Watching Wimbledon, it fascinates me how matches can change on one point. The double fault that leads to a break point. The top-spin backhand down the line that turns the game. These key moments strike me as a metaphor for life. The meetings, the interviews, the pitches, the being at the right place at the right time. They take up less than 1% of your time, but dictate how the other 99% pans out.
When I look back to Gü, there were really four key moments that created momentum. The first was born of failure. I was sent to Belgium to launch Utterly Butterly, up against Unilever in its backyard and there was no consumer interest in a new brand of margarine. I was licking my wounds in a patisserie, tucking into a slice of Bombe au Chocolat, when it suddenly struck me - what about creating a brand of fantastic French patisserie? Fifteen love!
Fast-forward three months. I was at a trade fair in Barcelona and met Motty, who owned a patisserie in North London selling cakes to the airlines. “Business is terrible,” he said. “After 9/11 all the airlines cut back on food.” I asked if it was possible to make really good chocolate desserts in glass jars. “Why not?” he replied. We got together and developed our chocolate soufflé. I thought it was the best product ever, but we needed a brand.
I went to see Perry who runs Bigfish, a design agency. A week later he calls me in. “I’ve been researching puds all over the world… I’ve come across this brand called Gü in Sweden - they’re doing what you want to do.” He showed me a picture. It looked brilliant but I had this sickening feeling - someone had beaten me to it. Perry smiled: “Don’t worry James, only joking - I’ve created it for you. It’s all yours!”
Two months later, I found myself sitting with the desserts buyer at Sainsbury’s. “You’re so lucky James. We’ve closed our range for the next year, but god knows how, I managed to squeeze you in. I liked the look of it. You’re in 220 stores.”
That was 10 years ago. I didn’t tell you about all the problems, but Gü is now a much-loved brand and I’ve traded my chocolate obsession with a healthier interest in coconut milk and invested in Bessant & Drury’s. We’re going to have to nail those key moments all over again.
James Averdieck founded Gü Puds and now coaches on innovation and entrepreneurialism. Contact him via www.jamesaverdieck.com