Success has many mothers and fathers. But none more so than Innocent Drinks. Consciously and unconsciously, its visionary founders – Adam Balon, Richard Reed and Jon Wright – recruited countless future entrepreneurs, including Giles Brook (Vita Coco), Barney Mauleverer (Fuel10K) and Anthony Fletcher (Graze).

Another trailblazer, more low-key but every bit as entrepreneurial and influential from those early Innocent days, was Ailana Kamelmacher, founder of CBD drinks brand InTune and PR agency The Story, who has died at the age of 46.

Kamelmacher was three years into a career in corporate public relations when she approached Innocent Drinks and told them they needed to hire her as their head of PR. Intrigued by her pitch, she was invited in for a chat and was told there wasn’t a job as they used a PR agency. But they hired her anyway. And didn’t look back.

“She applied to be our head of PR when we didn’t know we needed one,” Richard Reed recalls. “We had a PR agency at the time, but she approached us out of the blue saying we should do PR in-house, that journalists would rather deal directly with companies, that she would create better stories for us, that she would take charge of the whole area. It was a totally unsolicited pitch, but deeply compelling and delivered with such passion and energy and fun that we went with it.”

Over the next six years Kamelmacher was Reed’s ‘CJ’ – a reference to the West Wing White House press secretary – and he is no doubt about her “disproportionate” impact on the fortunes of the smoothie maker.

“She made us famous. Not a week went by without us being in the press when Ailana worked here,” he recalls. “But she delivered that and so much more. Super smart, creative, warm, fun, full of initiative, challenging, funny, hardworking, loyal, honest, mischievous, thoughtful… her morals, charisma and personality were unmatched and she had a huge influence on the business culturally.”

Passion for food and drink

After six years, like so many other talented free spirits from those early years, Kamelmacher flew the Innocent coop – and thrived.

Setting up her own PR agency, The Story, she helped a number of startups and challenger brands to blossom, including Sipsmith, Tony’s Chocolonely, Burts Crisps and Riverford Organic, combining the same brilliant storytelling skills with her passion for food and drink and knowledge of all the latest cool stuff. Many of her clients, including Graze, Little Dish and Peppersmith, had been founded by Innocent alumni.

But her work wasn’t limited to startups and challenger brands. With the success of her Sipsmith campaigns, multinational drinks giant Diageo came a-knocking, recruiting The Story to handle some of its most prestigious malts and blends, and helping to bring scotch whisky to new audiences, recalls Gillian Cook, Diageo’s global head of Reserve, who worked with Kamelmacher for 15 years, singling out her “deep appreciation for the intricate craftsmanship of whisky” and her ability to connect with people across the business, from distillers and coppersmiths to marketers and senior executives. 

“As a business partner, Ailana was a force of nature, and consistently held a deep belief in the magic she aspired to create for others,” says Cook. “Her unique style influenced brand experiences worldwide from Talisker to Lagavulin, and Mortlach to the Special Releases Collections to name but a few and the impact Ailana had was immeasurable through her creative spirit, unquenchable curiosity, and unwavering faith in the extraordinary. She was truly beloved by all who had the privilege of knowing her and will be remembered for the contribution she made to our business, and more importantly for the person she was.”

“A beacon of positivity, creativity, endless joy and warmth” 

Sam Galsworthy, founder of Sipsmith

In 2020, Kamelmacher took her storytelling skills one step further. Inspired by her sister Hannah Glasson’s use of CBD to help in her own fight against breast cancer, and using the knowledge they had built up in helping other food and drinks brands to grow, the pair started their own drinks brand, Intune.

The venture went on to raise £400k from investors, and despite the pandemic and the Food Standards Agency’s laborious approach to novel foods approval of CBD products, is flourishing, winnings new listings with Ocado and Yo Sushi only last month, in addition to the likes of Fortnum & Mason, Gourmet Burger King and Amazon.

Throughout her professional career and with her countless friends, Kamelmacher was also a great champion of other people. Sam Galsworthy, founder of Sipsmith, pays tribute to Kamelmacher for her wise counsel and coaching. 

“A beacon of positivity, creativity, endless joy and warmth, to our team she meant so much as a result of her gentle brilliance and for many was a true mentor – she had a profound impact on our brand and our lives.” 

Ailana’s super skills as a coach and mentor

Kamelmacher recalled in a Linkedin post seven months ago that when she started coaching, she always insisted on taking along timesheets, drawing up a pie chart that included “a decent slice for holidays”. Mentees were always surprised at this approach and how she was able to take holidays when most clients took zero holiday.

“And then I remembered that at Innocent I was told in a review by Richard Reed ‘you don’t seem to have the same need to stay late as everyone else’. I would stay if we were likely to go to the pub, but never just because. So it seems that believing in my team, leaving on time and booking lots of holidays is one of my super skills.”

Kamelmacher went on to explain in the post that she insisted that this super skill was applied at Story PR, with all employees paid a four-week sabbatical after five years. “It isn’t optional,” she wrote, “and it is funny how hard you have to remind people to get on and take it. When they do, it is always brilliant. But we all have that slight fear of stopping. Of what we would do with all the ‘spare time’. The nagging ‘what if everyone does my job better’ voice.

“The glorification of working 24/7 is bullshit,” she added. “Don’t fall for it. Please book that holiday, take up that sabbatical and put on a really firm out of office. Your business might just still be going 15 years later.  There is no ‘maybe one day’ time. There is only this one life.”


Ailana Kamelmacher died on 30 October at Guy’s Hospital, surrounded by her family, after a three-month battle with cancerShe is survived by her husband Robin, two children Zhenya and Gilby, her mother Margarita and her sisters Olga and Hannah.

The Story continues to be run by managing director Alex Smith and director Tarita Mullings. Hannah Glasson will remain CEO of Intune.

Tributes, stories and photos may be emailed to Please also use this email address to contact Ailana’s family if you would like to attend her funeral. Postal tributes can be sent to The Story, Unit B, 11 Bell Yard Mews, London SE1 3TN. Ailana’s family has asked for donations to Cancer Research UK rather than floral tributes.