“I think entrepreneurs don’t really want their kids to be entrepreneurs; they want them to have proper jobs”
“No one is interested in margarine. It’s a product with zero consumer interest”
“It was a hell of a rollercoaster on the way, I have to say.”
“There was a fabulous bomb au chocolat which really
smelt, tasted and looked delicious. I thought, if I could wrap
that up in a brand, that would be a nice business.”
“The second moment, the defining moment when I decided to start the business was when I was in a chairlift in France, skiing.”
“I think one of the key qualities of entrepreneurship is resilience and optimism – in equal measures”
“I think we all work on a debit-credit type mentality. We go down the gym for an hour, we’ve earned some credits, let’s go and binge on some GÜ for the reward.”
“I launched GÜ at the start of a heat wave, which was not a smart decision. I remember the buyers phoning me up and saying ‘James we’re throwing more away than we’re selling, you literally have a couple of weeks and then you’re out’. There were a lot of sleepless nights at the start.”
“I am not a chef myself – but I know what tastes good”
“I really like the area of coconut dairy products… If you have to survive on one food, just one food, choose a coconut because you can actually survive on a coconut for a month.”
Born in Yorkshire in 1965, James was educated at Uppingham School before studying Economics at Durham University from 1985 to 1988.
At Durham, James set up his first business, a Direct sales shoes, sourcing from quality UK manufacturers and selling on dealing floors in the City of London.
After leaving university, James joined the graduate programme at strategy consultants, Arthur D. Little, where he stayed for two years, working in Europe, US and the Middle East. He enjoyed consulting and learnt about the key drivers to a successful business, but wanted to get closer to the coal-face.
James spent the next nine years in the food industry working for both Safeway and St Ivel, where he learnt about Sales and Marketing and running businesses. With St Ivel he moved to Belgium and became a convert to Belgian gastronomy and, as he says, ‘went native on the chocolate front’. It was in Brussels that the seed was sown for his UK chocolate venture.
He created Gü Chocolate Puds – a brand which bathes in chocolate indulgence. Gü was well received by the supermarkets, launching first in Sainsburys and Waitrose with the others following apace.
10 years on Gü is one of the fastest growing food companies in UK and is credited with revolutionising the quality of desserts. It has offices in London and Paris, selling in UK, France, Germany, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Holland and Belgium. In the process, James realised his chocolate dream of selling soufflés to the French and chocolate to the Belgians.
James sold the business in 2010 to Noble Foods in 2011. Over the last year James has developed his media interests, giving speeches on entrepreneurship and also is a presenter for a Sky show “Cooks to Market” which is came out in UK in September 2012. James now coaches businesses on brand development and entrepreneurship.