Happy Global Entrepreneurship Week! To celebrate GEW 2018 we are highlighting some brilliant entrepreneurs and their journeys starting with Paddy Willis! As well as being a co-founder and director of Grocery Accelerator, he has been involved in a range of grocery and tech start-ups, as an advisor, mentor, CEO and/or investor. Paddy was a co-founder of Plum Baby, the world’s first premium baby food in the ambient sector. He subsequently built the incubator Bathtub 2 Boardroom into one of London’s most respected centres for start-up support for entrepreneurs from all manner of sectors and backgrounds.
Tell us about yourself and experience as an entrepreneur.
I started working in Start-ups when they were still known as New Businesses – yes, I’m THAT old! My brother and I ran a fine-art publishing company and I dabbled in various enterprises before taking a “real job” when I became a parent. Twelve years later Susie and I launched Plum Baby in 2006 and I quit my day job in Telecoms. We sold Plum to Darwin PE in 2010 for £10m and the rest is, as they say….
Why did you choose to co-found a food and drink accelerator?
People would often contact me to say “so and so said I should talk to you about how to launch my food business” and everyone was starting from almost zero understanding of the retail industry, as we did with Plum. I was an investor in a digital start-up that went through a tech accelerator in 2013 and I thought, why is nobody doing this for food businesses? When I met Rob, my co-founder, he shared the same vision and so we started GA in 2014.
What food businesses are exciting you right now?
This is such an exciting time for the start-up scene, with so many people entering the market with great products. The whole drive for healthier eating is encouraging great innovation from people not prepared to compromise on taste or availability, no matter their chosen diet. I’m increasingly “flexitarian” in my personal approach to consumption, so I’m excited by the brands shaking-up both the plant-based and free-from sector.
What excites you about what you do?
I love sharing my experience and helping others to navigate their own start-up journey.
What are your key tips for small food and drink brands?
Hold on to your passion, embrace failure, understand your consumer, be persistent and don’t forget to breathe!