Hugh Thomas

November 18, 2020

In this session of The Personal Mastery Podcast, we speak with Hugh Thomas who is tackling the food and drink industry head on. Through Ugly Drinks, Hugh is striving to create the best tasting water out there! He wants to present Ugly Drinks as real, approachable, and accessible while addressing the unhealthy world of drinking sodas. Hugh is actively learning to adapt and pivot while never taking no for an answer and consistently asking questions.
Hugh Thomas is also known as Ugly Hugh. He is the CEO and Co-Founder of Ugly Drinks which is a fast growing flavored sugarless sparkling water brand that started in the UK and expanded into the United States. Hugh is a passionate entrepreneur taking on brands like Coca Cola and Pepsi and is working on building the next Redbull. Ugly is now available in over 15,000 stores globally and with offices in both the UK and US.

You can learn more about Hugh Thomas below:
Website: uglydrinks.com
Email: hellouglydrinks.com
Instagram: @uglyhugh
Twitter: @uglyhugh


Arri Bagah: You're listening to the Personal Mastery podcast with Arri Bagah, interviewing CEOs and executives who are performing at the highest level in their industry, working purposefully towards vision, in alignment with the values and the state of constant learning about the self. Welcome to another episode of the Personal Mastery podcast. And in this episode, we have Hugh Thomas, also known as Ugly Hugh. He is a CEO and co-founder of Ugly, which is a flavored sugar sparkling water drink. He started the brand in the U.K. and expanded it into the United States. And it is now one of the fastest growing beverage brands. He is taking on companies, the likes of Coca-Cola and Pepsi, and he is on his journey to build the next Red Bull. So I haven't won the podcast today to tell us exactly where he comes from, how he started the brand and how he plans on taking on these multi-billion dollar brands. So without further ado, here's you here. Welcome to the show.

Hugh Thomas: Thanks for having me here. I appreciate the.

Arri Bagah: Yeah, no worries. Are you calling in from the UK or are you in New York?

Hugh Thomas: Oh, I'm in New York City is next week since I moved here? Yes, you're correct. British accent It's not fake. Second year living in New York has been different to the first, as you can imagine. So, yeah, it's been interesting.

Arri Bagah: Yes. A lot of people know you as the mysterious you came in or ugly. You go by ugly, you know,

Hugh Thomas: I think I've done everything now and I've lost my real name on social media, so I'm definitely.

Arri Bagah: Yeah. So can you tell us a little bit more about you, where you come from and sort of what your interests are?

Hugh Thomas: Yeah. So I'm Hugh obviously. I'm from the UK. I'm from a town called Worster. I know there's a western Massachusetts to this one, you guys say versus the shire, but Worcestershire sauce is from subtlely and parings is made in Worcester. That's about what it's famous for. It's in the middle of the country near Birmingham. I grew up there and then moved to London about ten years ago. I worked in London and then moved over here two years ago. I'm generally passionate about many things from music, sports, food, like anyone else, but particularly I love the people starting products and consumer products, food and beverage. That's kind of always been a passion of mine. And working life is people making food and drink and packages and trying to change the world for the better. So that's kind of I'll be the guy walking into any deli cornershop, checking out the drinks fridge. Everybody kind of gets me going. But yeah, I love living in the US. I love living in the UK to love travel. So always looking for new experiences like that.

Arri Bagah: How's travel been for.

Hugh Thomas: You know very well this year. I have you know, I haven't been able to go back to the UK this year for many reasons with coronavirus. That's the longest I've ever been out of the UK coming up to ten months at this point without seeing family and friends back home and who knows how long it'll go for. But travel has been a big part of the job for me, kind of going to different states, different cities, different regions to launch Ugly with distributors. But this year that's kind of been put on hold. So spend a lot of time working out of my apartment in New York. I was on the Lower East Side. I've just moved to Brooklyn. So, yeah, when we were going into lockdown, I was in Manhattan. And yeah, I was it was a lot of unknowns at that point. Certainly running a startup, too.

Arri Bagah: Yeah, I was in New York too when the lockdown started. I was actually there for like six months and after a while I just made my way back to L.A. That's always it's always fun to go to New York. Very awesome city. So you started ugly in the UK. Can you talk about, like, the launch process in the UK and then transitioning here in the US?

Hugh Thomas: Yeah, so started Ugly when I was the idea with my co-founder Joe, when we were twenty three, twenty four back in the UK, I was working for viticultural a coconut water business in Europe before that. So Joe and I had spent a few years working together. That's where we met and we learn how to work in that kind of American-style beverage company, just doing another country, manage to spend some time over in the US with the team here as well. So I kind of got the bug for beverage startups and the American way of doing things. Obviously, being Brits, we couldn't launch in America straight away. So we started the business in London on a shoestring. We were working in our old jobs at the same time. So taking calls with factories before work, after work, we launched in Selfridges, which is a big department store in the UK, and we had one store at the time. We did a small production run. We did demos every single day in that store. I mean, consumers trying to get things moving in the right direction. And then we through that managed to open up a few more stores. And then we got Whole Foods in the UK, which is like ten stores, roughly 10 stores at the time. And then we got, you know, through that process, kind of got the brand building online, got some buzz, got noticed. Right. Managed to bump. We actually bumped into some investors doing a demo, which is a good a good message for any founders out there. I guess I was a little bit harder to do right now than normal, but we met one of our investors who was invested in us since the beginning whilst doing our demos at that time, have continued to build the brand from there. And about two years into building, the UK business met some US-based investors who was who said, you know, this would actually work in the US where the market for what you're doing is a lot bigger than anyone that doesn't have a flavoured sparkling water. So in the UK, we were the first. So there's no LaCroix in the UK that is that is us and we're now in about five thousand stores there. But obviously launching in the US was always, always on the plan. It came a little earlier than we expected. Initially ran it remotely from the UK whilst I was waiting for a visa and went through that process just doing two time zones. And then, like I said, two years ago next week, flew over here with a one-way ticket and a backpack, basically. And now we're at about fifteen thousand stores globally. We sell online as well. Ugly drinks Dot com. So we actually shipped our two millionth can on ugly drinks dot com in the US last week, which is pretty cool. And we've shipped to every state and city. So started in like Joe and I's bedrooms, essentially in small flats in London like five years ago now. But yeah, to be to have people buying it in Los Angeles and New York and Chicago and also in the UK. It's pretty cool and it's not been easy by any stretch of the imagination.

Arri Bagah: How do you like demo drinks? So you guys just like setting up a table and then just like pouring it out for people to drink.

Hugh Thomas: Yeah, exactly that. So we we would have ice-cold cans obviously because you don't want to and we would set up a table in the fridge with our product in the fridge obviously. And then I think somebody would come over thinking they were just talking to a regular demo rep and then they realized that we were talking to the world's most passionate people about it who are going to sell them on Sharks Tank. And obviously, you convince a lot of people that way to pick up an extra can and and that's how a lot of people discover your brands. Obviously, with coronavirus holding people samples of the beverages is so a lot of that has gone away temporarily, but that's how a lot of brands built.

Arri Bagah: Yeah, yeah. So from like the start of the business, can you talk about the product creation because you didn't have the background and like I was someone we were going to study to make beverages. But how did you guys get through that process? Was it just like reaching out to manufacturers or. Yeah, you make happen.

Hugh Thomas: It's a crazy question because one of the things that always fascinates me when I see other startups that I'm like, that's cool. Oh, that's awesome. I'm always like, how did they even get the how do you even go about making a keto donut hole? I find it like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich brand last week. You like each other? He doesn't. I thought, how do you even get there? And I'm always fascinated by that, too. But, you know, for us, it was a case of asking questions, joining the dots. And everything in the startup is about joining the dots and understanding what the next is. The next dot is using a network, asking around, generally asking founders who've been there and done it is always helpful, right. Because they are always they were always helpful and they're always people who've got a lot of themselves. So we're lucky now. I'll always help someone out. If they're trying to do well, we're trying to do so. That's the first step. And I'd say we have a little Hackley founders. I was writing from, I think, my Gmail on my Hotmail address at the time, some embarrassing email address name. I had an hour. I don't want any more spam, but one of the things we changed was we've got a domain name. And I mean, it doesn't necessarily need to be the name of the company you actually end up with. It could be like, I don't know, whatever, like carrot dot com was a carrot, but I made a little email signature. And then as soon as we started emailing from, like a company, a domain name and an email signature thing, founder, CEO or whatever you want to do, we started getting more responses from factories who took us a bit more seriously. And then I think the big question well, the big thing I'd always encourage people are doing that is if somebody says no, they can't help you or they don't know, ask them if they know someone who does. So. Oh, so they say, sorry, we can't do this. Do you know anyone who can help? And I genuinely believe five or six times very early on, the answer to the question we were looking for was by asking that question, say we still have that kind of hassle to find out. But I never had any idea how to stop business in America. I never had any idea how to start manufacturing or anything. A website, you know, any any of this stuff. And just by trial and error and pushing yourself to ask stupid questions, they're not really stupid is the idea we've slowly got there. But I'm kind of crazy now. I've asked that question. I wrote on it for a while.

Arri Bagah: Yeah, that's awesome. And I think it goes to show like, you can get into, like, any business, like if you're willing to do the research that you can figure out. And if you have there's a lot of people who have already done it. All you have to do is find those people and ask him.

Hugh Thomas: It's like I don't I mean, you have to work out to do it right. How do you start podcasting? What you have to do the first one and you have. Exactly. Then you do a second one and you get better and better when you join. Oh, that's what I need to do, and that's kind of like starting a business, isn't it? It's like starting anything you have to stick out as well.

Arri Bagah: Oh, yeah, 100 percent. So now getting more into like when you started the brand, was that more like to solve a personal problem that you had or was that like you see like an opportunity in the marketplace and trying to solve it?

Hugh Thomas: It's a bit of both, I think. No, I've been working for a company, so I knew kind of they say there's a Japanese phrase which is icky guy. Right. And it's like the phrase the Japanese used to get out of bed in the morning. What gets you going as a combination of like I believe and I might mess this up, like what you care about, what you love, what you can make money doing and what you're good at. And I think, you know, I might have wanted to be a Premier League soccer player or player in life, the NBA. But at the end of the day, I'm not good enough to do those things. So I think I wanted to start a company and something that I could actually do and, like, genuinely give it as good a shot as possible. So I worked in drinks and kind of naturally finding my way there became like a passion area and I became passionate about it. So I guess that started. And then when you start working in the industry and you realize what the big companies do and the damage that those products cause, I became very passionate about creating products. The average Brits, average Americans, people up and down the street, families, young people putting in products they're putting in their body. You know, in America, there are believed 100 million obese people, which is a third of the population basically. And Type two diabetes is no different. You have most of those people on the edge of Type two diabetes or pre-diabetic. Similar stats in the UK, just proportion wise with the population. And that felt like a massive issue. And then when you realize how big soda is and how big sugary soda is, it's kind of staggering. And you're talking about people across this country and back in the UK to drinking four or five cans of soda a day. If you do that, you're drinking like a quarter of a kilogram of sugar. Right. And yeah, it goes and it's just liquids go straight through your body system, spikes your insulin, causes so many issues, makes people feel pretty rubbish as well. And I just became really passionate about that and trying to create a brand that was approachable in terms of the way it looked and spoke to people. And then also price point, because I know that most people can't afford super expensive green juices and super expensive computers. As much as I love myself, it is an expensive habit for families. And I think, you know, getting that price point right was a big thing for us. So getting to two point ninety nine, which is what our APACS cost, a regular family can pick up a case. And I just think that's been important for us. So that's what really inspired us, was to create a brand that was approachable, accessible and solve that big problem. And that's kind of where it started from. So. But I also love the product myself and wanted to get more people to try to.

Arri Bagah: Yeah, definitely. That makes a lot of sense, especially here in the US. There had to be a market for that just because that like two hundred million people are either obese or overweight in the US, which is a pretty crazy number to think about. So that is because of all the sugary products that are out there. So being able to have a different choice, like if you want to grab something refreshing, maybe grabbing like a sugarless soda water might be a better option for you. And that's probably one of the reasons why you guys, like, really grew. That's because that's it.

Hugh Thomas: And hopefully we're just getting started, too. And, you know, like, there's so many products of sugar in. Right. And certainly when you're drinking, it just hits your body so fast. Oh, yeah. But you still you still still got to deliver. So when someone's thirsty, like you said, they grabbed for that moment of refreshment, you still have to give the ice cold can and the colors and the visuals and the price point. And it still have to hit the spot, right? Yeah. People are used to being used to that sweetness for years. But obviously that's not something that's changed now.

Arri Bagah: Now, when it comes to the name Ugly, you had a product. How do you like what you even decide to name it Ugly Drinks?

Hugh Thomas: Yeah, it's a good question. So when Joe and I were trying to come up with a name, a bunch of stuff, we considered and looked at a lot of them a safe plays, right? And I don't think anybody ever won anything by playing it safe or not taking any risks. When we saw the name Ugly or when we kind of came up with that name, it just made us feel something that made us feel excited, nervous, a little bit scared. But we ultimately knew that it would stand out and people would remember it. But, you know, where it came from was this was a time when the UK had Brexit happening and the US was changing president. So this is like four years ago now. Yeah, just four years ago. And the whole idea of like fake news coming through. And, you know, I was looking at food and beverage and I thought it's kind of funny when you look at the big food and drink companies, it's kind of all fake news, right? It's like smiley happy people in the adverts, you know, really healthy-looking people. And then you turn the pack around and it's like, oh, this is full of stuff I've never heard of. And, you know, my parents and their parents drank it and we just told that that's OK to do. And so there was a quote by George Orwell who wrote in nineteen eighty-four, which is In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act. And so it felt like it was time to tell the truth about soda and tell the truth about sugary sweetened drinks. And we wanted to tell the ugly truth. And that's kind of where it came from, is we are ugly. It's just flavored sparkling water. There's no other promises. There's no marketing promises that are going to stay awake all night. You're going to look beautiful tomorrow. It's going to be shiny. It's just what it's designed for refreshment and there's nothing bad in it. So if that makes us ugly, then that's what we are. But then since then, it's just given us the chance to try and make water fun. Ultimately, that's fun, branding, fun attitude. And we just want people to go, oh, well, instead of picking up that can of soda, maybe I'll have a can of water instead and it will refresh me. It tastes great. It looks cool. And, you know, I haven't had thirty five grams of sugar drinking it. So that's a plus point too. So it's kind of where it came from.

Arri Bagah: Yeah, and if you look at I think there was a stat in a country like Mexico where there is more bottles of Coca-Cola than there is water, like in like different countries, you're more likely to find a bottle of Coca-Cola than to find water like in some ways.

Hugh Thomas: And, you know, the US has a very high consumption of like soda products, but places like Mexico and other countries around the world have insane numbers. And that just felt like a global issue, like we started in the U.K. thinking about many countries. The US is obviously a logical place for us to launch, but hopefully we can do this in many more countries as well and solve the exact problem that you mentioned, which is insane and staggering. If anyone wants to look it up, the numbers are crazy. It's almost like you can't believe it. Right. So, yeah, I feel that too.

Arri Bagah: Now talking about the first version of the ugly drink or you're like very impressed about it or where you're like, hey, we need to make a diversion. Can you talk about that?

Hugh Thomas: Well, I think Reid Hoffman found Illington said if you're happy with the first version of your product uploads to life and I agree with that, I think one thing you learn starting your own business is that perfection is impossible and it is never where you want it to be and you're always constantly dissatisfied. So if anything, you can never get the perfect product out. In the first version of our product was definitely not that we actually launched a still version of the product, so flavored still water. And we had a bunch of production issues, some shelf-life stability challenges. But actually, what it led to is us moving into cans and carbonated, which was the best decision we've ever made. So quite often problems or issues with the branding, you learn fast. It's all about learning and adapting either to what the consumer says or other problems you find and how we pivoted and adopted maybe five or six times at this point, which is more than most companies. But you have to listen and you have to understand, despite having a vision that consumers in the market has to respond to what you do.

Arri Bagah: Yeah. And like going more into launching a product, like I talked to founders all the time, like I don't think any of the select successful one or we're happy with, like the first version, like you have to get that first version out there and then improve upon it. And especially like us founders, like it's always like we're trying to be like as like very picky, like, hey, I want it this way. And we don't want to launch something that we're not truly happy with. But the reality is you have to get it out there as fast as possible and improve on and so, yes.

Hugh Thomas: You don't want to go, you know, I mean, again, it depends how experienced you are, but certainly as a first time family, you don't want to go too big too soon either because you are 100 percent guaranteed to make mistakes. But that's the guarantee you. One hundred percent the plan you have is not going to happen. So you have to get used to reacting in the faster, as you say, you can get out and get people to test it. The quicker you make those changes, the.

Arri Bagah: Now, with you starting the brand, obviously going after the large sugary product brand, how's everything been for you? Like what was the launch process like? Because like, all these brands are already like everybody knows about them. They're like in every store, like, can you talk about, like, going to market before?

Hugh Thomas: Yeah. Yeah. So the first thing is we decided to be omnichannel from the beginning. So we want it to be available online and offline, which is what Omni means, many channels. So we want it to be available. Other Stockholm, come on. Amazon as well. We're also in retail or in different channels of retail, grocery stores, convenience stores, food service. By the way, what they say you can't an elephant all at once. You need to break it down into bite-sized chunks. So America is it's a scary scale of a country. And so when you're in the UK, you look at it like, how on earth are we going to even give this a go? And you're quite right. So we cut what we can't do is try and take the big companies on everywhere at once. You have to be strategic and go, OK, we'll start in New York. We'll do that. That will sell online across the country, because that is one thing that's great about online is you can ship everywhere. But we started in retail in New York and then we learned that that works. We will. And we built the team. We added a few more people that we launched in another few regions and states. And I think that's the only way to do it. And through what you just referenced, when you launched somewhere like New York, you just learn again. You learn about the type of people you want to hire. You learn how to motivate a team. You learn what works in stores, what doesn't work in stores, and then it's about refining. And every time you learn something new, taking those lessons on and and portraying them in the next place, you launch. So it depends. I guess that's what would you do for a beverage company. But any sort of business, I think you have to go one customer at a time to begin with and learn every time you launch with a new one. Right. I'm sure you can you can feel the same right on your site. So that's kind of our experience. And one of the great things for us have been being available on drinks dot come from the beginning, has meant a lot of people that discovered our brand around the country that if we were only available in stores, they never would have found us. True, it means we have fans in all sorts of interesting places, which gives the brand the rich, richer community. Right. It's not just the New York or L.A. brand is a brand that we have. 80 percent of our consumers are not in New York and L.A. And that's really a really exciting thing about what we're doing. And hopefully it goes to solve that problem on health of the whole country as well. So kind of what's been exciting for us, I think.

Arri Bagah: Yeah. Now, going back to you guys, going omnichannel from the beginning, especially like with retail, like not every retailer is just like, let's say everybody. Right. There has to be something that got you guys in. Was it the product? Was it the sales are like the relationship with investors.

Hugh Thomas: I think it's a combination. I think at the beginning just prayed hustle. So knocking on the door, showing up, hustling, working your and never taking no for an answer. And I think that's been the case for us across the board as we grow and hiring people who know how the book of information and know the people is kind of in the way in those first pretty much every store in the UK we've ever launched, just through hustle and through joining the dots, getting connections, getting an introduction, selling the product, getting noticed by doing something else. And it's been a real grind, but that's how you do it. Other people might have a smoother ride then, but that's what we did.

Arri Bagah: Now, getting more into marketing earlier, you kind of talk about like Coca-Cola, for example, like their advertising rate, like very healthy looking people drinking sugary drinks. And then you realize, like if you actually drink this every day, you're not going to look like them. Exactly. How do you convince someone to be able to, like, even make that switch? If there is like a bottle of ugly drinks and Coca Cola, how do you even get them to say, OK, today I'm going to try ugly drinks because it's healthier for me?

Hugh Thomas: Yeah, no, I mean, I think that's the big challenge for us to unlock. And obviously we're against companies that have a few dollars to spend on telling that message and have told that message for one hundred years to. Right. So, yeah, it's it's a real David versus Goliath challenge. But I think the first thing is that we didn't want to look like a preachy health brand. We wanted people to feel like this is cool. I want to pick this up rather than thinking, oh, making a boring, healthy decision. That's the first step. So the product is both the colors of the branding strong and then you have the name that makes people notice. So the first thing is like getting spotted. And Seth Godin talks about the purple cow right where you're on a train and you're going to see the cows and then in one of the fields as a purple painted cow, then it remembers the purple. Which is why we're called ugly, because you remember that drink from the shelf life, and I think that's been super, super important for us. The second thing, I think being a price point where somebody is not making a really extensive trade off. So we're always trying to be that similar, if not the same price point as the regular sodas and the brands we're up against, because then they're not making a decision based on who am I going to spend 20 cents more or another couple of dollars? Am I going to can I just make a simple switch like that? And then the third thing is the product has to taste great. So when it's ice cold, it needs to be delivered and somebody needs to go, wow, I didn't miss the other thing at all. I'm going to buy this every day from now on. And that's what we spend a lot of time on internally. We do get consumer feedback from our direct to consumer consumers, get consumer feedback from store. We do taste tests ourselves and it's all about trying to recreate that. So the moment but without any of the bad stuff. So we've been using our direct to consumer website to test new flavors as well recently. So we send small batches of maybe some crazy flavors. We did a marshmallow played, we did an ugly flavor, orange soda flavored water. They sell out very quickly, but we get feedback. People tell us they like them and we're trying to bring people that nostalgic memory, but without any of the sugar sweetened colorings or anything like that. So that's been a really interesting part of the way we build things, too.

Arri Bagah: Yeah, I think it's a really great way to test, like, new flavors through your direct consumer site very quickly. Yeah. And I really like the approach of getting that feedback, especially now with things being close and not being able to do things in person, tastes, etc. Being able to do that online is really great.

Hugh Thomas: Go to the lab ourselves. So we took the lab to people's homes and some of the ideas we get back are arguably too crazy for us to ever make. We have some pretty great ones out there, but, you know, some of the flavors they've suggested were actually in. Our next batch is coming up. So excited to see the people who suggested those pick them up and give them a go and see if they like them. But yeah, some of them I like I say a totally bonkers. But that's what you expect, right. Which said where there's maybe some magic as well.

Arri Bagah: Yeah. And like in terms of like your product, mind you or you have expanding your product line recently, was that to also take more market share from other products that you're trying to like, kind of like the diabetes with sugar is I'd like to see more pressure for like other products.

Hugh Thomas: Yeah. So we launched an energy water range. We said maybe referencing there and that's the same caffeine and the same ingredients is like a classic energy drink in a tallboy can do without any of the sugar sweetened. I like you say again, much of the marketing from those brands as like cage fighting fast cars or the of we just wanted to put something out there that looks similar and had some of the similar cues, but then was obviously very healthy for people to drink, but really came again from our community saying when are you going to put caffeine in this product, can I get one with caffeine in it? And we have a lot of people saying I don't drink coffee and they want some alternative in the morning that's hydrating. It gives them the same boost. So we made it and then we put it into stores. And yeah, I think I think ugly as a brand is is meant to be a fun take and a healthy take on a lot of these things that have dominated for a long time. And you've got a steep hill ahead of us, but that feels like an exciting route for us.

Arri Bagah: Now, I think you've mentioned before that you're building the next Red Bull, right?

Hugh Thomas: Maybe I should go. I can't believe I've set myself ambition. Yeah, no, we are. It's going to be bigger than that.

Arri Bagah: Yeah. Yeah, that's awesome. So can you talk about, like, some of the different acquisition strategies, whether like any marketing things that you've really done that you saw really help you guys increase sales?

Hugh Thomas: Yeah, so, I mean, firstly, being called ugly means that people take photos of it, right, and tell their friends about it. And I think having a product with word of mouth is just makes life a lot easier. And so, yes, certainly with these new flavors, when we've created some crazy flavors, you know, people tell their friends about it super fast. You know, we've got a bunch of interesting flavors coming out. And I think so I've been thinking about your product and thinking about it that way is important. Obviously, Facebook and Instagram for acquisition have been massive tools for us. I'm always testing different creative building. Really engaging emails has been massive. So we have separate emails. If you were a subscriber to Ugly, we call it automagic. You get magic deliveries every month, you get different benefits. So you get early access to flavour's, you get early access to merch. When we launch that soon you get a bunch of other benefits, different discount pricing, et cetera. So we're trying to bring people in and keep everybody loving the brand, give them benefits of being loyal to us. So that's a big part of it. We launched SMS, so text messaging this month and we're expecting to see that perform really well. And then we also have Tock, which we've had launched for a while, but a new approach to that coming in the coming months. YouTube influences strategy, a bunch of stuff that's coming up. But I think really everybody can be getting the basics in place, can deliver so much that now we've got, I guess, solid foundations. We can start playing around and seeing if there's things that over deliver for us. So that's now the focus for the next 12 months is kind of playing around at the edges and seeing whether some interesting, interesting things we can get traction on.

Arri Bagah: Yeah, luckily Tic-Tac didn't get banned all.

Hugh Thomas: So I was like, maybe we shouldn't invest that. But yeah, I guess, you know, that was always going to be a solution in search of work. That doesn't change.

Arri Bagah: Now in terms of like a like a beverage, obviously like product or customer experiences is point. Can you talk about that? Because like obviously, like in different countries, there's like different weather's, different temperatures and all kinds of stuff. Can you talk about, like, how you're kind of like, I guess offering the same customer experience to different customers in different countries?

Hugh Thomas: Well, we had a bunch of issues with that when we first started. And I don't know if you read about that or if that was just something I now need to admit to. But, yeah, I think when when we first launch in the US, we use the same box we used in the UK to deliver the products and we'd never seen any damages in the UK. But I think what you realize is when the when this countries scale and flying or flying from L.A. to New York is the same as flying from London to the Congo in Africa, we I think we realized that we were like, wow, these products are going to go a lot further. We're going to need to buy tougher boxes. Obviously, when you're shipping things out in a box, that's not tough enough. You have a bunch of wet packages arriving. So we navigate that. And then I think the other thing we had, I think that was a time when you had 100 Farenheit plus in Arizona, that we still had freezing temperatures in Michigan and Minnesota. And so we had product freezing in some states and then exploding from the heat and others. So we had to build temperature, temperature adjusted boxes and packaging for each of the scenarios. And obviously not every state has those temperatures all the time. And it's only when it gets those real extremes freezing like insane hundred and twenty Fahrenheit that we see these issues, but we still need to be aware of it. So now we think about the regions and think about how it's going to arrive and we have to adapt and adjust. And now now we manage to have a good grip on that. But for a while, when we first launched, as Brits like fresh off the boat, thinking through, what are we going to do? I think that was a that was a big challenge, because obviously, once you've got people receiving what packages, you've got a lot of people to apologize to. So we had to ease back, fix the packaging. And our team team's phenomenal. We had some great help from other people externally as well and managed to make something that's FedEx proof ultimately. So we're getting them out.

Arri Bagah: Yeah, that's awesome. And it's so crazy. Like, these are things that you learn. There's so much that you learn along the way. And that's what makes the whole experience like very fun to be something big.

Hugh Thomas: Fun and interesting world for that experience are all the stories.

Arri Bagah: Yeah, exactly. So, yeah, being in a beverage space, I know it's something that people are always taken to look at. It sounds very complicated, especially here in the US. We're getting approval with like FDA and a bunch of other. Can you talk about, like, the biggest thing that you've learned in this space?

Hugh Thomas: I mean, this in terms of the nutritional side and like getting that approved, I would like just in general. Oh, there's so many things I've learned. I think. The big thing is what we've just discussed is the if you don't put your stuff out there, you'll never learn and you'll never improve. And so quite often if you said you started to drink products and you launched at a farmer's market, you might not have the FDA coming down on you in the same way. Right. So you can find out just somebody like my peanut butter to somebody like my apple juice that I'm making from Apple Orchard. And consumers will give me feedback. And I think it's always good to try know if you have they say there's a book called The Mom Test. Right. And it's like if you ask your mom what she thinks about your startup, she'll either say she loves it because she loves all. She'll say she hates it because she loves you and she doesn't want you to stop is the same risk every so often that honest feedback from friends and family. So the best feedback is from people paying the hard earned money for what you're doing, whether that's online, offline. I think that's the biggest lesson for any founder, really. It's like, can you get somebody you don't know to exchange cash for your service? Is that value? And if there is a lesson to them, see what they think and then adjust and adapt it. And I think all of those things come the FDA approvals, the medical staff who comes as you kind of build and scale up. I think just putting stuff out there and learning is the key. Nobody remembers what the first version of me looks like now. And if anybody asks you what's the first version of Coca-Cola or first version of Heinz ketchup look like nothing like it does today. Right. So I think everything is a game of test and learning and improving things. And I guess that's that's kind of the biggest learning, I think, in this whole process.

Arri Bagah: Yeah. And I really love the fact that you guys are actually went out and gave up demos of the actual product to real people. Yeah, like I said, you'd launch a product, your friends, family, by eating. You got something, but you usually get completely different feedback sometimes when you actually take out the real people. So that's really amazing that you guys are doing it and still doing it to this day. So that's awesome.

Hugh Thomas: Yeah, that's important.

Arri Bagah: Yeah, and other obviously, your when you started, you were hustling a lot. Mean some of you probably still are. So what are there like any routines or things that you do that help you really get to where you are today?

Hugh Thomas: I mean, by no means any sort of, like, role model of finished off. So I think if anything, going backwards on many of my habits and this year has been tough. I think this year has been tough for everyone to keep keep our habits and keep good practice. I think for me personally, working out has become a real important thing. And if I don't do it, which often I don't want to, pretty much every day my mood is totally different. And when you have when you're a leader and you have to motivate a team of people, you have to stay positive and you have to stay at least in control of your emotions. And I don't always get that right. And I think that's something I've learned recently, is, you know, building that building a foundation is like looking after yourself is important. And many times during this journey, I've not looked after myself well enough. What they say on the airplane is that you put your mask on before you help others. Yeah, I just haven't I haven't done that enough at certain points. But that's the one thing, I guess, looking after yourself, sleeping, eating, exercising, it sounds cliche, but generally, you know, a year if you can get away with it, two years, maybe you can get away with it. Year three or four or five, it catches up with you. However old you are. And so I've noticed that happen. And then the other big thing to me is just to having a to do list process and having that having a system where your things in your head are captured on a piece of paper. For me, it's paper I've tried using Knowshon everything, layaways. I get the most out of me when I have the pen in my hand. And it's also almost like my brain connected with my hand and just getting out of my head. You know, you get everything on your mind, out of your head onto a piece of paper, and then you can prioritize what the most important things are. I'd say that's almost the number one thing for me as being, you know, there's so many ideas. I've so many ideas, almost too many sometimes just to get them on a piece of paper. So, you know, they're captured somewhere. They're not going anywhere. You've not lost the idea. You're not relying on your memory. I think that's been a big thing for me, certainly early on. And now in terms of just. Write everything down, taking the top five things and then doing the top five things, and it is as simple as that, that sounds simple, but it's hard to do right. And a lot of ruthless prioritization. But let's say those two things and, you know, starting today by writing a to do list after I've worked out those days generally go well, the days where I don't want to do list and don't work out very badly. So, yeah. How blessed both of the good ones generally if I can.

Arri Bagah: Yeah. I feel the same way too. Like I've tried like, like Knowshon to do is my project management tool. I always like writing it down in a notebook and actually crossing it out like always. Like always.

Hugh Thomas: I'm glad you said the crossing out thing. That's, that's the key. Right. Too many people don't cross that stuff off the list. Right. It's the most satisfying thing when you go through and you've seen you've actually done some stuff, too. Right. I'm glad you said that so well.

Arri Bagah: Hugh, thanks for being in podcast. How can people find you an ugly drink?

Hugh Thomas: Yeah, no, I appreciate your inviting me on. I'm ugly here. As you say, if you search that, you find me on any pop and probably feel free to reach out to me. I generally will try. And, you know, like I said in the beginning, we had a lot of help. We still have a lot of help up the ladder. I'm always willing to help other people to answer questions. I'm on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, probably take talk somewhere about I definitely won't be checking, but if you want to. And then ugly drinks is the same on all of those platforms. If you tweet the team or if you email hello, how many drinks, dot com generally the stuff will, you know, get an answer very quickly and very helpful team. If you guys are free drinks, go, come and use ugly. You in caps may be located work too. You get a very nice discount for listening as well. I probably will get in trouble for giving my throat out, but that's a good one. So if anybody wants to pick up a case or try to you think about know by one of the social media, as I just mentioned,

Arri Bagah: Some of those links in the description and definitely appreciate that discount code. Yeah. So if you're listening on iTunes or Spotify, I still have one more question for you here. So head over to YouTube. The section is going to be on the on YouTube. Thanks for checking out this episode of the Personal Maskew podcast. If you're listening on iTunes or Spotify, please follow this podcast and give us a five star review. And as always, thanks again for listening to another episode of the Personal Machree podcast.