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Jazz Shaper: Jack Scott

Posted on 21 October 2022

Jack is the Co-Founder of DASH Water. He grew up on an arable farm in Shropshire and as a child helped his father out with harvests.

Elliot Moss

Welcome to the Jazz Shapers Podcast from Mishcon de Reya.  What you are about to hear was originally broadcast on Jazz FM however the music has been cut due to rights issues

I love Jazz FM because we play Jimmy Smith.  That was Jimmy Smith with Stanley Turrentine with Prayer Meeting.  Welcome to Jazz Shapers with me, Elliot Moss, bringing the shapers of the business world together with the musicians shaping jazz, soul and blues.   My guest today, is Jack Scott, Co-Founder of Dash Water, the British sparkling water brand infused with wonky fruit and vegetables.  Growing up on a Shropshire farm supplying household brands, Jack saw how imperfect potatoes were rejected by the Brands and sent to landfill or used as animal feed.  Drawn to tackle the big problem food waste, it was while working in sales at Cawston Press that Jack and future Co-Founder, Alex Wright saw an opportunity to make a healthy alternative to soft drinks using surplus food.  After two years of crafting their idea and as they say, accosting pedestrians in Battersea Park with fruit infused water from a soda stream, Sash Water was launched in 2017.  They are now one of the UKs bestselling seltzer brands and they launched their zero calorie sparkling water with locally sourced misshapen fruit and vegetables to fifteen hundred Australian stores last year. 

It is lovely to meet you, lovely to have you here.  We’ve tracked you down as we do with many of our entrepreneurs that we have on the programme.  This is really good, when you look at me holding Dash Water in my, my right hand, is there a huge sense of pride or is it something else Jack?

Jack Scott

I definitely am really proud of what we have created at Dash.  I think when you see someone in the street holding your product that will never get old but I think as we were talking about just before we came on air, you always want more as a sort of small start-up so I am constantly wanting more and feel like the brand has got a long way to go before I can be satisfied with our progress but, no of course I am really proud and we’ve got an amazing team and I really love what I do.

Elliot Moss

And where does this desire for more come from?  Why is Jack Scott driven in the way he is?

Jack Scott

Yeah I think from a very early age I wanted to be an entrepreneur specifically in food and drink.  I come from an arable farm in Shropshire and I think being around the crops and being around the farm I always just wanted to be involved in food and didn’t want to necessarily go down my father’s route which was a more of a traditional farmer but perhaps use the fruit or the veg or the crops in a different way, so creating a brand really excited me from a, from an early age and that’s where you know, that entrepreneurial sort of spirit comes from.  I think all farmers are very entrepreneurial so perhaps a lot of that came from, from my dad.

Elliot Moss

I think that’s true actually about farmers, we don’t often say that.  People think of farming, I mean obviously as incredibly hard work and tricky economically.

Jack Scott

Yeah.  Yep.

Elliot Moss

Regardless of subsidies or membership of the European Union or not, it is just tough right.

Jack Scott

Yep.

Elliot Moss

But entrepreneurial actually is not a word that most of us think about and what did you observe of your father in that role?  How would… what kind of entrepreneur was he or is he?

Jack Scott

Yeah, I think you need to be incredibly resourceful on a farm because as you say, everything is very tight at the moment and has been for quite a long time so it is always sort of understanding or seeing some of the different projects that they’ve got going on to perhaps diversify or you know, create revenue in slightly different ways so I think when I was growing up I was sort of always very interested in that part of the business as well.

Elliot Moss

Do you remember how young you were when you were interested?  I mean were these kitchen table conversations, do you know what I mean, it’s like something I imagine not all farmer’s children want to become entrepreneurs.

Jack Scott

No.

Elliot Moss

Some probably want to run literally from the hills…

Jack Scott

Yeah.

Elliot Moss

…and others just kind of go, well I’ll take over the family business and I don’t mean that in a negative way, I mean that’s a tough call but they don’t think about, I might go left and right and what about… when did you start thinking about that?

Jack Scott

Yeah.  Yep.  Well I had a friend who told me, we were coming out of a history lesson when we were about twelve, and I said then that I would love to start a food and drinks business.  So it was quite…

Elliot Moss

As you do.  Jack Scott, normal twelve year old.

Jack Scott

…so I thought that was pretty, I just couldn’t believe that but he was like that’s what, that’s what you said and also from a very young age I remember the supermarkets, going round in the trolley with my mum and seeing all these amazing brands around me and I was sort from a very early age really interested in you know, why the exist, what they mean to people, you know looking at a cereal pack on your breakfast table and loving the stories on the back and those really sort of captured my imagination and were really sort of inspiring I think within me and then over time I think became more and more interested in the industry.

Elliot Moss

You were mentioning then your friend was reminding you of your twelve year old self that wanted to you know, set something up.  You went and did some other things before you set something up, I mentioned Cawston Press, I think you had an internship at...

Jack Scott

Vestey.

Elliot Moss

…Vestey Foods.  What was that like, was it you knowing that you were passing through and that you wanted to learn and if so, what was your attitude in that, in that period?

Jack Scott

Yeah I think I was quite clear visioned with that.  I always knew that I wanted to start up my own business within food and drink and then I would sort of plot my way of like, how was I going to do that and it was about being around people who had successfully done it previously and trying to sort of take in as much information as possible.  For our industry, one of the key you know, the hardest things is getting products on the shelf so I sort of started from the bottom, bottom selling cans out of my rucksack, going into places and really understand that sort of retail nuts and bolts and also selling something so that was something that I was really keen to get under my belt, to understand the industry and then I met Alex who was my you know, Co-Founder which as you know, was a hugely important moment to find someone and we started scheming about different ideas with a shared interest in food waste and that’s when we sort of came up with the idea of Dash.  So it was at our previous roles where we met.  So these are all really important…

Elliot Moss

Moments.

Jack Scott

…moments.

Elliot Moss

And in the same way the farm experience and the potatoes that didn’t make the cut…

Jack Scott

Yep.

Elliot Moss

…were all these things suddenly coalescing into hold on a minute, what if the stuff that doesn’t make the grade could be mixed with d, d, d and is that, as you look back, nothing is ever quite linear or logical but did you see those pieces colliding in front of you?

Jack Scott

Yeah, no absolutely I have such vivid memories of being on the potato grader on the farm in Shropshire at the end of our summer holidays and asking my father where were these smaller potatoes going or ones with the slight blemishes.

Elliot Moss

These are the ones that didn’t make it?

Jack Scott

They didn’t make it and they were going off on another conveyor.

Elliot Moss

I feel like I want to adopt them.

Jack Scott

Yeah.

Elliot Moss

You didn’t make it, it’s okay, come here, you’ll be safe.

Jack Scott

Yeah and you know I was like are they going to that heap over there or are they going to be used as animal feed which you know, is a tremendous amount of waste and energy, time and resource because the buyer didn’t want the smaller potatoes because they wanted to make perfectly formed chips.  So those sorts of moments meant that you know, there’s something in that and we should you know, really champion or celebrate fruits of all shapes and sizes and so I thought it was a great opportunity to then make our, our sparkling water which we use this lower grade fruit that other people say no to.

Elliot Moss

Stay with me for much more from my guest, Jack Scott.  We will be explaining how the moment in 2017 happened and I am intrigued to know just how you actually got it over the start line as it were.  He will be back in a couple of minutes.  Right now though we are going to hear a taster from the Mishcon Innovation Series, they can be found on all the major podcast platforms.  Natasha Knight invites business founders to share their industry insights and practical advice for those of you thinking about getting into an industry and starting your very own thing, just like Jack and in this clip it is focussed on retail, we hear from Taymoor Ataghetchi, Founder and CEO of Papier, an online stationary brand.

All our former Business Shapers await you on the Jazz Shapers podcast and you can of course hear this very programme again if you pop Jazz Shapers into your podcast platform of choice.  My guest today is Jack Scott, Co-Founder of Dash Water, the British sparkling water brand infused with wonky fruit and vegetables.  So I am going to take you back to 2017, you were probably 26 years old, a fine age Jack to start your own business.  So you and Alex have met, you are doing your stuff, the beginning, the moment of creation.  When it was actually a thing, what did that feel like?

Jack Scott

Well we launched into Selfridges as our first listing, so we thought that that would be an amazing sort of place to start.  I remember it so well, we launched at around sort of lunch time on a Saturday and me and Alex were there with our, with our cans, sampling to…

Elliot Moss

In the food hall?

Jack Scott

…in the food hall, sampling it to various different people.  So it was, it was a great memory and then it’s all been a bit of a blur since then.  We started off with places like Selfridges, Whole Foods, Planet Organic which we call beacon accounts and they meant that other accounts would hopefully follow suit because there was this new, exciting drinks business that they should also stock and part of that was coffee shops, boutique gyms, deli’s so me and Alex would try and get around twenty five accounts a day when we first got hold of the cans.

Elliot Moss

How did you do that, was it just physically getting out there and seeing people?

Jack Scott

Yeah exactly.  Getting into as many accounts as possible, we would give them free cans and see if it sold off the shelf and luckily a few people bought it and we were able to gain a little bit of traction set up with some wholesalers and that is sort of where it sort of started.

Elliot Moss

Just give me a sense because I am often intrigued by this bit because it is where the rubber hits the road.  You are going to a new place, you’ve fixed up a meeting,…

Jack Scott

Yep.

Elliot Moss

…you go and enter into flashy gym in the middle of Soho, London, England and you start having a conversation.  How does the conversation start for you, they don’t know you, they’ve never heard of Dash, you’ve got a bit of traction because you are Selfridges…

Jack Scott

Yeah.

Elliot Moss

…but not very much.

Jack Scott

No.

Elliot Moss

What do you actually say, what gets it over the line?

Jack Scott

Yeah so there is quite a few sort of sales tactics, I mean first of all you want to try and speak to the decision maker so it is just trying to understand who that might be and first off we do a very soft sell, we would make sure the cans were cold, we’d have a nice leaflet talking about what the product is, what we stand for, the wonky fruit message and we’d put that leaflet with the two cans and say look, I’d love for you guys to try that, here’s my contact details and that would be the first bit and then you come back the next day and hope that they tried it and that’s when you would be… send them an email and try and get a face-to-face meeting with them and then hopefully after that face-to-face meeting you have an opportunity to get stocked.  But a lot of rejection.

Elliot Moss

A lot of rejection I imagine but if it wasn’t great…

Jack Scott

Yeah.

Elliot Moss

…if it didn’t taste great and it wasn’t great, would we not be sitting here?  I mean it sounds an obvious thing but there is all the sales you can do in the world but if the product is not great then it is not going to sell.

Jack Scott

Yeah absolutely.  Yeah so at the end of the day if, if you put a product on their shelf and no-one buys it then they are not going to be interested in purchasing it off their wholesaler going forward.

Elliot Moss

And rather than people thinking you are sound absolutely facile to say if it doesn’t sell it doesn’t help, my point is really you have to be very structured in reaching out but in reality it’s about getting it in front of somebody and then the product does the talking so your job at that point was to be super tenacious and energetic.

Jack Scott

Yeah.

Elliot Moss

Rather than having some magic set of words that did the act itself of getting it into the…

Jack Scott

Yeah, no tenacity is one of our values that we’ve got on the wall in the office now and it’s as an entrepreneur, especially in the drinks industry, it’s all about tenacity and making sure that you are being consistent with your comms and you do what you say.  There are you know, there are little things that we would do to help like we would definitely go and buy the odd can of Dash when it was on the shelf and tell your friends to go to the local coffee shop but that’s all part of the fun and does help a little bit in those very early days when no one knows about Dash or no one knew about the product back then so there are a few tactics.

Elliot Moss

People know it now so hopefully you don’t have to resort to, can you just go down to the local café Elliot, that would be great.  In terms of growing this business obviously it is still quite young.  You are five years in since you were chasing people around Battersea Park saying ‘try me’ which I am sure was a lot of fun and you said tenacity is one of the values of the business.  Scale is really important in this, if you are going to attack the food waste problem, you need… it’s great to have the idea which you know is important and I had the Founders of Odd Box on a while ago, attacking the same problem which is fabulous.  The challenge of making it bigger, of industrialising something like this is really hard.  Which levers have you pulled in order to grow because I know, I mentioned you are in Australia…

Jack Scott

Yep.

Elliot Moss

Canning is a business, it’s a thing and I think I read somewhere at the beginning it was kind of like we were going to do this in a smaller scale, well then we realised.  Tell me about scale and how you view that?

Jack Scott

Yeah so for soft drinks in our world we really do need to get to scale for it to become you know, a really interesting business, you know, we need to be selling lots of the same product to get the economies of scale to get cost reductions because it is an incredibly competitive world soft drinks which is dominated by huge multi-nationals, the Coca Cola’s, the PepsiCo’s of the world who are able to, to create their product for a lot less so we’ve always tried to be really aggressive with our scale and that started off small but we’ve always had big ambition for the brand and believe that it is a brand that can become a household name in the UK and that really is our ambition and we started off in those smaller accounts but really proud that recently we, we launched into Starbucks and also Tesco which is super exciting for the brand.

Elliot Moss

Has scale always been the ambition and if it has, what stopped you along the way, I mean you need, you obviously need money to do that…

Jack Scott

Yeah.

Elliot Moss

…and funding which obviously if you are a small business and turnover is hard, and I know you have some interesting investors, that’s obviously a really key lever for you.

Jack Scott

Yeah.

Elliot Moss

Are you really comfortable having other people involved in the, in the share of the business or has that been a bit of a, I am having to let go of my little baby here?

Jack Scott

I think going into creating the business we knew that this industry is very expensive to get into and to create scale so we, Alex and I were always under the impression that we were going to have to raise capital and the easiest way for that is giving away some of our equity.  So to use that to our advantage we’ve made sure that all of the investors that have come into the business would add value to us and really help us scale the business.  So help us with those different hurdles throughout so whether it’s to do with manufacturing, whether it’s people who are YouTubers who help us with brand awareness or whether it’s the founders of Sipsmith Gin or Logan from Beavertown, or guys that have scaled premium products here in, in London so they have been imperative for our growth.

Elliot Moss

They sound, they sound quite strategic partners.  Did you go after them, did you essentially initiate the conversations with them?

Jack Scott

Yes definitely.  Again it is back to that tenacity and we aimed really high and we wanted the best people for us to come on board and we were lucky, there were a couple of people who really saw the category and Dash emerging, an American investor was Director Fiji Water, his wife picked up a can in Selfridges and I got a call in the middle of the night saying, ‘hey man can I invest in your sparkling water business?’.  So there are occasions where people have approached us cold but mainly it is us approaching them.

Elliot Moss

It feels like the moment is coming, you, you and it’s been coming for a while Jack, you know, you start in a small place, you focus on the independents, you’ve then got great people with you who have got smart money, not just money and all of that.  What is going to stop you?  What is going to get in the way of you know, you realising your dreams and your potential?

Jack Scott

Well our main mission aside from, from food waste and really shining a light on food waste at farm level is to get people off sugar and sweetener.  For too long soft drinks have just been full of artificial sweeteners or sugar.  So we really need people’s pallets and people to really buy into this more unsweetened flavoured water, sparkling but I hope you agree that it’s, it’s full of you know, natural flavour and…

Elliot Moss

I feel like you are going to do a research group, ‘Elliot I hope you agree that actually the taste is rather wonderful and you can, your pallet can be adjusted’.

Jack Scott

Yeah.

Elliot Moss

As it happens, I love, I mean I love sugar, we all like sweet things but this is, this is yeah it feels, you feel better I guess is what you were saying, that’s your mission is it, to help people realise that?

Jack Scott

Yeah exactly, you shouldn’t be taking on all of that sugar and we really don’t believe in artificial sweeteners so all of those diet soft drinks we think are, we think are the devil so we need to get people off those drinks and get them drinking more healthy soft drinks like, like Dash and…

Elliot Moss

And, sorry, but to do that though because if, if there is obstacles, what’s going, is the point that that’s going to take a while because obviously changing people’s tastes is a difficult thing.

Jack Scott

Absolutely and it’s, it’s convincing the retailers as well to give the category, you know, that space and attention to offer it to people.  Luckily with Dash we do sell a lot direct to consumer so we are able to bypass the retailers in a sense and get sort of directly into people’s homes but I think that would be one of our main barriers is this soft seltzer category, a soft seltzer category really exploding and we want Dash to be at the forefront of that.

Elliot Moss

So it is essentially creating a category as well as selling your brand. 

Jack Scott

Yeah.

Elliot Moss

Do you feel now five years in that you are about 100 years older than you were when you set this business up.

Jack Scott

I definitely can’t remember life before Dash.  It feels like an extraordinary length of time but it’s only been five years.

Elliot Moss

How do you keep sane?  How do you keep focussed and not you know, stressy about the whole thing because you are young Jack.

Jack Scott

Yeah.

Elliot Moss

I mean you know, you’re not that young, you are hurtling towards mid-30s, he says half-jokingly.

Jack Scott

Yeah.

Elliot Moss

But you know, your experience on the planet is not that long but you’ve had an incredibly intense experience in the last five years which is very different to just sort of sitting there doing a job, how do you retain your, your calm and your balance?

Jack Scott

I think when we first started that was the most intense time because you are on top of each other, you are not experienced, you know that it might not work or you couldn’t celebrate the wins whereas since then we have had an amazing journey which has been a lot of fun and we now have very experienced people within the business who have done it previously or who have good experience so of course your worries change but I feel that over time it has become a little bit easier and I know that we’ve got a great team and have full confidence that we are able to carry on so I feel good.

Elliot Moss

And in terms of your own you know, you started off saying, I am not satisfied, I don’t think I will ever be satisfied.  Will you ever reach the moment where you go, ah ha it is done, my work is done here or is that just not part of Jack’s DNA?

Jack Scott

Yeah, no I can’t see that moment with Dash yet.  I think longevity is really important for me so I’d love Dash to be around for a very long time, so it is making sure that all the foundations and the business is built in the correct way for that future growth.

Elliot Moss

You are very methodical, you are very methodical.  Continue to be methodical and I hope you continue to enjoy yourself, thank you for sharing some Dash with us, raspberries, peaches and all sorts of other flavours here.

Jack Scott

Thanks Elliot, it’s great to be on.

Elliot Moss

It’s an absolute pleasure.  Just before I let you go, what’s your song choice and why have you chosen it?

Jack Scott

So it’s by Nina Simone and it’s Ain’t Got No, I Got Life and why, I mean I find it very uplifting and spiritual listening to that on the way into work.

Elliot Moss

That was Nina Simone with Ain’t Got No, I Got Life, the song choice of my Business Shaper today, Jack Scott.  He talked about growing up in a farming family and how a farming family is an entrepreneurial family and that’s really impacted him super positively.  He talked about creating a category and what that means and how creative you really need to be and how much you need to drive stuff if you are going to make that a reality and he talked about the importance of tenacity in all of this and boy did he exhibit a lot of that and will continue to do so I am sure.  That’s it from me and Jazz Shapers, have a lovely weekend.

We hope you enjoyed that edition of Jazz Shapers.  You’ll find hundreds of more guests available for you to listen to in our archive, to find out more just search Jazz Shapers in iTunes or your favourite podcast platform or head over to Mishcon.com/JazzShapers.

Witnessing first-hand the effects of food waste on farms. Jack met co-founder Alex after graduation and with their shared experience of growing up in agricultural settings front of mind, identified the need to help fight food waste by accepting fruit that is rejected by others. They noticed a gap in the market for a healthier alternative to soft drinks, so they married the two ideas resulting in sparkling waters with a dash of flavour from wonky produce and DASH Water was born.    

Today, Dash Water is a thriving global business which has landed Alex and Jack on the 2020 Forbes 30 Under 30 List, a B-Corp certification and amassed an army of high-profile devotees including Ellie Goulding, Robbie Williams, and Victoria Beckham. 

Highlights

I am really proud of what we have created at Dash. I think when you see someone in the street holding your product, it never gets old. 

I am constantly wanting more and feel like the brand has got a long way to go before I can be satisfied with our progress. 

I always knew that I wanted to start up my own business within food and drink. 

Tenacity is one of our values that we’ve got on the wall in the office now and, as an entrepreneur, especially in the drinks industry, it’s all about tenacity and making sure that you are being consistent with your comms and that you actually do what you say. 

We’ve always tried to be really aggressive with our scale and that started off small, but we’ve always had big ambition for the brand and believe that it can become a household name in the UK. 

I can’t remember life before Dash. It feels like an extraordinary length of time, but it’s only been five years. 

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