Shaper: John Stapleton

Show aired on 11th July 2015


John Stapleton is an entrepreneur, business leader, CEO & Non-Executive Director with over 25 years’ experience in creating and building consumer brands in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector in both the UK and the United States. A founder of three successful start-ups, he co-founded the New Covent Garden Soup Co Ltd in 1989, which pioneered and established the fresh soup category in the UK. In 1998 he moved to San Francisco, where he co-founded Glencoe Inc., bringing the fresh soup concept to the United States. On returning to live in Europe in 2003, John established a consumer food consultancy and has worked with a number of clients across the FMCG sector in the UK, US, Germany, Belgium and the Czech Republic. He has worked with a wide range of companies including large corporations (e.g. Unilever-Bestfoods North America) as well as numerous start-up and growth-phase businesses.

In 2005, John co-founded Little Dish which supplies fresh, natural foods for children over one year. Little Dish can be found in all national UK high street retailers and is the dominant brand in chilled toddler food, with a 69% market share.

John is a graduate of UCD (Industrial Microbiology); Reading University (Food Science); The University of Westminster (Business Administration and Finance) and holds a marketing qualification from the Chartered Institute of Marketing (UK). He lives with his wife in Munich, Germany and speaks fluent German.

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One thing I was sure about was that I didn’t want to be a scientist in the food industry, you know, with a white coat. I wanted to do something exciting and different.

Back in ’87 we were ignorant, and I think sometimes that’s a big advantage. Ignorance is bliss.

We wanted to create a soup that tasted, funnily enough, of the ingredients you put into it.

We launched a product called Borscht, it didn’t sell, but what the hell, we got lots of mileage and PR coverage out of it.

It’s difficult to replicate the exciting white knuckle rides and challenges of the first years and inevitably the business momentum tapers back slightly.

Bring in experts in different areas otherwise you are limiting the growth and potential of your business.

It’s great when you get the opportunity to excel at something and you put the effort in.

A lot of what you learn as a kid in your home environment and at school is of great relevance to how you’re going to tackle problems and deal with adversity, which is something that happens in the entrepreneurial world all the time.

It’s not about the problem, it’s about how you react to the problem. It’s not about the fact that it’s unfair, because life is unfair.

I really like being able to speak to different entrepreneurs and inspire people to follow their dreams and do more than they think they can do with their businesses.