Name(s): Jessica Ellen Titcumb
Where’s home? Central London
Profession: CEO/Founder/Exhausted twenty nine year old
Company Name: Twisted Halo
Did you go to university?
Yes. I studied at St Andrews University in Scotland. Such a beautiful place but very remote, I used to escape to Edinburgh all the time! Even at Uni I couldn’t wait to start working so I had a full time marketing job. My manager was fantastic and employed me full time but let me duck in and out for lectures and tutorials. Kept me busy!
What is Twisted Halo and when did you launch?
Twisted Halo launched summer 2016 but I started working on the concept and business early 2015. Twisted Halo is on a mission to create the most transparent and authentic low-calorie alcoholic beverage brand, whilst never compromising on taste or quality.
The idea is simple; we blend unique, sophisticated flavour combinations with natural ingredients. We are 100% naturally flavoured and free of added sugar or sweeteners.
Our original flavour is a gently sparkling blend of coconut water twisted with ginger & muddled with premium vodka. At 90 calories, 4% abv per 275ml bottle and with no added sugar, it is the perfect ready to serve drink.
How did the idea for Twisted Halo come about?
I came up with the idea early in 2015. I was tired of existing alcoholic drink offerings and feeling like low calorie drinks were limited. I saw a gap in the market and started where any other twenty-something does and googled “how do I manufacture a drink”.
How have you raised investment? Or equally how are you raising investment?
Our initial investment was from family and then we did a £150k SEIS raise summer 2016 when we launched. We are currently raising at the moment privately to fund our future growth. Raising finance is always a challenging and interesting time and I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to do it.
Any advice you could give others looking for investment?
Talk to as many people as possible about how they did it. Talking to other companies who have already raised is also a great way to get introductions to other investors that are interested in startups. We launched a crowdfunding campaign summer 2017 and it didn’t go as planned. I would advise that if your finance raise isn’t straight forward, don’t stress. Getting investment can be one of the most challenging parts of your business and no one finds it easy!
What have been the challenges in initially setting up Twisted Halo ?
I think we have been through every initial challenge with setting up a business. You name it we have gone through it! Trademark issues, production problems, cash flow. I decided to start a business in an industry I had no experience in, I used to be an interior designer. While that has presented a few challenges along the way it has also been a blessing in disguise! I didn’t have any preconceptions of the drinks industry so jumped in head first and do things in a different way.
Have you got a mentor?
I have never had a dedicated mentor. I find that I have a strong network around me of friends and other business owners. Depending on the situation or challenge I am facing, I will approach a different “mentor” if you will. I am very lucky that my first round investors are also incredibly supportive and always available to chat things through with me.
Who do you seek out for support and advice?
I have a great group of kick ass female entrepreneurs who are fantastic for offering advice and support. At the end of the day it is comforting to know that most startup founder is going through the same dramas, struggles and highs. My friend Andraya Smith who co founded MeMe London is a constant inspiration to me. She is always full of energy and a true cheerleader for her fellow businesswomen!
Do you ever doubt yourself?
All the time! I think every business owner has those moments where you question the decisions you are making and if you are making the right ones. I try to focus on the positives though and looking at everything we have achieved to date-which is a lot!
How are you marketing Twisted Halo?
In every way possible! As we are still in start up mode we do not have huge marketing budgets at this stage. We have big plans for some truly innovative and creative activation campaigns but need to grow a little more first. A big focus for us is social media and targeted digital advertising. We try to be focused with our marketing efforts to really target our customers.
How do you think Twisted Halo differs from the competition out there?
Twisted Halo is created by the target market for the target market, consequently we fully understand their mindset. Tired of sugary and calorie laden alcoholic drinks, we are here to bring something fresh and innovative to the market. We understand that our target market (primarily female) are often left frustrated with a lack of choice when looking for a low cal alcoholic drink. That is where we come in and offer something which ticks all of the boxes but still tastes light and refreshing.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
I never regret anything I have done. I made a lot of mistakes at the start but that enabled me to learn quickly and adapt the business. Starting up a business is an all encompassing journey and you have to be prepared to embrace all of it, even the stuff you wish you hadn’t done!
Anything you would tell yourself then, that you know now?
Take time for yourself. It is easy to allow work to take over. We all need mental breaks and time to switch off. It actually makes you more productive in the long run!
What’s a typical day for you working on Twisted Halo?
No day is the same at Twisted Halo. One day we could be setting up for a trade show, the next could be a photoshoot and then it could be a full on office and emails day! I always start my day by getting up at 6am and walking the dogs, after that it is guaranteed to be busy and non stop. Unless we have events on I try to make sure I switch off from work at 7pm. I think it is important to maintain balance and also make time for family and friends!
Any personality traits you have discovered about yourself along the way?
That I am capable of more than I ever thought. The business has tested my character in various ways and sometimes I am taken aback by what I have achieved.
Any utter disasters along the way?
So many disasters it is hard to chose. It is easy to put forward an image that everything is running smoothly, but sometimes that is just smoke and mirrors! Recently we have a complete manufacturing nightmare. We utilise a third party manufacturer but still order all of the individual components (glass, packaging etc) from head office. We had a tight production deadline in order to deliver into a big new customer and everything seemed to be on track. We had signed off that everything had been delivered and production was scheduled for a Friday evening. I got a call at 5.30pm from our manufacturer to say they had blended the drink in the mixing vats but they couldn’t find the cardboard trays that our bottles get packed into when they come off the production line. I panicked and called the cardboard supplier. There had been a miscommunication and they hadn’t delivered our tray packaging, they hadn’t even printed it. DISASTER. When you start the production line, there is no stopping. We risked losing thousands of pounds if our liquid was wasted. Luckily we have an amazing relationship with our manufacturer and they helped us sort out the problem and pack the product into temporary boxes. This disaster could have lost us a lot of money and a big customer! Luckily we came through it
What has been your best moment so far as a result of setting up Twisted Halo?
Seeing Twisted Halo on supermarket shelves. It is such a surreal feeling when you see someone buying your product and you don’t know them!
What advice would you give other twenty-something’s who are thinking of pursuing a career in the same industry as you?
Speak to as many people as possible about it. Get advice and contacts earlier on. LinkedIn is a great way to make connections and you would be surprised how willing people are to make time for people just starting out. Don’t forget everyone started in the same position!
What do you think the next steps are for you this year?
More hard work. We are currently raising finance so that will be a big step up for us in terms of growth for Twisted Halo and implementing our plans
What’s the dream?
Making Twisted Halo a household name. I can’t wait for my business to have strong brand awareness-for me that will feel like genuine success!
Finally if you weren’t be doing this, what would you be doing?
Thinking about what business I want to set up. Being an entrepreneur is really in my blood!
Just for fun…
In my twenties the three things I tend to think about are…
- I should have appreciated afternoon naps more when I was a child
- No one explains the stress and complication of tax
- I am not really a grown up until I turn 30 years old
When I look at my bank statement after a night out I usually…crawl further into bed and order Deliveroo
The Twenty Mile Club is…. reassurance we are all in the same boat!