I felt ultra-privileged to be invited to the third ‘Innocent Inspires’ seminar, focused on entrepreneurship. Held at Fruit Towers, Innocent Drinks London HQ, the evening promised that I would ‘Arrive with a pipe-dream and leave with a business plan, at the innocent school of business.’ Readers – it was amazing! I left feeling entirely inspired, determined and excited after hearing from a number of excellent speakers and soaking up the positive Innocent vibes.
When visitors enter Fruit Towers through the reception, they are encouraged to help themselves to smoothies and even take off their shoes. The event was held in what I assume to be their common room area, carpeted in Astroturf with plenty of seating and an expansive staff kitchen. One wall displays letters, drawings and crafts from Innocent’s biggest fans and the story of Innocent itself, from its humble market stall routes in the late 90s, is displayed as a picture timeline all up the staircase.
Innocent are the living proof of a better way of doing business.
Their values are:
They show that business can be profitable and ethical. Their products help people live healthier lives, they care about sustainability (with their ingredients, packages and office space), they are one of the very best employers in the UK, they give 10% of profits to charity and yet they are still commercial enough for Coca-Cola to buy a majority stake (a slightly contentious issue but I don’t have a problem with it) leaving the three Cambridge-educated founders multi-millionaires. I don’t think there is any better business to aspire to; I’m totally in love with everything they do.
Anyway . . . at the Innocent Inspires event we heard from the following:
Richard Reed himself (one of the Innocent founders)
Sophie Cornish (notonthehighstreet.com)
Jeremy Gilley (Peace One Day)
Bec Astley Clarke (Astley Clarke)
Eben Upton (Raspberry Pi)
Martin Morales (Cerviche)
Sadly I had to miss the last couple of talks as I had to catch my coach back to Southampton, but it was Rich Reed who had the greatest effect on me. I do have a business idea, in fact I have three now, but one I know is most viable, requires little start-up cash and is something I know and love. I don’t have a business plan, that’s the next step. I also need a tech-savvy business partner. Rich’s key advice was simple – start! And this is what I need to do, but it’s difficult when I have a thesis to write.
Helpfully, my recent enthusiasm over business plans has given me a general motivational boost to get on with my thesis. Rich also emphasised the importance of surrounding yourself with the right people – class A people. It was the only time in his talk I saw a tougher side, the side that said ‘yes we have fun but we work hard, everyone has to pull their weight’.
This is Innocent’s no-nonsense start-up checklist
1. Follow the need: Where’s the gap in the market? What problems need solving?
2. Know your audience: It’s easier if it’s you or your peers
3. Think better not different: You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, just make a better one.
4. Remember the granny test: If you can’t explain it to granny, don’t do it.
5. Keep the main thing, the main thing: Identify your main thing and stick to it.
I need to work on 4 and 5 a bit more, because at the moment it’s all in my head as a conceptual idea. I need something more concrete to work with, so over the next few weeks I’m going to work on that. In the meantime, you can catch up with Innocent Inspires online and read all about how Innocent started.
They also had past Innocent employees who had branched out on their own, come back with their fully formed businesses. In the break we got to sample yummy food from the Scandinavian Kitchen, a cafe and shop set up by an ex-Innocent employee. I’ve heard Rich say before that he wants to employ people with their own business plans, entrepreneurial people. I also got to try two new fruit juices and give my feedback, watch out for them in a store near you 🙂