Meet the founder of Vivid

Hello! Please can you introduce yourself to our readers. 

I’m James Shillcock, 27, from London. I founded Vivid 2 years ago. I love food&bev, start-ups, entrepreneurs, innovation, ambitious people, psychology and behavioural economics. I’m optimistic and paranoid in equal measure! 

What is Vivid? 

Vivid is the UKs leading range of matcha green tea drinks. We’re now listed with Waitrose, Boots, Ocado, Wholefoods and Selfridges amongst others. Our vision expands well beyond drinks; we want to support and celebrate vivid minds because a mind with focus and energy can achieve anything. 

Entrepreneurs are a core consumer for us; while many brands focus on health in terms of physical fitness, they’re neglecting those of us sat behind a laptop who need focus and mental stamina. We want to inspire people to put their mind to use. 

I launched Vivid having suffered from depression and the importance of a sharp, clear mind matters a lot to me. Later this year we are launching the Vivid Foundation which will promote and enable better mental health and wellbeing amongst young adults in the UK. 

What are the benefits of drinking Vivid’s Matcha Green Tea? 

Vivid Matcha is organic and provides two key benefits: natural caffeine from matcha green tea and an amino acid called L-theanine. L-theanine is found naturally in high doses in matcha and it improves concentration and focus. Combined, caffeine and L-theanine are released slowly into the bloodstream providing a sustained natural energy boost. 

People are moving away from artificial energy drinks and coffee because of the high/low, dehydrating crash they cause. If you want a natural pick me up Vivid is the way to go. Our new unsweetened drink has zero sugar and none of the nasty added sweeteners found in many drinks. 

Vivid Drinks are stocked by Boots, Waitrose, Ocado and Selfridges (to name a few), what is key to getting your product stocked by a major retailer? 

Buyers are generally friendly people who take an interest in innovation. When you meet them you need to demonstrate: 

  1. Why your product is new or different to the brands already on the shelf 
  2. How your product will increase sales for the retailer (and why it won’t just cannibalise sales of existing products)  
  3. The added value your product offers. Is it particularly relevant for that retailer’s consumer? Does it have a purpose that the retailer will be proud to talk about?
  4. How will you support the retailer ongoing? (Sampling, events etc)  

 How did you fund your business in its early stages? 

We got all the way to our first production run having spent less than £10K. At that point we raised a small amount from friends and family and a slightly larger chunk from some high profile angel investors.  

I didn’t know these investors personally; I had read about them and targeted them specifically as added value people I wanted to be involved in my business. Landing our first major external investor is one of my proudest moments so far. 

What has been your biggest challenge since launching? 

I think one of the hardest things is accepting when something isn’t working. When you’re setting up the business everything is new and fun, the first year is full of potential, exciting press coverage and pats on the back. The second year is when it gets tough – the reality of running a business kicks in and things go wrong; production fails, cashflow gets tight, a competitor launches, etc etc! 

I’ve realised now that the tough bits are the moments to embrace because they force you to innovate and out-smart competitors. The challenges are the barriers to entry that can get you ahead and keep you in front of the competition. We saw that our numbers were not as good as they should be but rather than be complacent we made significant moves. We slashed the sugar content in our range, tweaked our packaging and launched 2 new products - one of which is very innovative and now performing really well. 

 In your opinion, what is the main cause of a small business failing? 

Most run out of cash, simple as. This comes back to the points above, you need to react quickly if something isn’t working, rather than simply hoping it will change/improve. Look at the signs and the actual sales rather than being distracted listening to the hype around your product at launch. 

What is the best thing about being a entrepreneur? 

The constant mental stimulation. I struggled with regular jobs because our brains are not designed to simply ‘switch off’ at the end of the day. It’s draining at times but I love the fact that I’m always thinking of ways we can grow, innovate, and improve. Nothing is better than that lightbulb moment. 

Here's an important one: describe what alcoholic drink you would be. 

A matcha mojito – full of contradictions. 

What one piece of business advice has always stuck with you? 

Progress over perfection. There is no such thing as perfection. If you believe in perfection then you believe something reaches a point at which it can’t be improved any further, which is never true! 

Too many people waste time on small details when building/designing a product. Get your product out there, get REAL feedback (from sales data and people who are actually paying for your product, not focus groups/surveys) and then tweak. Do this process over and over again. 

If we applied the motto ‘progress over perfection’ to how we judge ourselves we might all be a little happier too! 

What excites you most for the future? 

We have so many ideas to expand our brand to help encourage productive thinking. Times are changing and people know they need to focus just as much on cognitive wellbeing as physical.  

Think Vivid. James.