Wagamama UK: Vegan menu launch party 07.11.17

It was a pleasure to work with Wagamama UK this week on curating an event experience to celebrate the launch of their new vegan menu. After being invited to sample the menu last month, we discussed how to further promote the new offering and showcase the many facets i had been unaware of, but was sure other plant-based food enthusiasts would be interested to know. After learning just how much time & energy had been put into creating the new menu, from the ingredients to eliminating cross-contamination, i felt an opportunity to celebrate it would be appropriate, and who doesn't enjoy an excuse for a social event!


We invited a diverse list of bloggers, influencers and businesses to attend a private launch event in Wagamama's noodle lab, a test kitchen concept on Soho's Dean Street on Tuesday evening. Here, new dishes adorn the menu on a temporary basis during the testing pahse, in addition to Wagamama's traditional offering. The menu on this night, however, was a huge assortment of all the delicious new starters, mains and desserts that make up the company's first exclusively vegan menu. From 6pm, guests arrived early and a steady stream of dishes were served sharing style. The mixed vegetable tempura and bao buns were particularly well received, but the "Vegatsu" (a vegan take on Wagamama's signature katsu curry) stole the show. Served with a sticky white rice and japanese side salad, the crispy, breadcumb-sietan is coated in a veganised, thick katsu sauce. More than one person ate more than one!


During a short break, it was my pleasure to introduce Jas, one of Wagamama's marketing team, who explained how Wagamama has actively sought extensive feedback and intently listened to the vegan community on what would make this menu special. Executive chef Steve Mangleshot said: 'We've taken the time to make this menu as exciting as we can. We haven't just taken ingredients out and called it vegan, we've created dishes with vegans in mind and will continue to do so." 


Steve and the entire Wagamama team were mixing in with guests all night, answering questions and listening to feedback. It was amazing to see a large company paying such intricate attention to the needs of its customers and truly caring about their experience. The many comments from guests, who stayed well past the proposed 9pm close time, were just how impressed they were with both the food and the story behind it. It was an excellent networking experience, with so many influential and inspiring people in one room representing the changing face of veganism with guests from many of the UK's leading vegan companies, charities and media companies. 


I believe its important to support big companies taking an interest in veganism. Im aware of many who feel its hypocritical, but if we all truly share the mission of creating a world free from animal products, we must understand that such companies have substantial influence and infrastructure to help propel such a message. The more accessible we make veganism, and the greater the uptake and we move toward the tipping point. 

Tiffany Watson (Made In Chelsea) joins the party.

Tiffany Watson (Made In Chelsea) joins the party.

Guests left with goodie bags from sponsors Plant Curious, Seedslip drinks and meantime drinks. Special mention to guests Tiffany Watson, Sarah-Jane Crawford and the teams from Plant Based News and Vevolution for their support. Look out for the latest vegan menu, available nationwide now, and more new dishes added soon!


The 3 step formula for finding your dream job.

I’ve been pretty fond of books and particularly empowering quotes for as long as i can remember, but one that stands out is an Alan Watts quote when i was around 16 years old. At that time, like most i had absolutely no idea what i wanted to do, and the focus when deciding was very much centred around making money. My aspirations were aligned with the cultural narrative played out by so many; get a good job that pays well, buy a house, start a family, etc. The problem was, i found school difficult, and i simply didn’t see the logic in spending vast amounts of time doing something i didn’t enjoy simply for the purpose of living.


The Alan Watts quote in question was about realising that work is in fact play, and that by doing what you love and forgetting about the money, happiness would come more easily. If i look back at the businesses i’ve started, the decisions that have led me to the ones i’ve enjoyed most have been based on 3 questions. What am i good at? What assets do i have? And what am i passionate about? This has ranged from being a good communicator with bundles of time who cares about football becoming a football coach, to being a creative socialite with a good network of friends who loves partying becoming a nightclub promoter. Understanding that our interests, skill sets and assets change over time as we grow is as liberating as it is useful, and removes the capacity for us to feel stuck in the same job.


This equation doesn’t necessarily mean that upon completion you’re going to end up with your dream job, but it does at least cause us to question what we’d most like to spend our time doing, without thinking about money as the outcome. Using our skill sets instills confidence and brings out the best in us. Making the best use of our assets, whatever they are, is recognising and leveraging what we have to offer. Working on something we’re passionate about gives us purposefulness and joy, causing us to work harder. When we work harder, we often become better, and by becoming better, inherently we are likely paid more as a result. I’ve done this subconsciously in the past, but more recently consciously in my side project, being a professional preachy vegan!


I became really passionate about veganism (as most vegans do) when i further investigated looked the devastating extent of the damage caused by animal agriculture, both ethically and environmentally. I recognised that one of the assets i have is large network, both on social media and in person, through which i could perhaps influence more people to take notice. My skill sets are communications, both written and verbal, so i decided to use this triangular approach to setup a new project. I now speak about Veganism at public events, and also within businesses to help them understand the emerging vegan market. Alongside this, i’m working with brands to adapt their offering to suit vegan consumers and helping vegan brands reach more people via social media. I can honestly say i find what i do fulfilling, enjoyable and challenging.


Although our passions, skills & assets change over time, our basic human desires to feel wanted, happy and purposeful do not, and this is particularly important within a job, as its where we spend a large portion of our lives. For many, it is our identity. I appreciate this is easier when you're younger and free of responsibility, but its not exclusively available to the young. There's many an example through history of those who've achieved amazing things later in life, and these people serve as useful reminders that we can pivot when we consciously look at what we care about, what we're good at and what we can offer.


If money were no object, and everyone received the same wage, how would you spend your time? If you answered the 3 questions, which jobs or businesses could be at the intersection? Work in your passion, using your skills and leveraging whatever you have, and happiness comes with it.



Responsible entrepreneurship; using social media.

Someone recently asked me why i time stamp my Instagram story. Another late finish in the office depicted by a half finished cup of coffee on a paper ridden desk, and illuminated by a mixture of Macbook keypad & a maturing night sky, with a 9pm time stamp overlaid. The answer is that when i was younger, i've been guilty of painting an unrealistic, often glorified perspective on what entrepreneurship truly is. Such behaviour isn't just exclusive to entrepreneurs, but there's many with large followings who stand to profit from their followers desire to replicate their status. Courses, books or seminars, sold on the glorification of such a lifestyle is rife, without being transparent around the reality.

Entrepreneurs should be unambiguous for a number of reasons. Firstly, as a moral responsibility to fully equip anyone considering starting their own business with the harsh realities; it is so tough, that unless your passion outweighs your pain threshold, you will give up. Period. On that basis, you must be passionate enough about the problem your product or service solves that you'd bet your life on its success. Its a long game, and if you can't enjoy the process, then the fruits of the labour will not be worth your toil and you may be better suited to the security of a job. It takes a long time to achieve such heights, if ever for most, so that shouldn't be the focal point.


Secondly, given the open access nature of most people's profiles, prospective or existing clients can view your content, which can potentially jeopardise transactions (content dependant) whilst sometimes conceding leverage with employees. Its very difficult to demand harder work from staff in a start-up whilst you post another watch pic. Its important to celebrate success, but the balance is delicate.



Even a keyword search of "entrepreneur" on Instagram, or a stock photo website, will bring up photos of luxury watches, exotic locations and the latest super car. Follow the instagram accounts of many celebrity entrepreneurs and you'll find much of the same. Its as grossly inaccurate as it contradictory, and used only as a tool in selling their courses or books. I can think of many who are popular with where the motivation is sales; buy my £1000 course and you will be on your way to this!

The reality is much less glamourous. Elon Musk slept on the floor of the office he & his brother shared, using the 1 computer they could afford to run their programme during the day and code on at night. They survived on fast food and minimal sleep, working 7 days per week with little rest. Had Instagram stories been around then, what an amazing insight it would be to see the Musk brothers develop and eventually sell their first business, which provided the foundations for Paypal and later Tesla. The motive for their business was a passion to inflict change, not acquire the latest luxury or be recognised by way of a verified twitter account. It was around impactful legacy, not personal brand equity, which is a bi-product that can be effective when use honestly.



How to build a personal brand with this in mind? I find it hugely motivating to see someone so dedicated they're going beyond conventional constructs, still working gone midnight, learning or creating. Some entrepreneurs use social media incredibly well in this way. Gary Vaynerchuk is a personal favourite, because he offers so much value without agenda. He reiterates the value of hard work and is transparent on his origins, showcasing the real level of commitment required, which is both helpful and inspiring to those who follow him.

Showcasing dedication and commitment by way of affirming an entrepreneurial spirit goes a lot further than exhibiting your latest purchase. Documenting your working life on social media can be effective in providing context for your achievements, whilst helping motivate others who follow and inspire a new generation with a realistic view of the requirements needed to be successful. The 9pm time stamp is as much for me to document what I'm doing to test its efficiency as it is to make myself publicly accountable for the success or failures of my businesses. I've found transparency to the world to be one of the biggest motivators in staying to the course.

I'd also advise anyone to go back to zero. Its amazing how resourceful you become when you have absolutely nothing. When you're sleeping at friend's houses, ego crushed from a failed business, barely able to afford food, you find out what you're truly made of. On the flip side, when you've created a business at a young age in the face of fierce competition and with everyone thinking you're crazy, there's some attributes you may of not known you had.. I only wish i would have documented more realistically in the first place!

Entrepreneurship: Why you haven't invented uber.

Individual Vs. Idea.

We've all said it, or at least thought it. "That's such a simple idea, if only I would have thought of that!" Some may even of claimed to have had that very idea, but for lack for whatever excuse suits the day, failed the take action. Netflix, Deliveroo, Facebook. If only we would have had that perfect idea, we'd be in the founders shoes. I suggest to you, however, that the individual is more important than the idea. The famous Abraham Lincoln quote, when applied to this context, fits perfectly: "Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe." 

If we apply our focus solely to the creation of radical ideas to change the world, and even do come up with something genuinely valuable at such a scale to make us into the next Steve jobs, the chances are when we do we won't be the person capable of execution. The vehicle, so to speak, is even more important than the idea. It's the same reason many millionaires have gone to broke and back again, those people that always seem to create a way to make things happen. The time investment is in the individual, who, in turn, becomes the right vehicle & in discovering a solution to a problem, executes on that idea. If we take most successful business owners, many would tell you they find themselves surprised in the business they are in. If asked 5, 10, maybe 15 years ago, they would be adamant upon their success, but unable to identify in exactly what arena.



We have to understand what businesses is; providing a solution to a problem, at a profit, in a way that exchanges at least equal if not more value. The assumption is rife that the value is in the idea, or limited to those who have an existing business or investment, but it couldn't be further from the truth. Blockbuster existed before Netflix. Is anybody Blockbuster & chilling today? No, because Blockbuster no longer exists. It failed to innovate and meet the needs of today's market. Marc Randolph & Reed Hastings (Netflix founders) were far less qualified than the bosses at Blockbuster to launch an online platform such as Netflix, but they took action on the idea. In today's world any half decent, and even some seemingly awful ideas, have access to funding. It's because it's the individuals behind the idea that make it relevant & effective. 

Now, I'm not suggesting because someone has made themselves into a effective leader, or into a person that understands the needs of people today, that ideas will fall into their lap. But in being the right person, invariably they will come across problems in their daily life that are applicable to others & with the correct mindset, conceive of creative solutions to those problems, whether it's in their chosen industry or otherwise. Investing time in oneself pays a residual dividend. Spending all of our time on creating ideas develops many avenues but little depth of knowledge in ourselves. Time with mentors, reading, at seminars, listening to podcasts, in mastermind groups, working with people & toward goals can help to develop the mentality that, when the idea comes, can execute on that idea & turn it into something tangible. 


In retrospect, great ideas are simple, scalable and time-sensitive, meaning they're applicable to widespread technological capabilities or those that are are forthcoming. Those who have conceptualised such ideas, have often stumbled across them but either consciously developed or possessed the necessary mentality and practical application to develop their ideas into reality. In the study of these people, and the common characteristics they share, we can develop ourselves so that when the idea strikes, we're well positioned to execute and create one of our own.

Entitled generation: what "work your passion" really means.

Millennials get a tough ride... or do they? As one myself, i'm sensitive to the fact that we've had it better than any generation before us, but at the same time our access to information and what we could have has expanded our expectations and aspirations for ourselves. Instagram feeds, celebrity access and the notion that we can achieve anything we want has left many disgruntled and unfulfilled in what a large percentage of people across the world would deem as "luxury." There's an underlying tone of entitlement when we suggest what we'd like to achieve, and the belief that the acquisition of such a lifestyle is as simple as our ability to view it on our smartphones. My belief is that there is an integral aspect of the phrase "work your passion" that many of us ignore, and that is the "work" bit.

In my teens my passion was football. I looked at my options upon leaving school and was self-aware enough to know that, despite seeing my friends pursuing a professional playing route, i was way off the mark. I also knew i couldn't wake up everyday & do something i didn't enjoy or feel passionate about. With this in mind, prior to my last year at school i volunteered with Norwich City's community football programme all summer, 30 hours a week enthusiastically picking up cones and tying kid's shoelaces. When term came around for my final year at school, i continued assisting the full-time coaches 2-3 nights per week in the evening sessions and focused very little attention on my GCSEs. I absolutely loved helping kids learn the game and knew i could happily do this as a job. I set a goal to own my own football academy within 5 years and reverse engineered what i thougth the process would look like.


From the age of 15 to 17, i volunteered whilst completing my basic FA qualifications, watching and learning from more experienced coaches and consuming as much information as i could. I began taking my own sessions and at 18, progressed to taking my first UEFA license, the tutor telling me i was the youngest person in the country to have passed. I took a full-time job with the club and began teaching sports in schools in the daytime, then football in the evenings. I knew i had to coach more football and read that many coaches were moving to the states due to limited full-time jobs in the UK and higher salaries, and with this applied for a job in New Jersey. Turning 18 and having my first experiences of nightclubs and drinking, i knew moving to the states by myself would mean i wouldn't be able to experience being an 18 year old with my friends, but at the same time knew it would accelerate my knowledge and ability, and so with that, accepted the job.

My year in the states, where my friends back home were going to clubs, was coaching throughout the day and then staying behind after my sessions to watch the older coaches. Night times i trained myself or stayed in and read everything i could. After an amazing year, i accepted an offer to move to Mexico. I was obsessed. It was a progression which allowed me to manage a programme and work with more experienced coaches. Another year abroad, living in a sometimes dangerous city outside my comfort zone and away from friends and family, allowed me to learn enough about the business and different coaching/playing styles to move back to the UK aged 20 and open my first football academy.


In January 2011, on sheer determination and next to no money, i opened one of the UK's first Coerver Coaching performance academy franchises, competing with elements of the previous company i had worked for in my home city. It was my first business and i was working full-time on my passion. I understood what that phrase meant. To wake up everyday, doing something i loved and for myself, whilst helping local kids learn to love the game was an incredible feeling. Without the "work," the time abroad, the sacrifices, the 2 years volunteering for free and starting from the very bottom, i wouldn't of had an appreciation of the position i found myself in. The "work" made the passion possible. Coerver coaching Norfolk went on to have over 225 players training every week, with trips abroad to AC Milan and players progressing through to professional academies, whilst allowing me to give employment to my friends and learn how to run a business.

I use my story as context. So many people want to be given a job doing what they love, but are grossly unaware of how value exchange works. In order to be of value to a company, or a client, you must be able to offer value beyond their compensation for your services. Why would anyone hire someone to appease their passion? Its a bi-product. When you add value, you can charge for your service. The basis for passion as leverage lies in the fact that when you work within your passions, you will work harder and as such, be of value in order to be able to charge.

If you're passionate about something and want to do it as a job, you will go above and beyond to create an opportunity that affords you the knowledge to be in a position to charge for it, whether via an employer or your own business. If you work full-time, there is hours between when you finish and start work. If you're too young, or have no experience, volunteer. If you don't know, learn (libraries are grossly undervalued accessible resources. Books and videos contain knowledge from the best minds on the planet!) If you're hiring, you will know someone's passion as it correlates with their effort in showcasing it. It IS possible to create a lifestyle based on your passions or interests, but your passion must be in proportion to the amount of work you're prepared to put in to make it work.

Working in the US, circa 2009

Working in the US, circa 2009

Working in Mexico, circa 2010

Working in Mexico, circa 2010