A watercooler moment with James Shillcock, founder of Vivid Drinks, the drinks company
In a nutshell, what does Vivid Drinks do?
Vivid is an all-natural range of matcha green tea drinks. We have three flavours: lime, ginger & honey, grape & elderflower and pear & rhubarb, all of which are produced in the UK.
Where did the idea for Vivid Drinks come from?
I used to work for an independent tea company called We Are Tea where I was selling premium whole leaf and loose leaf teas to lots of different retailers. I was sent some matcha green tea and started blending it up with fresh lime, ginger and honey. It turned out to be a great, healthy, all-natural, naturally energising drink. That’s where the idea originally came from.
When did you start up?
How has it gone so far?
We’ve had a phenomenal start. We launched very successfully with Whole Foods and Planet Organic and have since gone into other great stores like Selfridges and Harvey Nicks. We have picked up about 300 independents around the UK and we have now gone into Waitrose as well. Our sales within each store are growing and Whole Foods has said we have been the most successful tea-based drink that it’s seen in its stores.
What has been the biggest challenge so far?
I’d say the biggest challenge is balancing the growth of the business and investment. We have been growing fast and that brings amazing opportunities and challenges with it. At the same time, we are a start-up, we started from scratch, we are not backed by any big backer and we are independent so we have had to raise cash at every stage along the journey. That is obviously very time-consuming. It’s about finding that delicate balance to make sure that we do it in the right way.
How would you say you differentiate yourself from the competition?
Every healthy drink on the market is a competitor to us but our key point of difference is that we are the first and only people at the moment to have matcha green tea within our drinks range. As a whole, I don’t believe any product comes close to Vivid in terms of offering an all-natural, great-tasting energy boost.
What has been the best decision you have made to-date?
Other than making the decision to actually start, I would say it was choosing to work with a top design agency. It is something that I guess a lot of start-ups would shy away from but working with them and getting that right from day one has helped us win listings and sped the whole process up immensely. We also turned down £75k of investment quite recently. Even though we felt we were in a position that we needed it, it was the right thing to do because the terms that were being put on us were outrageous. It would have put a stranglehold on the business.
Where do you see the business in 12 months’ time?
Over the next 12 months, the focus is still on building the brand in the UK but this time next year, I’d like to think we’ll be in at least one, if not two or more, of the big four supermarkets.
If you had one piece of advice for entrepreneurs, what would it be?
If you haven’t started, I would say go and work for a start-up because you learn so much. You start building a network, you build an understanding and you build confidence that it’s not rocket science; anybody can do it. That’s something you just don’t learn with a big company. If you have already started, I would say surround yourself with good people because you’re going to need the help.