For anyone thinking of starting their own business, Richard Reed, co-founder of the Innocent drinks company, has sound advice
W hen Innocent Smoothies decided to hop on the pop-up shop bandwagon, there was bound to be a bit of a twist. So while there are free smoothies at the Innocent Goodness HQ on Chatham Street in Dublin until January 18th, punters must pay for them by posting a message on Twitter or Facebook describing a good deed they’ve done. It’s all part of their drive to “empower people with positivity”. The Goodness Together project features a talk on urban gardening by Michael Kelly of the GIY movement and another by Innocent co-founder Richard Reed who will be speaking about entrepreneurship and small business start-ups.
Here, Reed shares some of the lessons he has learned developing the business he started 13 years ago with two friends into the leading smoothie brand in Europe with a £200m annual turnover.
I really believe ...that when it comes to being an entrepreneur anyone can do it. Entrepreneurship is an equal opportunities employer. It’s not about who you know or where you went to school. If you have ever organised a wedding or a group holiday or anything involving co-ordinating a group of people doing different things you have the right skillset. Starting up your own business is the most amazing, creative, life enhancing adventure and I would wish entrepreneurship on everyone.
You definitely need... an idea with potential. The strength of the idea is usually in direct proportion to how long you have spent thinking about it. Most people I know who’ve had good ideas have spent a long time thinking about either a solution to a problem in life that they find annoying, or they were following their passion and finding a way to improve something that already exists. So it’s not all Eddison and the lightbulb. We didn’t invent the smoothie, we just made a better one and created a brand to sell it. Sometimes it’s just about improving whatever has come before.
It’s important to be honest... with yourself about your idea and how good it really is. If thousands of people are already doing it, it’s less likely you will be successful. There are loads of cupcake businesses, for example. If you are thinking of starting one you’d need to ask: how is my cupcake better in a way that is really significant to the consumer? The world is unforgiving when the same idea is repeated over and over.
When you are building your team look for people ...with different skills but a shared set of values. Examine your own skills, see where there are gaps and find like-minded people who have the strengths you don’t have. They can be your best mate in the rugby team, your primary school teacher – you don’t need to fling the hook far and wide.
Never underestimate... the power of a purpose that goes beyond the financial. If you have an ethos you are really serious about then that will act as a beacon to the people who will come and work in your business. Our purpose was to make it really easy for people to be healthy. It became self-fulfilling because the people who came to work for us were attracted by that.
Don’t let a recession ...scare you from starting your business. It’s understandable that people might feel nervous given the stark realities, but it’s important to remember that whether the economy is plus two or minus two is never going to be the primary reason why a business succeeds or fails. It’s all about the quality of the idea, the execution of that idea and the hard work you are willing to put in. The perfect time to start is when you are ready to start. There is no point waiting for a perfect economic weather forecast.
You will hear the word ‘no’... more times than you will ever imagine possible while starting up a business. Think of the ‘no’ as an egg. It might have a very hard shell, but if you hit it very hard repeatedly with a very large teaspoon eventually a little ‘yes’ bird will pop out.
In conversation with Róisín Ingle
To attend the talks on January 10th and 15th in Dublin, email firstname.lastname@example.org