Richard is the founder of one of our longest standing clients, Love Taste Co., a brand we’ve always held in high regard. Richard, in my humble opinion, is a true entrepreneur, demonstrating the admirable attributes of fearless bravery, visionary thinking and a stoic belief that success is born from failure. In this interview with Drew London, Richard shares his story—the gritty parts, the successes and advice for other startups.
Elle Moss: Richard, we’ve worked together for just shy of thirteen years. In fact, I found a photo of us looking incredibly young, celebrating our early years of business. In today’s interview, I’m hoping you’ll share some of your learnings… what it takes to be a success (Richard doesn’t ever really admit to being a success, and in true fashion shakes his head when I describe him as such). So let's start off at the very beginning, how did Love Taste Co. come about?
Richard Canterbury: I was at a pet food conference in Geneva, and it was incredibly dull. I was the youngest by 20 years, we were talking about how the marketing we’d recently produced (at Saatchi & Saatchi) had lead to a 0.5% increase in sales. I saw my life flash before my eyes, and knew I had to leave. On my return trip, I began writing down business ideas, starting with things that I loved and knew I’d call the company ‘love’ something. I was eating masses of fruit and wanted something representing the ‘fast paced world’ we live in, so that was when Love Smoothies was born.
Once I had the idea, I wanted to test it, so I found a patch in Borough Market to see whether anyone actually wanted to buy the smoothies I’d invented, see which flavours the general public liked and so on. It was a huge learning curve and I got the biggest rush when people said they LOVED the smoothies and kept coming back week after week, having that interaction with people. An immediate focus group.
Saatchi & Saatchi were very supportive, so much so that I had my first smoothie bar in their reception! See the full story here. When I met you Elle, just after I’d opened my third café (we now supply thousands), I had what I believed to be a strong brand; I’d commissioned the illustrator from Gorillaz's to produce my logo - it resembles a tattoo including dripping blood! You quickly took a murky, edgy, non-child friendly logo, and created an entire visual language that ran across everything from tee-shirts to ‘love lolly’ packaging (insert wink), from event stands to websites. Thirteen years later and we’ve created so much together.
EM: We’ve loved being part of the journey too! But Richard, I must say, you’ve made it all sounds a bit too easy. There must have been some fails along the way?
RC: Yeah sure, you learn the most from your fails though, right? One that comes to mind is that somebody once told me that we could literally print money if we did the festival circuit. I believed them, so we invested thousands of pounds into marketing (we even branded a marquee) and staff. We signed up for Goodwood Festival of Speed and LoveBox. But the weather, of course, is unpredictable and unfortunately it chucked it down. We could barely give the product away and I had nine very bored members of staff.
What I learned from all of that, that if you’re going to invest in the festival circuit you have to do it properly, you have to book yourself into 30 festivals, then the good ones outweigh the bad ones. You simply can’t make money from doing one or two. Also, festival goers aren’t brand aware—they’re simply after substance so it did nothing for my brand recognition.
EM: You’re now an award-winning brand (multiple Great Taste Awards). How much credibility do you feel it gives your product?
RC: It’s not just credibility to your company and product, it’s important to demonstrate you’re genuine and then consumers trust you more.
EM: Do you get approached a lot for help and advice?
RC: Yes a lot, and if I think I can help someone I’m happy to sit down and have a chat, share some knowledge. As my senior management team establishes I would like to mentor more— not consultancy, simply a passing on of advice and support. People helped me on the way up, it’s right for me to give back.
EM: Did anyone mentor you?
RC: Marco Esposito (http://www.esporange.com/about-us.htm) was great at introducing me to the right people and showing me how the industry works, supporting me and advising me. I’m really grateful to him. The Goldman Sachs backed mentoring programme called 10SKB was incredibly supportive. I had been running for 8-9 years and stagnating a little bit, but it made me go away and write a new business plan, in a cohort of 20 different companies with similar issues such as recruitment and lifecycle of the business. We’re all still in touch with each other and still support each other. An investor came from the programme (starting as a mentor) and he’s been instrumental in helping us professionalise.
EM: Let’s talk ‘start up’ advice. Give me three tips, Richard
- Look for investment if you need it—go find it, whether that’s through the bank or equity investment. Money is relatively easy to come by now with lots of ways to crowdfund… certainly a lot easier than it was 5 or so years ago. I view investors as far more than just ‘money’ they add value in other ways, connect you to people, advice on processes and share experiences that will help you grow.
- I spent three or four months writing an 80 page business plan with very detailed numbers, within 6 months it was obsolete and I never read it again, personally I’d rather fail fast: Start something, learn from it, evolve it. All in a small scale, in a quick and cheap way, you’ll see if you’ve got something worthwhile doing and investing in. Much better than spending months writing a business plan. Nowadays, we write a business plan once a year, it’s a focused document of two pages, short ‘n’ sweet.
- Good to Great, is a book that I read and reread continuously. It’s gold dust.
EM: Anything we can look out for, products you’re working on?
RC: New product development is what I find most exciting. We’ve been developing a number of new products from protein smoothies, to smoothie bowls, to bone broth and we’re developing a new range of shakes.
EM: What else is on the horizon for Love Taste Co.?
RC: We’re supplying the England football team at the World Cup. We’re building a bespoke bar at their hotel and bringing it back to the training ground after the World Cup, which is super exciting.
EM: Have you enjoyed your Love Taste Co. journey Richard?
RC: Yes, immensely. If someone had told me years ago that I’d one day be selling millions of smoothies every year, travelling all around the world, meeting amazing people, doing cool things, I wouldn’t have believed them. It’s been awesome!