Shaper: Amelia Harvey

Show aired on 24th February 2018

Transcript

Elliot Moss
The fantastically happy sound of Snarky Puppy featuring Magda Giannikou, hope I said that right, Amour t’es la. Good morning this is Jazz Shapers, I’m Elliot Moss. Thank you very much for joining. Jazz Shapers is the place where you can hear the very best of the people shaping the world of jazz, blues and soul and right alongside them I’m very lucky because I bring someone in who is shaping the world of business otherwise known as a Business Shaper. My Business Shaper today I am very pleased to tell you is Amelia Harvey and Amelia is the Co-Founder and Director at the Collective UK and they make amazing yogurts and related stuff, tasty, delicious, organic and all the rest of it. You’re going to be hearing all about exactly what that’s like if you haven’t already tasted her wares. In addition to hearing from Amelia you’ll also be hearing from our programme partners at Mishcon de Reya some words of advice for your business and then we’ve got the music and it’s a great mix today; Bill Withers, Wes Montgomery and this from Madeleine Peyroux.

That was Madeleine Peyroux with Everything I do Gonh Be Funky. I sincerely hope so. Amelia Harvey is my Business Shaper today as I said earlier she is the Co-Founder and Director at the Collective UK. If you haven’t seen them on lovely shelves in certain supermarkets they are the people that I am holding on right now that make gourmet live yogurts and probably other things as well. Amelia, hello.

Amelia Harvey
Good morning.

Elliot Moss
Good morning and thank you so much for joining and for bringing may I say and this is the best bit. You brought me food. When people bring me food I’m always happy everything goes well from there, I’ve got strawberry in front me – Sassy strawberry, corker raspberry flavour yogurt, passionfruit yogurt and even little what are they called sachets, what do you call them?

Amelia Harvey
Pro-yo pouches.

Elliot Moss
Pouches, right these are pouches which remind me of when the kids were little but I know adults like them too and I’ve actually, I must admit I’ve already consumed a high protein yogurt coconut with honey and vanilla, that’s gone. Amelia tell me a little bit about how you came to set up this business with your now unfortunately passed away partner Mike back in 2011, just tell me a little bit about the history of it.

Amelia Harvey
Yeah so I’ve been in the food industry for a long time, I started my career in Kelloggs and had you know great grounding from some really big, big businesses early on so from Kelloggs I went to L’Oréal and learnt so much from those businesses, very well run, very well respected businesses and then after that I just had this yearning to go into something a bit smaller, something more entrepreneurial. My father has always had his own businesses so I think there was something inside of me that wanted to be more at the coal face of business and I discovered a small brand at the time called Gű Chocolate Puds which has gone on to be you know a fantastic well known household name and producing amazing products, challenging that category and…

Elliot Moss
And James, how do you say his last name?

Amelia Harvey
James Averdieck.

Elliot Moss
Averdieck it was always hard and James was here on this programme a few years ago funnily enough talking about his new venture.

Amelia Harvey
Yes so he’s also in yogurts as well so he’s got a non-dairy yogurt so we’re still great friends and that’s what you know been, is great about this journey of having a network of people around. So at Gű it was a very small business when we started, very small team and over a five year period built it into you know, a thirty five million pound brand operating both in the UK within Europe and then latterly around the world and at that point I knew that I wanted then to start something myself and Mike and I were at Gű. He was the Managing Director at the time and we were looking whether we created something ourselves or we took something on but we knew we were seeing emerging what are known as challenger brands really shaking up different aisles in the supermarkets and we’d been looking at yogurts and thinking well this is a category that’s been around for years and it’s got products, a lot of, you know there’s 90% of people eat yogurts in the UK and it can sometimes be more of a commoditised eat and we knew that there was this big opportunity to do something really different and tasty. Similarly to what Gű did in the chocolate pudding aisle and there was a lot of messages about functionality in the aisles and it was quite, you know a bit more sterile and more of a kind of something that you would eat as a topper and we just knew that we could do something a bit different and we met Ofer and Angus who are two very talented Chefs who had started the Collective in New Zealand in 2009. It went very very well for the guys there and they were looking to expand the brand into other countries and when we met them and saw the product and saw the packaging and the beautiful iconic logo and the taste of it we just knew that this was something that we could work with both in the UK and Europe and really have fun in shaking up the yogurt category and making it something where people take a bit of time out and enjoy, you’ve just been tucking into some and it’s just the emotional reaction that you get from eating a yogurt has been one of the highlights of the journey just seeing how people interact with our products.

Elliot Moss
And who would have thought one would have an emotional reaction to a yogurt.

Amelia Harvey
Exactly.

Elliot Moss
But you saw it here earlier and it must be true. Stay with me for much more about the journey that Amelia has been on as the Co-Founder and Director at the Collective UK. Time for some more music right now it’s Bill Withers with Ain’t No Sunshine.

The iconic Bill Withers with Ain’t No Sunshine. Amelia Harvey is my Business Shaper today talking about emotional reactions to yogurt and other things that one wouldn’t normally hear anywhere. She is the Co-Founder and Director at the Collective UK and we were talking about that desire of yours to run your own show as it were. The fact that you met these Chefs Angus and Ofer who are the guys behind the Collective in New Zealand. When you set the business up here in 2011 obviously you felt like you had chips in the bank in terms of experience. You’d done the Kelloggs thing, you’d done the L’Oréal thing, you’d done a more entrepreneurial thing with Gű. Were there any gaps in your head, was there any nervousness about your own ability to pull this off and actually to run your own business?

Amelia Harvey
I think because Mike and I were so close to the coal face really at Gű we felt like we’d done that journey and I think we went in, one of the things that we did with the yogurts is we went to a couple of the supermarkets and our mates in there and said do you believe in this with us, try the products, this is our vision and they absolutely got it and went we can so see the gap for this, go away and work on it and come back when you’re ready and that only took three months we found an amazing manufacturing partner. So from the January of signing the joint venture with Ofer and Angus we hit the shelves in June in Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Ocado and…

Elliot Moss
And this was which year? This is 2011?

Amelia Harvey
This is 2011 and I often get asked for advice by people of how did you get into the supermarkets and we were very lucky in the fact that we had relationships with the buyers within the chilled area and I think one of the things that we went into with confidence is that we knew that we could take that learning and really launch into the supermarkets very quickly but there were so many teething problems along the way of getting the layers right in the yogurt, you can see the different layers through the tub. We were shooting the compotes in at certain angles to make sure that people could see, I mean there was all sorts that we were doing and I remember those times so fondly that Mike and I were just sitting at two desks with a telephone and laptops and we just had to create something from absolute scratch and I loved that time and I look back on it so fondly and compared to where we are now and I’d probably do it again it’s just so fun starting up something from nothing.

Elliot Moss
And those two of you sitting there in your desks opposite each other with the phones and the laptops and all that who would do what? How did you divide and conquer?

Amelia Harvey
Well it’s funny because we saw the world the same way so we both had sales backgrounds we divided… he’s from Leeds and lived in the Lake District so he took on the northern accounts and he said that I had all the glamorous southern accounts so at the time we divided and conquered everything. He wasn’t loving the detail on the spreadsheets and new line forms and some of the admin elements and I’m absolutely fine to do that so we just worked so, so well together and there was just this blurred line and talk to people that have Co-Founders and you know sometimes you talk about having this absolutely segregated world but it doesn’t work like that in reality you need to get on as people you need to have ways of working. If you know things are going wrong that you know how to work through but there’s always a blurred line and it was just so great to share the journey with him.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for much more from my guest Amelia Harvey, she’s the Co-Founder and Director at the Collective in the UK. That’s coming up in a couple of minutes but before that some words of wisdom and we’ve already been hearing quite a few from Amelia but some words of wisdom from our programme partners for your burgeoning business. That’s from the people at Mishcon De Reya.

This is Jazz Shapers and every Saturday from 9.00 o’clock you get to hear me, Elliot Moss talking to someone who is shaping the world of business, someone doing something pretty extraordinary and re-inventing the way that we might view a category or a product or an experience. If you’ve missed any of the previous and now there are about three hundred of them or so guests, go into iTunes put in the words ‘Jazz’ and ‘Shapers’. CityAM.com and FT.com are also destinations that you can check out. Amelia Harvey is my Business Shaper today, Co-Founder and Director at the Collective re-inventing the way we feel about yogurts and why not, it’s about time isn’t Amelia that we did that, or you did that. You talked about this sort of seemingly seamless journey from three months after setting up a business you were able to get your product into Sainsburys, into Waitrose and into Ocado I think you said. Most people would say ‘how did you do that these are big scary retailers’ and that’s the general urban myth out there and there’s probably some truth in it as well. Do you think your business would have been as successful if you weren’t from a sales background because people come at this from products, they come at it from marketing but you know how to sell and you know how to sell into retailers? Did that make the crucial difference?

Amelia Harvey
I think it is a really good point and you often look at food brands that are created by passionate foodies where the product is at the heart of everything they do and that’s just so important. In that you have to know how the retailers work and what I say to people is when you go in to see a retailer and you might have an hour slot don’t spend that whole hour drumming on about your products. Try and spend 90% of that time finding out about their business, how they think, the way they want to shape the category and by learning that information you can then work out how does your product fit within that. You can be so passionate about your product and it makes you want to talk and talk and talk about it but you have to know what’s in their head because they’re the ones that are making the decisions on the shelves and if you’ve got you know a cutting edge product or a product that’s shaking things up then there’s definitely a place for it within the category but you need to be able to demonstrate what’s it going to do for that buyer, what’s it going to do for the consumer that’s buying the product within that category. So we spend a lot of time trying to find out what’s in our buyers heads and how can we help them revolutionise the yogurt category going forwards and within that obviously our products play a part in that.

Elliot Moss
In the sales world men, historically it’s been a very male dominated place, as a woman in that world have you ever experienced a kind of prejudice that we’re hearing about now in other industries?

Amelia Harvey
No not really and I think with the supermarkets that we work with there’s a real blend of men and women within it. I think if you think about maybe the sales side or the manufacturing part there’s probably more of a percentage of men to women but if you think about the retail partners there’s so many women within that and I haven’t ever come across any form of kind of discrimination or anything on that side so it is less usual for women to be I guess Sales Directors but…

Elliot Moss
And as an entrepreneur anything at all I mean I’ve met on this programme I think probably about 50% women, 50% men doesn’t seem to make any difference at all to how a business goes but having a Mike and an Amelia there was that a good balancing act at all, did it make no difference? Was the gender point irrelevant?

Amelia Harvey
I think it’s irrelevant. I think the entrepreneurial part is more about a passion and a belief for what you do and I think you know whoever you are it’s that passion and drive that drives it forward.

Elliot Moss
I mentioned earlier that Mike has unfortunately passed away, over two years ago now, and you talked wistfully about those early years and I imagine that’s partly you miss the fact there was just you two but also that it was him. How has it been since, how have you coped in the business and for you personally?

Amelia Harvey
It was a massive shock, he passed away from a cardiac arrest and he’s been such a big part of my life for over ten years, he was my mentor at Gű and we just saw the world the same way and he had so much of an influence on me but part of his character – he was a strong Leeds lad – was somebody that was so straight up, so passionate about what he did and the last thing that he would want was for me to sort of crumble after that it would be to push the business forward to drive through everything that we believed in. His lovely wife Sarah works with us in the business and has always done since day one. She deals with all of our customer care so she’s always talking to consumers about what they’re thinking about the yogurts. His children have all worked within the business, his brother very kindly stepped in and supported me on the sales side so it really does feel like that spirit’s alive. There’s pictures of Mike everywhere in the office and what we did is we, you know I took a few months to think well how do we do something really good going forward and Mike loved the plum flavour and he used to drum onto me and Fiona who develops all our products ‘I want to do a plum flavour’ and we launched plum about six months later and we gave all of our profits from plum to an amazing charity called Community Heartbeat which puts defibrillators into disused phone boxes all over the UK. What’s so tangible about this charity is you get to find out when the defibrillators are being used and you know the lives that they’re saving and cardiac arrests is you know it’s such, it’s something if there’s a defibrillator nearby people would generally be saved very, very quickly so we as a team put all of our energies into this charity and have been able to do something actionable in Mike’s memory.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for more from my Business Shaper today that’s Amelia Harvey, Co-Founder and Director at the Collective UK. Time for some more music this is Wes Montgomery with Tequila.

Wes Montgomery with Tequila which everybody knows I think even the people who have never heard it before go I think I’ve heard it before, they must have heard it in the background that’s one of those songs that everyone feels connected to. Amelia Harvey’s my Business Shaper today Co-Founder and Director at the Collective talking about yogurts which on the surface of it sounds, it’s such a simple thing isn’t it but as you said it was ripe for change and you guys have gone and done that. Right now your team is how big? How many people work in the business?

Amelia Harvey
We’ve got twenty five in the team.

Elliot Moss
And the main spread of what they do is a combination of what?

Amelia Harvey
So we’re an outsourced business so we don’t own our own manufacturing so the people in the office are teams of sales, marketing and product development and some finance resource as well and what’s interesting about our business is you would normally be able to decipher who those teams are and what they look like and you can walk into our office and it’s so seamless that you wouldn’t know who’s who and we’ve just moved into a shared office working environment called Huckletree in White City and we’re surrounded by three hundred people from so many different businesses from tech start-ups to fashion businesses. Lots of people starting things up for the first time and it’s been great for the team to be in an environment that’s so inspiring and is so fast paced and people doing lots of different things and I think it’s really accelerated that whole kind of entrepreneurial feel of the business.

Elliot Moss
You seem incredibly level headed Amelia in the sense that this is you know you’re six years in now to the business, you’ve grown it up I think it’s around fifteen million plus turnover business and that’s probably wrong and you’re going to tell me it’s much more.

Amelia Harvey
Twenty five million.

Elliot Moss
There you go so you never believe the stuff you get given but the funny thing about the numbers I’m always given is they’re always more which is nice so the public record says one thing and the reality is another. But it doesn’t feel like much would faze you. I mean how would your team describe you? Amelia the unfazeable Harvey.

Amelia Harvey
Yeah I’m quite level headed, extremely passionate about what we’re doing so I think they would say that I lead with passion and vigour and you know there’s no sort of wrong answer and we’re trying to solve problems and lead from the front. For doing this for so long there’s always bumps in the roads and that’s the one thing you can guarantee every week, there’s highs and there’s lows and the highs are so high and then some of the, I wouldn’t say the lows are as low as you know when you’re first starting out but you just know that they’re coming and you know that every day is going to be different but that’s part of I guess my addiction to business is just no two days are the same and you’re constantly solving problems, challenges, finding opportunities every single day and that’s my real, that’s why I love it so much.

Elliot Moss
And which is the bit you enjoy the most?

Amelia Harvey
With a team now of twenty five I’m really enjoying creating something bigger, something that’s long lasting, more of a legacy. Love the products, love the product development and the innovation. But really with the turnover of where we are at now it’s very important that the team are developing at pace and that we can maintain the same entrepreneurial nimble culture and nimble pace that we have been able to do that’s got us this far.

Elliot Moss
And the bit you hate? If there is one? Or the bit you just go I really don’t want to do that or do you manage to delegate that is what sneaky Co-Founders do?

Amelia Harvey
Yeah maybe I do love the detail, I love a P&L, I love looking at the numbers. Do I love reading pages and pages of legal contracts I would probably give somebody else to read it through and tell me what they’re saying but there’s nothing that I hate or dislike in it. I get frustrated that we cannot move as quickly as we can but that’s all part of the growing pains of a business.

Elliot Moss
My final chat with Amelia is coming up shortly and we’ll be playing a track from Dionne Warwick that’s just a moment.

Another classic that was Dionne Warwick with Walk On By. Happily chosen by Dom Tyerman, Producer here at Jazz Shapers for the last five years and it’s his last programme today. So I just want to thank him for all the fabulous production that he has put into the programme over many years – thank you Dom. He remains silent because that is the way he is. This is Jazz Shapers and Amelia Harvey is my Business Shaper and as you hopefully will be listening earlier will know she is the Co-Founder and Director at the Collective UK and they’re doing rather well. Not fifteen million but twenty five million turnover with twenty five people roughly that’s a nice … keep it going, twenty six people, twenty six million.

Amelia Harvey
That’s right.

Elliot Moss
What is your ambition for this business Amelia? Are you in it for the long haul or is it going to be a it hits X I’m out because I’ve got my whatever it is 10%, 10.71% and then I disappear into the hills. What do you think?

Amelia Harvey
We’re seven years in now and never have I felt more momentum and prospects for the future than I do now ironically because when you have the momentum and you can see what’s working and you know what consumers are looking for and how they’re changing and what we can provide them we have got a long list of opportunities, of products that we want to produce and part of the challenge now is actually deciding what we don’t do rather than what we do do. So we certainly see you know the world of dairy and the fact that we can really bring innovation and products that people really love there’s a world of opportunity so we’ve got really ambitious goals of where we want to take the business both UK/Europe, Australasia and there’s markets around the world that would love to indulge in the yogurt so there’s so many opportunities and we’re all so passionate about taking this business and building it for the future.

Elliot Moss
So if Unilever came along in three years with a billion you wouldn’t say yes?

Amelia Harvey
No.

Elliot Moss
I’m being cheeky of course you would, I would.

Amelia Harvey
For billion.

Elliot Moss
For a billion of course because that would be heavily overpriced.

Amelia Harvey
It would.

Elliot Moss
In terms of the money though on a serious side, does it motivate you? Do you think about what you earn or what you might get if X and Y happens? It doesn’t strike me you do?

Amelia Harvey
No I’ve always been driven to, I’ve always wanted my first car and then I wanted to buy my first property.

Elliot Moss
Nice boots.

Amelia Harvey
Nice boots that you are talking about.

Elliot Moss
Which they are, great boots if only you could see them, yeah. They’re fabulous.

Amelia Harvey
Chunky biker boots.

Elliot Moss
Chunky biker boots.

Amelia Harvey
So no for me it’s more about the passion of what I do and getting out of bed and doing that side of things you know obviously there’s nice things in life and nice food or clothes but it’s really not a driver it’s actually just making a difference and then having also the balance to be able to do things in the down time, have weekends with my son you know having time to sort of take out and let ideas come through.

Elliot Moss
How do you manage that actually because again one of the big things that’s now coming out is, I mean it has been coming out for a number of years but when you are a working mum and you’re running a business that’s hard I mean people always talk about… I had Nicola Horlick on this programme a few years ago. There is no way you can do it all. A woman can’t have it all if she’s a working mum. Is that true?

Amelia Harvey
It depends how you look at it. So I had my son who is now five in year one of the business and actually when he was a baby he was coming along to you know PR meetings and finance meetings I didn’t take a huge amount of time off but what its afforded me to be able to do is have a lot more flexibility so if he’s got sports day, I try and go and see him play football on a Friday afternoon and you can’t have it, but I don’t think anyone can have it all you know mums that are with their children day in day out and they also want an element of work so there’s always some form of guilt no matter which way you look at it. I’ve got great support around me, I have a great au pair and I leave the office you know rigidly about 5.30 so I’m home for supper time and bath time and reading and then I’ll work a bit in the evenings if I have to top up and I think with having New Zealand on the other side of the world there’s often you know night calls and early mornings but it’s about having that balance and I want the team to have that balance.

Elliot Moss
And just before I ask your song choice just one last question, what advice would you give to a young person thinking about setting up a business right now in 2018. What would be the most important thing you would tell them?

Amelia Harvey
I think the UK is set up to be able to you know support businesses and to support entrepreneurs so if you’ve got something that you’re truly passionate about and you know that it’s making a difference and it’s truly different in some way, shape or form to whatever it is that’s already there and you’ve got that passion and desire to do it then go for it but what I would say is it’s all consuming. Luke Johnson writes a lot about this in his Sunday Times column it is twenty four hours a day and you’ve got to be able to be happy that that’s consuming your brain for a long, long period of time and there’s pros and cons to it but if you truly believe in it and you truly have that drive and tenacity than anyone can really achieve anything.

Elliot Moss
Amelia thank you it’s been really talking to you. Just before I let you go what’s your song choice and why have you chosen it?

Amelia Harvey
So I’ve chosen a song called The Nod and it’s by a New Zealand band so going back to our New Zealand roots called Fat Freddy’s Drop and I just love the start of it and the passion about it and it’s also talking about cooking up something in the kitchen which is what we’re doing every day.

Elliot Moss
Here it is just for you.

That was Fat Freddy’s Drop, what a great name, from The Nod the song choice of my Business Shaper today Amelia Harvey. Really clear that she had an opportunity to impose a vision on the category of yogurts and she’s gone and done that. The understanding that relationships were critical if she was going to actually make the sale in terms of talking to the big retailers and a real sense of unflappability someone who is just going to be level headed whatever the weather. Really, really good stuff. I’m Elliot Moss and you’ve been listening to Jazz Shapers. I really do hope you enjoyed the programme and if you do join me again next Saturday at 9.00 am for another edition. Meanwhile stay with us here on Jazz FM for a lot more brilliant jazz, blues and soul.

Amelia Harvey
Amelia Harvey, co-founder of The Collective UK, a gourmet yoghurt brand, studied at Glasgow Calendonia University, where she gained a 2:1 in Marketing and Communication. After graduating in 2001, Amelia was a Regional Account Manager at Kellogg Company, quickly followed by role of Senior National Account Manager at L’Oreal in 2003, and finally a Sales Director at Gü Chocolate Puds in 2003. Commenting on her time spent at Kellogg’s and L’Oreal, Amelia has said that she gained “great blue chip training”, but that she always had a yearning to run her own business.

Amelia founded The Collective UK in 2011. Beginning as a joint venture with the original New Zealand-based company, The Collective UK has now grown into a thriving business with annual sales of more than €33m and a vast range of dairy products.

Follow Amelia on Twitter @amelia_a_harvey.

Listen live at 9am Saturday.

“From Kelloggs I went to L’Oréal and learnt so much. Very well run, very well respected businesses, and then after that I just had this yearning to go into something a bit smaller, something more entrepreneurial.”

“At Gű it was a very small business when we started, very small team, but over a five year period it built into a thirty five million pound brand operating both in the UK and Europe.”

“90% of people eat yoghurts in the UK and it can sometimes be more of a commoditised eat. We knew that there was this big opportunity to do something really different and tasty.”

“We saw the packaging, the beautiful iconic logo and the taste – we just knew that this was something that we could work with both in the UK and Europe and really have fun in shaking up the yoghurt category.”

“The emotional reaction that you get from eating a yoghurt has been one of the highlights of the journey, just seeing how people interact with our products.”

“Mike and I were sitting at two desks with a telephone and laptops and we had to create something from absolute scratch and I loved that time. I look back on it fondly. I’d probably do it again, it’s just so fun starting up something from nothing.”

“If you’ve got a cutting edge product that’s shaking things up then there’s definitely a place for it, but you need to be able to demonstrate what it’s going to do for a buyer and what it’s going to do for the end consumer that is purchasing the product.”

“I think the entrepreneurialism is more about a passion and a belief for what you do.”

“To do something actionable in Mike’s memory we raised over thirty five thousand pounds for charity Community Heartbeat, and we’ve been able to put nearly twenty five defibrillators into disused phone boxes.”

“There’s always bumps in the roads and that’s the one thing you can guarantee every week, there’s highs and there’s lows. I guess my addiction to business is no two days are the same and you’re constantly solving problems, challenges, finding opportunities every single day. That’s why I love it so much.”