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We, the Creators- Food Event with Levi Roots 5th July
Last night, at WeWork Tower Bridge, looking out over incontestable views of Tower Bridge and the Tower of London, WeWork’s We, the Creators series kicked off with a cookery and community event. Celebrity chef and entrepreneur, Levi Roots, was in conversation with Zoe Adjonyoh, of Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen in front of an audience of food entrepreneurs, bloggers and creatives, during which Levi reflected on his highs and lows in business and about how perseverance and quick-learning helps people and their ideas succeed, and how finding your niche helps open up the market not only for your business but also for your customers.
The event was catered by WeWork member company and Creator Award 2017 winner, Fat Macy’s, the social impact company that provides catering training and employment to people living in temporary accommodation, in order to help them on their way to securing permanent housing. The drinks were supplied by Mount Gay Rum and Naked Wines.
We, the Creators comprises of six events in which visionaries and industry leaders from the worlds of food and drink, tech, art and design, health and fitness, music and fashion look into what makes a creator, how to reach and broaden your audience, and how to develop your ideas without compromising your integrity. Guests include Levi Roots, Ella MIlls AKA Deliciously Ella, Jessie Ware, Turner Prize-shortlisted Forensic Architecture’s Dr Eyal Weizman, and more. Further details on the event series are on the attached release.
We, the Creators was curated to promote WeWork’s London Creator Awards, the global fund-giving programme for which individuals, not-for-profits, performers, and entrepreneurs of all kinds can quickly and simply apply for transformative funding, enabling their ideas and businesses to scale up, with finalists taking to the stage at the autumn awards ceremony, further details on which will be announced later in the summer.
LEVI ROOTS in conversation with Zoe Adjonyoh:
On Dragon’s Den: ‘It’s been a fantastic journey – from my kids saying ‘Dad please don’t go on Dragon’s Den’ (knowing I was going to sing the song); to me saying to myself, ’no, it’s easier to be you than to pretend to be anyone else.’ I was never near the best of them. I found a mentor, I got my product, and I thought, I’m gonna go for it. I’m gonna go as me.’
On his lowest points: ‘A low point was when a friend of mine sued me for £30 million. It was a terrible part of my life. That taught me about protection. About protecting your brand and protecting your product… That was a difficult thing to learn. Within business, your best friends are your accountant and your lawyer.’
On learning and earning: ‘As the business expands, your mind is going to expand. I had a sauce and couldn’t afford the the taxi to Dragon’s Den, and now I have a £60million business’
On diversifying supermarket shelves: ‘Before I came on the scene it was hard to see anything apart from Ancona Sauce… now there’s so much Caribbean food on offer’
On living well: ‘As a rasta man, my culture informs my way of life. I still live in Brixton – I think people expect me to have moved to North London. You have to stay with the friends that knew you before you made it.’
On creativity: ‘People were scared of Caribbean food, and even with my ‘rastaraunt’, people still don’t know what it was about… I’d have to bring down my flavour and spices’
On acting: ‘I just came back from Guadeloupe… I was just so lucky, because I’ve always wanted to act and I got a small part in BBC’s Death in Paradise… I’ve got the acting bug! When I did the part, I got my makeup done and was transformed into someone else – I loved it’
On brand appeal: ‘I didn’t come with a sauce to challenge Heinz Tomato Ketchup… My sauce was always going to enter a niche market – it’s okay not to like it’
On tenacity and purpose: ‘Find a way to bring your passion into your business: I went along for 18 years without success. But stay focused and your time will come. It does work.’
On identity: ‘I always thought I was going to be the black Elvis. And people told me you’re fine the way that you are but I wanted to prove something else.’
On scaling up: ‘The plan was to start small: get a factory and move slow. But when Sainsbury’s ordered a quarter of a million sauces, within 2 weeks I went from having 67 sauces in my kitchen to a quarter of a million, became a licensed brand. (It could have become a pop-up and we could have said we can not fill this order…)’
On integrity: ‘I like the fast that I merged the integrity of a rasta man in the brand. The product is green, gold and red: there’s a dreadlocked rasta man. I am saying to you ‘buy into my universe’; it’s not just a food product. You need to have some kind of borderline.’