a growing interest in Google for their team and resources management and their OKRs ("Objective and Key Results" strategy) implementation.

8. If you weren't doing this, you would be....
A beekeeper on Mars with the help of Elon Musk or I would probably find an innovative way to contribute to what I was doing before: fighting corruption and white-collar crime as I am still passionate about these topics.

https://collectivfood.com

5 MINUTES WITH...RICHARD SINCLAIR, FOUNDER OF SNO

Richard Sinclair is more than ambitious, he's a daredevil. A former Executive Producer of the BBC, he's constantly pushing boundaries and his latest expedition is turning over millions. He is the founder of SNO, the ski holidays provider with the goal of making travel more accessible to more people. That's no mean feat. This guy is inspiring in bucketloads.

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1. What's the biggest lesson you've learnt from starting up SNO?
Always be recruiting. Truly great people are hard to find, but they change your business, and your life. Constantly seek them out, to come and join the mission. In my former life as Executive Producer at the BBC, incredibly ambitious and motivated talent was literally on tap because everyone wants to work there. If I had a new cunning plan, I could speak to HR and find a small cadre of experienced film makers and Oxbridge grads to grab it by the scruff and go make it happen. The real world is not populated with over-achievers, so the trick is to be constantly searching for SNO men and women. We’re always looking for people “like us”.

2. What's the one piece of business advice you wish you'd been given when you started?
Hire A-players, then enable them to get on with it themselves. I see why the likes of Jobs and Musk constantly looked for amazing people to join the mission. If you lead well, these great people don’t need to be managed, so you can focus instead on removing barriers and being an enabler for them… these A-players can achieve goals creatively and autonomously, and they’ll feel much more fulfilled having created their own solutions.

These people also constantly have a growth mindset and, like me, take great pleasure in constantly learning. They love figuring out how to do new things, or do the same things better… working hard on the business but working hardest on themselves. There’s nothing more powerful than striving for mastery, to make you stand out in a crowded world, filled mostly with the ordinary.

At SNO we’re always looking for people who are fun to work with, but also very ambitious and switched-on. Culture is so important so I’m always quietly trying to figure out if this person is a SNO man or woman.

3. Was there ever a point when you wanted to give up?
No. Never. I should qualify that. There have been times when I thought I should carefully consider if it was the right thing to do, when the extremes of work-volume and financial-stress were too much for loved ones around me, or risked being damaging to my most important relationships… but I never wanted to quit, I just took time to consider on a few occasions whether I ought to.

4. What's been the biggest milestone for the business so far?
Probably passing the £5m revenue mark. It’s an abstract goal, but signifies much more to us, as we’ve reached the ability to do many more exciting things.

We were in profit by year 1, but only just, and with little more than cash for very meagre growth-funding and self-sustenance. Fortunately, I was happy to live in penury for the first 3 years, to liberate those extra few per cent for growth projects. My better-half was less enthusiastic about watching our car and clothes and house slowly age and wear, but utterly supportive, first taking on the role of FD and later COO. While I’m pimping the engine, she keeps the wheels on!

Business coaching tries to help you delineate working on the business versus working in the business and it’s dead right. My first job at SNO (after initial setup) was to quickly engineer myself out of the day to day operations, which has allowed me to work almost entirely on growth. This approach is essential if you want to scale, and goes back to your first questions, because the answer is to hire A-players and then also create processes, so that the day to day functioning doesn’t rely on the founder in any way.

5. Who is your inspiration?
I think, like most people I have many, but I learned a lot about what a human is really capable of, on a month-long expedition to the Magnetic North Pole with the remarkable Dr Mike Stroud. He was partner to Sir Ranulph Fiennes on their famous unsupported expeditions to the South Pole and many other epic endeavours. I found great strength after being tested beyond a level which I’d have considered breaking point.

I was 4 weeks away from land, out on the frozen ocean, having lost over a stone in weight and struggling to lead a film crew who were also far out of their comfort zone. Taking the battery we wore in our underwear (to keep at body temperature and ready to work in an emergency) I turned on the satellite phone for a rare call home. I vividly recall in mid-conversation, beginning to weep, for no good reason other than mental and physical exhaustion. My partner later said she was quite afraid for me, having recently seen pictures come back of the polar bear who came to eat us, and the team members with frostbite. I think that was awakening for me, from which I draw strength even now. To feel so utterly spent, and then find will, we can still go on. It’s powerful. Afterwards I put those lessons to the test by completing Ironman on six months of training and a few swimming lessons. I take huge strength from those learnings, that our limits are actually much greater than we know, if only we can steel the mind to go on.

In my day to day life I have to say it’s probably my boys Jimmy (9) and Charles (7). Their amazing combination of naïve joyfulness and a constant thirst to learn and know more, is a kind of nirvana to me, and a lofty goal for adults with more complex lives. My ideal is to combine that growth mindset with the imperative to recognise and grasp those moments of joy whenever they present themselves (often with those boys).

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6. What keeps you motivated?

I’m not sure how to pin it down to one thing. It’s all incredibly exciting. I think what really floats-my-boat is the knowledge that, when we have 10 times our current spare-profit (to use as growth funding), I can immerse myself almost entirely in growth projects. We still have more than 90 per cent of our ideas still in the tank, waiting to go. That will move things forward enormously. It’s exciting because it’s a compounding effect. I can feel the curve steepening, as our profits increase and we get our hands on more growth money, to fund more and more ambitious projects.

7. What business or brand do you look up to?

I like the approach of the Virgin group, in focussing on a great brand (customer experience and brand marketing), and not being industry-specific. I’m not from “travel” which means that, while we want to be successful in this industry first, I think a memorable brand like SNO can do almost anything, if it’s careful to be about a promise of a particular kind of experience. Beyond that, we’ll make SNO itself a brand to look up to, as we work on our mission to democratise travel. After universal access to healthcare and education, I think travel is the third great boon of our age. If we can make travel easy and ubiquitous for the world (not just the wealthy part) I believe that is our best chance of fixing the horrible disconnect and misunderstanding that plagues mankind. Technology, well-combined with people, is the way to genuinely disintermediate the travel industry, and we’re working on something that I think will change the world. How we’re going to do that, I’ll have to let you wait and see.

8. If you weren't doing this, you would be....

I might return to my university passions, where reading Cognitive Science gave the thrill of learning fundamentals in AI, neuroscience and psychology. This influence will feed directly into SNO in our upcoming machine-learning projects. Or possibly still making TV. The BBC was central to my formative years, where I gained my consumer-centric instincts at Watchdog, slaked my thirst for science and tech at Tomorrow’s World, and then found my passion for travel while running Holiday. These great influences and more from Auntie and its incredible people, can be found now at the heart of SNO.

http://sno.co.uk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=s3LAuwPNO4g

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5 MINUTES WITH....SARAH & FARAH, FOUNDERS OF HANX

We met school friends Farah Kabir and Sarah Welsh, the creators of HANX, a new stylish range of male condoms 'by women, for women'. These women have massive ambitions to shake off the taboos that run riot around sexual health and we're loving it.

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1. What's the biggest lesson you've learnt from starting up?
Definitely patience. We've been eager since the beginning to get the job done but we've learnt that everything takes time. We've also realised how important our network is. We've called on everyone we know and they've all helped to make Hanx a reality.

2. What's the one piece of business advice you wish you'd been given?
Everything takes a bit longer than you expect. When we first launched we thought we’d have it up and running within six months. People around us told us not to put pressure on ourselves to expect so much so soon. We could have listened to them!

3. Was there ever a point when you wanted to give up?
Never. It took us eighteen months from determining the concept to launch and it has been far from a smooth journey but we've never wanted to give up. We're passionate about breaking taboos around sexual health and we believe in our vision, which keeps us going. It tests us and challenges us but we're determined to make it work. We're really pleased with the end result.

4. What's been the biggest milestone for the business so far?
Launching HANX and seeing it gain traction organically.

5. Has it lived up to your expectations?
Sarah:  I can't say I had any. I wanted to be my own boss, make a change and work with my best friend. Those things have been fulfilling and I am enjoying learning so much every day.

6. Who is your inspiration?
Anyone who is changing behaviours and breaking taboos. We're passionate about promoting positive sexual health and want to empower women to take control. Anyone who is challenging perceptions inspires us.

7. What keeps you motivated?
Knowing we're making a positive impact. The fact that we're creating a product that is compelling to many and building a movement is extremely rewarding.

8. What business or brand do you look up to?
We look up to so many businesses in the startup space. Huckletree is one that's creating a unique community. It's the sustainable businesses that are breaking barriers that we admire. 

9. If you weren't doing this, you would be....
Sarah: I guess I would be continuing full-time work as a doctor! 

 

 

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5 MINUTES WITH....DR MILAD SHADROOH, AKA THE SINGING DENTIST

Going to the dentist has never been something we look forward to. Even as an adult, many of us put off a visit to that reclining leather chair and nightmare drilling sound that still haunts us. But there's one charismatic dentist making waves on YouTube and sucking the fear out of dentistry for kids and adults in equal measures. His name is Dr Milad Shadrooh but many of you will be familiar with him as the Singing Dentist. We had the pleasure of catching up with him recently about all things business and show business, and just how much his parodies of famous tunes are having an impact on attitudes to dental hygiene.

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1. How did the Singing Dentist first enter our world?
It was November 2015 and I was working in my dental surgery when Drake's 'Hotline Bling' came on the radio and I started changing the lyrics to be about root canals. I recorded one take of me free styling and sent it to my mate. He thought it was hilarious and told me I should put it online; I thought he was crackers. But then he posted it on Facebook without me knowing and before I knew it, the video was circulating the dental community. From there, it started to get picked up by the public. The root canal lyrics were a bit technical for the public to understand but what was clear was that they were enjoying seeing a dentist do something different so I created 'Gappy', a parody of 'Happy' by Pharrell Williams. This one went crazy. Honestly, this just became a thing out of nowhere. My logo just evolved from the fact that people liked my eyebrows.

2. Do you remember the feeling of it all kicking off?
It was all just really funny. I was getting loads of messages back from people saying that their kids had started brushing their teeth, having struggled to get them to do it themselves. I’ve had messages from adults who had been really nervous to go to the dentist and I’d helped them to have the confidence. It has all been so positive. It’s a great feeling knowing that I am helping to do some good. It was around March time last year when I received a message from a mum on Facebook to say she had a disabled daughter and after 7 years she now wanted to go to the dentist. I’m quite amazed at what my silly face has done. The common positive response has encouraged me to carry on.

3. How do you balance doing your job as a professional dentist as well as being your alter ego?
I’ve worked at the same dental practice for 13 years now owned it for 7 years so I have an established patient base and we're embedded in the local community. My patients are really chuffed for me and they understand that sometimes I might need to reschedule some appointments. But being the Singing Dentist day to day doesn’t take up much time as the parodies take just minutes to write and I’ll only record them in 2-3 takes. I have a very balanced schedule as I work 3 days a week, while the other days I am lecturing in dentistry and juggling fatherhood and Singing Dentist commitments. The dental industry talks are really taking off due to the growth of the brand.

4. Do you feel that you have to choose whether to be the Singing Dentist or yourself in public situations?
No. Luckily what you see of the Singing Dentist is my own personality. I don’t turn it on and off. Weirdly, though, I am more shy in real life. I can sing to the camera in a room no problem, but put me on a stage performing and I do get nervous!

5. What's the biggest lesson you’ve learnt in life? If you have a passion then the talent always comes through, no matter what you do. If you do something because you love it and are sincere, people will understand it. Follow your heart.

6. What's been the biggest milestone for you so far? I can’t pinpoint a specific milestone because I’ve enjoyed every step in the Singing Dentist’s journey so far. If everything ended tomorrow, I’ll be glad I’ve done it. It still shocks me how many people I’ve spoken to or met through social media. I reply to every comment, it’s a promise I made to myself, and it takes a long time. A lot of the questions require dental expertise so I can’t rely on anyone to help with the replies. The ability to help people remotely is a rather big milestone alone.

6. What has been your proudest moment as the Singing Dentist?
I think it’s been all the TV stuff. It snowballed after my nurse contacted the local press without me knowing (there’s a pattern of people sharing my stuff without my permission). It then got picked up in the Metro and ITV London News. Before I knew it I was on Lorraine with Dr Hillary doing a dentistry special. A pretty amazing moment was meeting Ed Sheeran and he asked me for a selfie! I met him backstage at The Royal Albert Hall during his concert for The Teenage Cancer Trust and I was gob smacked when he recognized me! Meeting and performing with Diversity on their New Years Day show was also awesome! And professionally, it was an honour to be named as the number 1 most influential person in dentistry ahead of Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt! This was voted for by readers of Dentistry magazine and my parents were particularly proud of this!

7. Who is your inspiration?
My dad has been an inspiration by introducing me to music from an early age. And it’s both my parents. They made huge sacrifices for me to have a better life and for that, I am eternally grateful. As a father myself, I now appreciate it so much more.

Another inspiration has to be Michael Jackson. As a child in Iran, I watched Thriller every day and I would copy his moves and sing his songs around the house. My final inspiration was Will Smith. Growing up, the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was my favourite show and I learnt a lot of my personality traits from cheeky Will! Truthfully, though, I get inspiration from all over - there are so many good people in my life. 

8. What keeps you motivated?

I think knowing what I have achieved in a short space in time keeps me motivated and I want to use this voice to do some good. I would love to leave behind some kind of mark, something my kids can look back at and feel proud that their dad did something great. We have record numbers of children being admitted to hospital every year for dental extractions under general anaesthetic. This costs the NHS around £36million each year and in essence, it is a preventable disease.  I want to use the Singing Dentist brand to bring this stat down. Also knowing I can help make what seems a boring and scary place – the dentists - somewhere people want to go is driving me forward. I would like to show what really goes on behind closed doors of dentistry as it’s neither boring nor scary. There’s an awesome generation who’ve come in to keep it interesting. I work with a bunch of personalities who are dental professionals during day and have crazy interests at night, like body builders, boxers, actors. It’s a cool place, really.

9. If you weren't doing this, you would be....
I’d probably be doing something in music, maybe production or being a superstar DJ (!). 

 

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5 MINUTES WITH...EVELINE BEER, CEO OF FLYING BEAUTIFUL

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We caught up with Eveline, the founder of Flying Beautiful, a new ecommerce and content hub for the modern working woman in search of the essential beauty products for travelling with. She's got big ambitions for the business...

1. What's the biggest lesson you've learnt from starting up Flying Beautiful?

I think it's that nothing has to be perfect. It's about letting go and doing it rather than overthinking and stalling. It's easy to get hung up on the details but I've learnt that I need to get on with things and execute.

2. What's the one piece of business advice you wish you'd been given?

I wish someone had told me how difficult marketing is. Reaching out to a target audience is not simple if done well. With my background in finance, I completely underestimated the scale of this task. I am having to learn as I go and seeking advice from great people in the beauty industry.

3. Was there ever a point when you wanted to give up?

I've often had my doubts but never thought that I should give up. I knew the venture would be challenging but I've always been convinced that we're heading in the right direction.

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4. What's been the biggest milestone for the business so far?

It's definitely signing our first big name brand to the platform. It felt like a turning point for the business. We've had a great reception from brands. I expected the sign-up to our site to be harder but I'm finding that people love the idea and want to be a part of it, which is awesome.

5. Who is your inspiration?

There are two female founders that I think kick ass in business and have been very key inspirations for me. The first is Natalie Massenet, the founder of Net-a-Porter. I love her story of how she built up the business with such a strong vision. Sophia Amoruso, founder of Nasty Gal, is my other hero. She created a multimillion dollar business that after initial success and multiple financing rounds went bankrupt. I'm impressed by how she handled the aftermath; she stood up and admitted she'd failed and talked about lessons learned. It takes courage and a good attitude to do that. Many founders fail but she was brave enough to be open about it. This attitude has served her well and she's bounced back.

6. What keeps you motivated?

The idea of coming up with an idea that makes the lives of women easier is motivation for me. Women have so many jobs on their hands and if I can help take away just one of those I am happy. The concept of Flying Beautiful came to me when I was doing a lot of travelling with work, with no time to search 10 different shops for all the right products I needed for my trips. I hope to take away this unnecessary burden for busy women.

7. What business or brand do you look up to?

I would say Net-a-Porter. The company has continued to adapt to trends and having started as a pure commerce business, has transformed into a lifestyle platform. I see parallels with Flying Beautiful and have aspirations for it to become not just a shopping platform but a place where people go to consume really interesting lifestyle content. 

8. If you weren't doing this, you would be....

I think I'd be building a brand or startup of some sort. I have different kind of business ideas that I think might have legs. I went with Flying Beautiful because it connected with me the most.

https://www.flyingbeautiful.com/

 

5 MINUTES WITH....ANDREW WALKER, FOUNDER OF TEA REX

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You may not have heard of Tea Rex until now but this fresh fruit and root tea company is making waves in the hot drinks category. We caught up with its enigmatic founder Andrew Walker to tell us more about his ambitions to innovate the way we enjoy tea.


1. What's the biggest lesson you've learnt from starting up Tea Rex?

If you don’t know the answer find someone who does… fast. It’s amazing how a 15 minute phone call can save 15 days of running around the houses.


2. What's the one piece of business advice you wish you'd been given?

I’m in the thick of it so only time will tell, but from past experiences which have failed, think big from day one… don’t just think within your limits.
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3. Was there ever a point when you wanted to give up?

Not yet – I had a stable income and a ‘good’ career in creative agencies but was not satisfied as I never had any ownership. So when I started my own venture, as cliched as it sounds, I have tried to make the most of the tough days because at least I own the outcome.


4. What's been the biggest milestone for the business so far?

We’re a young business boldly creating a new category, so our key achievement has been the speed of progress, gaining the backing of 2 world-class manufacturers to take the concept to listing in 9 months. We won a place at the BBC Good Food Show where over 4.5k people told us TEA REX rocked. Since launching our concept in August 2016 we have been shortlisted for Best New Brand at the World Food Innovations Awards in March 2017 and won a Great Taste award too.


5. Who is your inspiration?

It sounds cliched but it’s the people around the product who have backed it without question. There is also a ‘penny-drop-moment’ when people taste the product and love it. That is a driving force.


6. What keeps you motivated?

Creating a new category of hot drinks.


7. What business or brand do you look up to?

Timpson – it’s an amazing business which really delivers on a philosophy of "If you treat people well, it is blindingly obvious that you will do a good job.” A proponent of what the founder calls 'upside down management' - his employees - all of whom are called 'colleagues', enjoy an unusual degree of autonomy in the running of the individual shops and 10% of the company's employees have spent time in prison. Each store is trusted to resolve any customer complaint up to £500 without approval. Kirsty Young's desert island discs with the owner John Timpson is worth listen: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b074vw94 


8. If you weren't doing this, you would be....

Builder, decorator, carpenter or bricklayer – I love building stuff and would be totally content…

Join Tea Rex in supporting their crowdfunding campaign, which will bring out the RAWR in you! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1098486353/unleashing-fresh-infusions-which-rawr-with-flavour

 

5 MINUTES WITH....JASON GIBB, CO-FOUNDER OF BREAD & JAM FESTIVAL

We caught up with Jason, a food entrepreneur and Co-Founder of Bread & Jam, a festival to shake up the way the food and drink industry works and celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit. Every year, 16,000 food and drink brands emerge into the UK market but only 10 per cent make it past their first year of trading. Jason takes us on a journey of how his hunger brought him to where he is today.

1. What's the biggest lesson you've learnt in business?

I’ve learnt that the pain points in our food and drink community are common. Even though each of us is on their own unique journey we all face many of the same issues. When you’re setting up a business it feels like you’re on a lonely road, making mistake after mistake. But we are all going through the same thing and we can learn so much from one another, and help avoid these common mistakes.

Some food founders say that all you need to do is work hard and be passionate and you will succeed, but I find this advice misleading because lots of other things need to be in place to succeed. There’s too much rose-tinting. For our Bread & Jam events we encourage speakers to give their warts and all stories. We need to bust the myths and show that the odd failure isn’t bad. 

2. What's the one piece of business advice you wish you'd been given?

When I was in the throes of building my first food startup, Nudo Olive Oil (which has since been sold), I wish I’d been told to keep myself more detached from the business. It was part of me; its bank account was my money and I was inextricably tied to every detail of its being and motion. I wasn’t able to make objective decisions. I could have benefited from taking more of a step back to get a broader view of the business than getting bogged down on the detail.

3. Was there ever a point when you wanted to give up?

*Laughs*. God yeah. With Nudo, during the 10 years I spent building it up and there were numerous occasions when I’d had enough. It wore me down because it was so much a part of me. The idea of closing it down was blown out of proportion. I have since learnt to take a step back. So with Bread & Jam I haven’t felt like that. I am currently doing a course in sustainability and looking at entrepreneurial opportunities in this area. I am about to take over a fish and chip shop with a local chef in Hammersmith to turn it into a sustainable one. It’s a risk, but I have learnt to take risks and this is part of my journey of never giving up.

4. What's been the biggest milestone for Bread & Jam so far?

It’s seeing people’s businesses change. When we launched last year we didn’t know if people would even turn up. But they did, and our event changes people’s lives. So there were very obvious milestones like getting businesses stocked in Whole Foods, to the less obvious ones where people have been on the edge of quitting but their visit to Bread & Jam brought them renewed enthusiasm or gave them confidence to take the leap in setting up their business. 

5. Who is your inspiration?

I am addicted to the How I Built It podcast, for talks with people who founded influential businesses. I listened to an interview with Ethan Brown of Beyond Meat, which replaces meat burgers with vegetable protein. He’s an insanely inspiring person and he’ll go down in history as someone who changed the way we eat. I’ve been a veggie for nearly 40 years but I always like a bit of protein so I got one of his burgers couriered from New York via DHL. It blew my mind. It was like eating a meat patty and it had red (beetroot juice) oozing out of it when cut. Incredible.

6. What keeps you motivated?

The feeling of being not quite good enough! I have an innate sense of having to achieve. I guess it boils down to having highly demanding parents. It’s both a curse and a beautiful thing. I’m never happy to rest on my laurels. My interest in sustainability stems from wanting to do something positive. I am an entrepreneur by nature and I want to do something that has good at the heart of its mission. I guess Bread & Jam is an articulation of this. It has evolved from what began as The Food Hub - a foodie community - into an annual industry event. It all stemmed from being lonely on my business journey and wishing there had been more opportunities to meet people in the same boat and network.

7. If you weren't doing this, you would be....

Maybe a diving instructor. I did that a lot as a young person as I studied marine biology at school and often thought about doing it as a career. Either that or a dolphin researcher. 

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5 MINUTES WITH....SIMEON BLANCK, FOUNDER OF ACE TEA LONDON

This week we chat to Simeon Blanck, the founder of Ace Tea London, whose vision is to bring full flavour teas to the consumer palate. The tea collections have British quintessence running through them - from the flavour to the beautiful packaging. In fact, Ace Tea's packaging is as much to die for as the tea itself. A collaboration with Morris & Co. (William Morris) set the brand apart from a relatively early age. We find out what Simeon had to say during our 5 minute #chowdown.

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1. What's the biggest lesson you've learnt from starting up Ace Tea?
There are no shortcuts to getting customers. You have to do it the hard way.

2. What's the one piece of business advice you wish you'd been given?
Don’t rely on Social Media to gain customers.

3. Was there ever a point when you wanted to give up?
No. Never. I am totally committed. 

4. What's been the biggest milestone for the business so far?
Securing a very nice export order to South Africa after only a four months.

5. Who is your inspiration?
My father. He retired at 52. Not bad.

6. What keeps you motivated?
The desire to build the brand up and distribute my exceptional teas globally.

7. What business or brand do you look up to?
Tesla & Elon Musk its founder. 

8. If you weren't doing this, you would be…
Bored.

www.acetealondon.com

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5 MINUTES WITH....JOSHUA UWADIAE, CEO OF WEGYM

Claudia caught up with Joshua Uwadiae, founder and CEO of WeGym, the personal training on demand platform that's giving people affordable and convenient access to become fit and healthy. Only just into his twenties, Joshua has not let his bad boy roots affect his chances of fulfilling his ambitions to make a difference through his tech startup. Watch out for this guy, he's going places.

1. What's the biggest lesson you've learnt from starting up?

It’s that despite your optimism, treat your business idea like a hypothesis. When I started WeGym I was very emotionally attached to it but I learnt that businesses need to be proven. And to prove they work, it’s important to take a neutral stance and apply the thinking in de-risking, identifying the risks and demonstrate that they can be overcome.

2. What's the one piece of business advice you wish you'd been given?

It’s the above! When I first started I didn’t understand the external context of the business and I was too emotionally invested to see that there had to be proof points for it to work. It’s not enough for your mum to think your business is a good idea. I came across a podcast about de-risking. I started to apply this philosophy to each possible scenario that the business could go through. You need to identify whether what you are offering is something people want and need - test it and test it again. And test it again.

3. Was there ever a point when you wanted to give up?

There was a time when I didn’t necessarily want to quit but I thought I could. It was a month after the accelerator programme had finished when we realised that we still hadn’t proven the model worked yet and we were at the end of available cash. Added to that, my co-founder left. That was a dark time - I was in bed for a couple of days, I didn’t want to exercise. My friends in the startup world helped me through it with sound advice.

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4. What's been the biggest milestone for the business so far? 

I think navigating out of the chaos I’ve described was pretty significant. It led me to crack on, bootstrap and refocus.

5. Who is your inspiration? 

I'm inspired by my opportunity to change the lives and direction of my family so the next generation doesn't struggle like we did. I grew up in the ghetto and was tied up in gangs and crime. Good people have helped me out of that way of life. I'm very much connected to that past and where I've come from and how hard I've worked to better myself. Now, it's about doing something meaningful that inspires me. Democratising personal training is the meaningful treadmill that keeps me going. 

There are some important people who inspire me too; one of which being my mentor Gabbi. An investor and branding wizz by trade, he's a man who cuts through the bullsh*t and noise. He was a little naughty like me growing up so he's become a bit of a kindred sprit to me. 

6. What keeps you motivated? 

I think my own hard work ethic keeps me motivated. I am committed to what I set out to achieve (in WeGym) and have a very personal attachment to solving a problem - namely getting people fit and healthy. Fitness made a difference to my health and I want to do the same for others. I think also seeing progress keeps me motivated to carry on and do it. 

7. What business or brand do you look up to?  

Nike - they have this fantastic way of separating their product from their messaging. Nike will bring the story of the athlete, from their performance to their energy, opposed to the trainer. And I would put Apple up there for their ability to build curiosity in consumers. When I quit my job to start WeGym, it felt like a momentous thing to buy a Mac, like it was the start of something great. Then there’s Snapchat; they really get the user. 

8. If you weren't doing this, you would be....

Building another startup. Or in the media; I’ve always wanted to be a presenter.

wegym.co.uk

 WeGym session.

WeGym session.

5 MINUTES WITH...ALESSIO DANTINO, CO-FOUNDER OF CROWDFOODING

Alessio saw a gap in the market for a crowdfunding platform that would put food and drink innovators on the map. Join us as we talk to him about how he's helping to reshape the food industry through Crowdfooding...

1. What's the biggest lesson you've learnt from starting up Crowdfooding?
I've learnt that it's important to start running a business lean and to not overthink things, just do. It's about speaking to customers as much as possible to understand their biggest needs. What I realised in building Crowdfooding is that there were companies not in the position for either VC or crowdfunding but needed to generate sales and boost their following. We created our Sales Booster product to do just this and we're seeing massive returns in this new approach.

2. What's the one piece of business advice you wish you'd been given?
I wish I'd learnt how to hire well. I was very familiar with the interviewing process but if I’d had someone guiding me to figure that out earlier, I would've built my A team sooner. Without the advice it meant spending a lot of time trying people out and slowly putting the right processes in place to get the best people on board.

3. Was there ever a point when you wanted to give up?
Building a business is hard but I've also been trying to do it with a smile and I believe that the hard times of building a business are part of the journey.

4. What's been the biggest milestone for the business so far?
I guess it was signing our first crowdfunding campaign - Chocothon - with a collaboration with high profile businesses as partners. I would also definitely say the moment we started pivoting to create our Sales Booster capability was key for us to acknowledge the importance of sales generations for startups and creating real value for them.

5. Who is your inspiration?
Richard Branson. He was the first person in business that I fully related to in terms of his entrepreneurial style and bravery. He doesn’t take himself too seriously and I would say I am somewhat similar in that regard. After watching his documentary, 'Never look down', I felt that he was not only an entrepreneur but someone really willing to live on the edge.

6. What keeps you motivated?
The end goal and the change I want to see in the world is what keeps me motivated. Seeing the changes in what consumers have access to in terms of food - whether that be in quality or more equitable systems - or in other words 'raising the bar' of food products for the masses.

7. What business or brand do you look up to?
The brands we work with at Crowdfooding are trying to change the status quo - these are brands I admire. They are going in the opposite direction to take a new or interesting approach to customers. I would also count Coconut Collaborative, One Water and Seedlip as brands that are emulating this way of doing things.

8. If you weren't doing this, you would be....
Surfing by a beautiful beach! I would definitely be developing my passions for food and tech but maybe in place where I could be more in touch with nature.

www.crowdfooding.co.uk

5 MINUTES WITH...INGO BRAEUNLICH, FOUNDER OF ADONIS SMART FOODS

Meet Ingo, who left his finance career and long hours in the City, to set up Adonis Smart Foods out of frustration for the lack of healthy snacks on offer. We talk to him about how his quest for a low sugar revolution began.

1. What's the biggest lesson you've learnt from starting up Adonis Smart Foods?
The key to success is a strong team, which I am thankful for, and not to lose your nerves when sailing close to the cliffs. If you lose your nerves, your team will be negatively impacted.

2. What's the one piece of business advice you wish you'd been given?
Don’t start a business alone. But also make sure your partner is reliable, reasonable, balanced and that you understand his or her goals, why they want to do it and that your goals are aligned with theirs. There will be many bumps in the road along the way and it’s a shame if you derail after a few because of misunderstandings.

3. Was there ever a point when you wanted to give up?
Yes. When my parents lost everything after a lawsuit, I had suddenly more serious responsibilities and had to work on helping to bail them out, whilst also in the throws of setting up the business without the finances I initially planned to have. It was a really hard time. But many people have similar experiences and I think it isthe key to always strive to do the right thing, regardless of outcome, and keep doingit.

4. What's been the biggest milestone for the business so far?
There isn't one milestone to speak of as building a business means we achieve many tiny milestones constantly. The key thing I look forward to is when we break even so we're in a better position with more confidence, then we can just act much more out of passion with everything rather than need.

5. Who is your inspiration?
I don't have one person in mind. My inspirations are rather the dreams that I want to realise. However, I respect anyone who proves that they can achieve something ”impossible” through sheer effort and thought.

6. What keeps you motivated?
As a company, we're motivated by contributing to society with the provision of something healthy and helpful to the lifestyle of many people. For me, it is personal freedom. For me this means to live in whichever country I want and to build any business or pursue goals like studying something new, sailing around the world or supporting politics and NGOs.

7. If you weren't doing this, you would be....
Creating another startup – or still sitting in an office tower working on transactions in an investment bank or a fund and maybe planning my escape.

https://www.adonis-foods.com