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MVF Events: The Obstacle Is the Way - An Ugly Drinks Start Up Story

Co-CEO and Co-Founder of ‘Ugly Drinks’, Hugh Thomas, joined us to talk about his rollercoaster start-up journey which was greatly influenced by Ryan Holiday’s book, ‘The Obstacle Is the Way’. Holiday’s philosophy encouraged Thomas to use the disasters the company faced in the early days as opportunities to transform the business into the success it is today.

Fed up with a market saturated by sugar-loaded drinks which consistently over promised and under delivered, Thomas and Co-Founder Joe Benn decided to create a unique brand of ‘Ugly Drinks’ which are 100% natural and sugar free. Initially, the idea was to compete with still, flavoured water which, despite looking healthy is actually full of artificial sweeteners. However, shortly after Thomas and Benn had quit their jobs, made 40,000 bottles of their new product, placed it with high end retailers and even hired four interns, disaster struck.

On the Friday of the team’s first week they received information that all 40,000 bottles had turned cloudy and were no longer suitable for sale. The next sixth months were vital - the team needed to change this failure into a success. They worked together tirelessly to keep money coming into the business and with patience and hard work, began to see the obstacles they faced as catalysts for creative change. Their unwaveringly positive team mentality and refusal to give up meant that sixth months later they relaunched with a fizzy, clear version of the drink which is now available in a number of stores.

Many at MVF were inspired by Thomas’s resilience and positive mindset, and have since adopted this approach when working on new projects. Rachel Thompson who attended the talk said: “Hugh’s openness and honesty was so refreshing, and since the talk I have felt less afraid of failure. I’m more confident about trying new things and have learnt valuable lessons about having the courage to adopt this trial and error process.”

Senior Recruiter, Lexie Newnham also commented: “Hugh mentioned that the positivity and can-do attitude of his team was vital in making his startup a success. We recognise a lot of this from when MVF was starting out and it was so great to hear him speak about the importance of teamwork because that is something we really champion here too.”

It is clear that the road to success is not always easy, but thanks to Thomas and Benn’s story, MVF staff were given the message to be less afraid of failure, to take risks and to follow through, even in the face of adversity - a pretty beautiful message from Ugly Drinks!

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