12 Questions with Our Founder – Vikesh Kotecha
- Written by Alicia Drewnicki
- November 18, 2019
- 5 min read
If you’ve ever been curious to learn more about ‘the man behind the brand’, then now’s your chance. Meet Vikesh Kotecha – our founder. We asked him 12 burning questions…here’s what he said:
1) Where did the inspiration for The Honestly Good Smoothie Co. come from?
It was from my own personal experience. Back in late 2015, I was suffering from repeated digestive trouble, but refused to take any medication for my symptoms. Instead, I turned to smoothies as a convenient way to increase my fibre intake. However, I quickly found those ready-to-drink smoothies I was buying were full of pasteurised apple juice, with very little fibre or nutritional value. I ended up blending my own, but it wouldn’t have lasted more than a week had it not been for Mum who kindly stepped in to prepare them for me each morning. I woke up to six more blissful months of freshly prepared smoothies (I had just moved back home, so was being rather spoilt) when my Mum went on holiday with a friend – unwilling to chop and peel ingredients myself, and unable to find anyone offering high quality organic ingredients, in a convenient way, I decided to hand in my notice and create my own.
2) Think back to when you first started the business, what do you know now that you wish you knew then?
That I would be chopping and peeling far more ingredients for smoothies in the pursuit of a more convenient alternative, that I should have just stuck to doing my own! Jokes aside, I’ve learnt that everything just takes SOO much longer than you expect, prepare for it! Starting a business, you’re naturally an optimist, but this shouldn’t extend to your Outlook diary!
3) How did you come up with the name for the brand? Were there any other close contenders?
Anyone that’s spent enough time around me, has probably heard me say I’m about as creative as a plank of wood. So when it came to finding a name, I knew I needed help. Right from the very early days, I was crystal clear on what I wanted us to stand for, the vision and the purpose, so I went about finding someone who could help translate those thoughts into a brand. After much deliberation, we boiled it down to three (Smoothical, Smoothily & The Honestly Good Smoothie Co). I had been set on the idea of a one word brand name, but we decided to leave it to the crowd; Blake and I spent a day on the streets outside Highbury & Islington station, with big boards of names & logos, along with trays of smoothies, asking people what they thought. By the end of the day, we had a clear winner (probably my least favourite at the time): The Honestly Good Smoothie Co. Needless to say, 3 years on I couldn’t think of a more fitting name, thank you, lovely people of Islington 😊
4) What were you doing before you started The Honestly Good Smoothie Co?
Before THGSC, I was working in recruitment, recruiting architects for construction companies and into practice. When I started out in the job, I don’t think I’d ever even met an architect, so it was a steep learning curve. I remember being handed a lengthy “handbook” to Architecture on my first day, with all the lingo, construction steps etc. and never got past the first paragraph. Instead, I decided to learn on the job, by picking up the phone and speaking to people. I learnt an awful lot during those days in recruitment, and it seems like I followed a similar pattern with The Honestly Good Smoothie Co, having never peeled a mango before we started (don’t worry, I gained lots of experience FAST on that front).
5) Who would you describe as your hero/motivation and why?
It would have to be Akala, (rapper, journalist, author, and activist). I think he has a great way of addressing politically awkward subjects publicly, in a polite and respectful manner. He challenges stereotypes and the development of his lyrics from the early days to more recent work reflects changes in his perspective over time, providing inspiration for many from all walks of life to be open-minded, willing to learn and develop!
6) Have you got any funny stories from your time at Honestly Good so far?
So many! I could tell you about the time we blew the electricity for the entire field at the Southend Triathlon, or when I fell through the wall of our stand at Foodies Festival (and managed to patch the whole thing up with Sellotape and posters so no one saw 😉), but there’s one that I just gotta tell. We were really up against it, and needed to prepare lots of smoothie kits for customers to go out that weekend. Milesh had sprained his ankle, but had come in on crutches (what a sight it was, it’s -2 degrees in the pack room, and he had his foot up on a stool while packing bananas and cucumbers into pouches 😂). We were there from 6am till late. My parents had been left to pick mint leaves off their stalks in the kitchen (a truly painstaking process for 12 consecutive hours), and begin blanching and freezing the leaves. I arrived back home at around 9.30pm and they were delighted they’d managed to get everything into the blast freezer, only for me to open the door and find the freezer wasn’t on!
7) Have you got any advice for anyone else thinking about deciding to launch a food-tech startup?
Be clear on why you’re doing it – and keep this front of mind, all the time. This doesn’t mean be stubborn, the business model and product could completely change, I mean are you doing it to earn lots of money, prove a point to someone (or yourself), or is it just a stop-gap because you don’t know what else to do with yourself? If you’re not super clear on this, it’s easy to get side-tracked or demotivated.
8) How do you maintain a work-life balance when also running a startup? Is it possible?!
Startups = Work = Life!
9) What do you enjoy most about running your own business?
The ability to choose who you work with; from your rockstar team to those oh-so passionate suppliers and partners.
10) What have been the biggest surprises (and challenges) when it comes to running a start-up?
Just how many people want you to do well! The goodwill, encouragement and support that everyone provides is immense, and totally took me by surprise. The cynic in me would say this presents its own challenge; finding a balance of people to surround yourself with that are passionate and believe in the same vision VS. those that will give you the truth / reality check when it’s needed.
11) What made you decide to create organic smoothies and put sustainability at the heart of the business?
In the years before The Honestly Good Smoothie Co. I went on my own journey of discovery of all things food. I began to question everything I ate; where was it coming from, why and how? As I discovered more, I was disappointed with what I learnt, and that there was so little information available (in an age of abundance, thanks to Google 😉).
In their attempts to accommodate my millennial diet, my parents would often bring home all types of “healthy” food they would spot on supermarket shelves. I would find myself endlessly reading ingredient labels packed full of unnecessary additives, preservatives and cheap fillers, so there was no doubt in my mind when the idea for THGSC was born that we were going to create a brand consumers could trust, quite simply for doing what everyone should be doing; just providing honestly good food. This, coupled with the feeling that businesses often get away with things that we as consumers perhaps wouldn’t, has set me on a mission to prove that there needn’t be a trade-off between sustainability and profitability, and being a Soil Association Certified Organic company is just a small part of this (find out more about this here)
12) What are your hopes for the business for the next 12 months?
We’ve been listening to and learning from our customers intently, and have continued to iterate our products and service to continually improve. I’m delighted to say we’ll be rolling out numerous updates which include new (re-usable) packaging, new web functionality (including personalised plans) and new recipes over the coming months, and hope these changes are well received! We’ve also recently made the move to our first commercial premises (an upgrade from my parent’s kitchen in our family home) so I’m really keen to challenge the new production capacity we have, and continue to grow!