Wednesday, 29 April 2009

An Innocent way to run a business

At The Innovation Beehive we love reading. We also love really innovative companies - and we love smoothies.

Imagine our excitement when we came across "Innocent - our story and come things we've learned"? We insist you go out and buy it right now.

But in case you don't, here is a brief summary:

1) What's the big idea? Make sure you identify an unmet need. If you can't explain it to your granny then it probably won't work. If you can't be bothered to do a business plan once you get home from your day job, then you are not excited about it and no one else will be either.

2) Start small but dream big. Innocent started when three mates sold smoothies at a The Parsons Green Jazz festival. The Irish business started in a shed. Small is beautiful. But have big ambitions.

3) Keep on keeping on - the whole process of starting up is like chipping away at a stone, it will take you longer than you think, you should never accept 'NO' and never, ever give in.

4)Know what you care about. Innocent wanted to make food that was nutritious, healthy and employ people in a work place that was fun to be in. This can be summarised in the simple Purpose "Make food good", which is delivered through the five Values of:

5) It's all about the people. Know who you want, find them, communicate with them and make it fun (we liked this chapter so much we are going to devote a whole blog to it next time).

6) Have a simple marketing strategy:
- make a promise ("healthy") and stick to it
- chose a great name (Innocent won the day over the first incarnation of Fast Tractor)
- look good (simple packaging that has a tone of voice appropriate for the brand)
- be seen in the right places (Innocent deliberately focused on what they called 'Beacon Outlets' such as the trendy Fresh and Wild. Rubbing shoulders with these Beacon Outlet's gave Innocent kudos that got them into other outlets)
- get yourself in the papers (do silly stuff to get PR - Richard Branson anyone?)
-give it away (if you go to Fruit Towers you can help yourself to the fridge. I urge you to go. I have and came away with a big bagful of lovely stuff)
-go digital. Sign up for the great newsletter. Miles better and funnier than most of the crap sent to you by other companies.

7) Take care of the detail. Think how much work goes into the detail at Innocent. Think of the vans, the "enjoy by" (not use by) on the label, the communication on the pack, it goes on on and on and is all deliberate

8) Behave yourself. Stay true to who you are, be sustainable, be resource efficient and share the profits

9)Listen up. Innocent are constantly engaging in conversations with their drinkers (not consumers). Why not call up the Banana phone and try it? Or pop over to Fruit Towers and get a free guided tour? Or sign up for the blog? Or attend the Fruitstock festival? Or enter in the ballot to attend the AGM? By engaging with their people, they constantly get feedback and make sure they are delivering what their drinkers (and with Vegpots, now eaters) want.

It remains to be seen what will happen now they have sold at 30% share to Coke, but if they keep this up, I think they will continue on the road to success. They sum it up beautifully when they say the drinkers "make our business possible. Without our drinkers, we'd just have a very expensive hobby and a large pile of fruit out the back". We, at The Innovation Beehive, will drink to that.

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