I hope you all had fab Christmas and are ready to hustle your way through 2017.
I’m very pleased to let you know that I’ll be continuing my Behind The Biz series throughout 2017. If you’re new around here, Behind The Biz is an interview series where I discover small and growing businesses, the people behind them and their business journey.
For my first Behind The Biz interview of 2017 I’m delighted to be chatting with Hugh, the co-founder of Ugly Drinks.
Please tell us about your business.
Ugly Drinks is a new company launched in January 2016 by my good friend, Joe Benn and I (Hugh Thomas). We create 100% nautral, fruit infused sparkling waters as an alternative to traditionally sugary or sweetened carbonated soft drinks. Ugly comes in two flavours; Lemon & Lime and Grapefruit & Pineapple and contains no sugar, no sweetener, no calories and no artificial ingredients!
Where did the inspiration for Ugly Drinks come from?
In late 2013, we began to think more and more about the impact of sugars and sweeteners in soft drinks on the British diet. We noticed the impact on diabetes, obesity and general happiness and decided that it was time to create a genuinely tasty, affordable and accessible carbonated drink without any of the sugars and sweeteners that we felt caused many of these issues. That’s when the idea to create Ugly came to us!
How did you decide upon the name of your brand?
We became frustrated with food and drink branding and the way it often felt like brand names over-promised and the products under-delivered. Ugly doesn’t promise to make you happier, healthier, faster or stronger. We’re beautiful on the inside and Ugly on the outside with no sugar, no sweeteners, no calories and no artificial ingredients in the drink!
What did you do before starting Ugly Drinks?
Joe and I both met working for coconut water startup, Vita Coco Coconut Water, when that launched here in the UK. We had an amazing time working there and learnt a huge amount before deciding to use the skills we’d learnt to take on a dated (and overly sweet) soft drinks industry!
Did you always plan to be self-employed?
Yes…I think this has always been the plan for both of us. I can personally remember deciding that I wanted to run my own business before I’d even gone to secondary school!
What has been the biggest challenge in running your business so far?
There are challenges and obstacles littered along the way…and never a dull day! We faced our biggest challenge in the summer of 2015 when we faced issues with the shelf life of our first iteration of the Ugly product. We had to knuckle down and work hard to get things back up and running but learnt an absolutely huge amount about work and ourselves during the process. Because we feel so strongly about the mission, continuing when it got tough, was easier than it might have been.
What has been the highlight of your business journey to date?
There are plenty of highlights. I think the number one is seeing us on shelf for the first time at Selfridges, that buzz is unreal. Alongside that, seeing anyone drinking a can of Ugly in public is an amazing feeling that will never get old.
What role does social media play for your business and do you have a favourite social platform?
We absolutely love it all. We are present across pretty much all of the main platforms, find us @uglydrinks on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook. Instagram has been an amazing tool for us to spread the word. It’s not only where we see the most attention but also a great platform for us put the best side of our very visual brand.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
The obstacle is the way! Try and look for the opportunities in everything when things get tough…keep at it, keep working hard and keep things positive!
Where do you hope to take your business in 2017?
We started the Ugly business with the mission of making healthy drinks affordable and accessible to as many people as possible. We want to continue to spread the Ugly word and introduce more flavours and more formats to more shelves in 2017!
Thank you so much to Hugh for taking the time to be a part of my Behind The Biz series. I hope you’ve all enjoyed learning about the Ugly Drinks business journey as much as I have. I wish Hugh and Joe the best of luck with their business for the year ahead. I can’t wait to see the business grow and I hope to see them on many more shelves. I’m a very big fan of Ugly Drinks and if you’re keen to find out more about my thoughts on their drinks then check out my review.