Master of Moods. Interview with Louie Syred, co-founder of Peak.

01/07/2022

If you’re a Huckletree member and frequent the Vinny Vending machines as much as I do, you’re likely to be familiar with Peak. That colourful little can holding a mind-boosting, nootropic tonic. I was lucky to sit down with Louie Syred, co-founder and Director to chat about his journey as an entrepreneur.

As we sit down to begin the interview, Louie says to me “do you mind if I just take a moment?”, “please, go for it” I reply. Then, Louie sits back in his chair and closes his eyes for about 20 seconds. When he opens them again, I can’t help but be intrigued, and so here we begin our interview.

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Chlo: I’d love to know more about the moment you took there, was it a mini-meditation?

Louie: Yeah, so in taking that moment, I feel a lot clearer and confident. I imagine breathing in energy, clarity and focus, and breathing out any nervousness. Then I have a blank slate to work with and can navigate the pathways in my mind as clearly as possible.

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Chlo: I love that. We need to make more space for and normalise processes like this. Especially in a work environment. So, Peak Moods. Tell us more about that.

Louie: In a nutshell, we create the first of their kind mood-enhancing drinks to put you in the right state of mind. We use natural nootropics which are brain-boosting ingredients found in plants and minerals that positively influence the way you feel.

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Chlo: And where did the idea come from?

Louie: It was born from two places. For me, my mental performance is dependent on my state of mind and the way I feel. For someone with ADHD, that’s a rollercoaster. I’m not saying Peak is the cure-all, but it is a convenient and healthy way to adapt your mood.

But, for us, it’s bigger than being a drink. Peak is about being in control of the way you feel.

We’re on a mission to empower people to take control of their mental wellness. Drinks are the first chapter in that.

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Chlo: And what brought you to this mission?

Louie: Previously I was a Creative Director and a minor shareholder founder for a CBD startup. I learned a lot on the job. We did some great stuff, and got a lot wrong. I had some control, but the business wasn’t mine. I knew I wanted to create less products with more impact for people like me. So I knew I wanted to do my own thing, but I didn’t know what it was.

Then, one Summer’s Day I bumped into Ben Whales, a fellow naughty school boy from back in the day [separately, Louie had told me of how he’d been kicked out of school, and only through his natural skills as a negotiator, had managed to work out a deal with the head teacher so he could return to do his GCSEs], and it turned out he was living two streets away from me. He was Finance Director at Goodwood, but a very creative finance person. I was really inspired by the way he looked at things, nothing seemed too big.

I suppose without realising it, he was the Yin to my Yang.

We met a couple more times, and then he said to me: “There’s a lot of pressure around drinking, and I think there’s a better way. I’ve found a formula I’d love to create, and I’ve had a lot of business ideas, but I’m telling you this one”.

… For me, that was like a red flag to a bull. Already, I’m like… I’m in. How soon can I jump ship?

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Chloe: And what were those early days like?

Louie: So we were getting it off the ground during Covid, and would meet in our office in Brighton at 5am for strategy and creative sessions. It was always about the mission and the vision for us. We probably spent an unhealthy amount of time on that.

We actually launched as an alcohol alternative, Ben’s original idea. Based on the data, one in four people were teetotal. But all the alcohol alternative brands were focusing on the designated driver and not the people actively making it a choice.

We tried to launch as a direct-to-consumer brand, really naively but partly because we wanted Peak to live digitally. We wanted to do everything differently, but we had to learn not to always go against the grain, and so I began to listen to the people telling me they wanted to see it out in the world… in shops, bars and restaurants.

In those days I was calling twenty establishments a day and just hard-selling the product, this was in the middle of Covid, so it was difficult. We had friction in the bar scene, but health food shops really took to it.

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Chlo: So when did you decide to pivot the brand towards mood-enhancing drinks?

Louie: So, we were members of a workspace in Brighton, and we discovered that a lot of people were drinking Peak in the daytime. They’d be coming up to our studio and saying “mate, I have a big meeting, I need a Peak”. People were replacing their coffee with it, and we had to listen.

That’s the number one rule and people always talk about it, but it’s true. Listen to your customer, they’ll tell you all the answers. Launch too early, when you’re still embarrassed about your product, and then just listen, with no preconceptions. Put your assumptions aside and learn from them.

So it wasn’t a huge pivot. Same name, same identity. But the purpose shifted, and that was crucial. Fast forward and Peak is in soft launch and we have our first product which is called Rise for mental clarity, and we have a second coming out in September called Unwind for mindful calm, both of which are designed to support your circadian rhythms.

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Chlo: And how’s this new direction feeling?

Louie: It feels right. One in two young adults suffer from stress and anxiety daily, and both coffee and alcohol exacerbate it. So we’re stuck in this perpetual loop of drinking coffee to boost our productivity, but then needing alcohol to destress. It’s a breeding ground for addiction, or at the very least, very unhealthy habits. Peak is a remedy to that, to help you feel your absolute best.

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Chlo: I’m curious about your ethos and your outlook on life as an entrepreneur. Tell us about that.

Louie: I set my sights on what I want to achieve, but I also focus on the moment. The end goal is an accumulation of each moment, so it’s fundamental that we’re present in that. With Peak, for example, we’re creating a drinks brand, yes, but we’re not uber focusing on that one thing - we’re very present in the journey and because of that, we’ve been able to realise the potential for it to be something greater.

This is such a strange time where mindfulness is being commoditised, and I’m not here to commoditise it but I’m very interested in how we can bring these elements of Eastern philosophy into our lives. I’ve realised that a lot of the stuff that we talk about with Peak, and a lot of the ingredients that we use have existed for thousands of years in cultures much more knowing than us. Green tea promotes Alpha brainwaves and that’s why the monks drink it to support meditation, you know? We need to be tapping into these things, it’s been on our shelf this whole time.

I’ve been practising a lot more gratitude recently, as well. We don’t do enough of that. We have all these reasons to be super grateful and it’s so aligned with having more control over how you feel. I have my bad days, for sure, but overall, this outlook has had quite a profound effect on my life.

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Chloe: I’ve seen you talking about habit hacking on your Instagram recently. Can you tell us a bit about that?

Louie: It started from a place of frustration around not understanding why a bad day happens. And so I wanted to start tracking my days and my habits so that I could analyse what I do differently on the good days so I can bring in more of that. Both to tap into more productivity, and so I can understand how I can more easily switch off.

There’s a phrase “action is clarity” so inaction, then, is just fog.

So I’ve been documenting what I do, writing it down in a table template I literally just made in my iPhone notes, and sharing this process on my social media. I’ve had so many people messaging me asking for the template. It just shows how many people want to claim back their moods and emotions. I’m trying to build my own personal brand around the Peak ethos and really embody it. So if I’ve helped even five people with this, I’ll be happy, I get a lot out of that.

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Chlo: And what effect has this had so far?

Louie: I feel more in tune with my focus, productivity, motivation, mood, and rest. All things I’m interested in, and eventually, I’d like to make a drink or a product that supports all of these. But what it’s really done, is enable me to go into a day with more intention around my habits and how I get the most out of my time. It’s so easy to roll into a day and just hope things will work out, essentially, planning to fail. And this is coming from someone who has always seen themselves as disorganised, but you’re not born organised, it’s a skill - you can learn.

Understand what energises and drains you. What things in a day trigger your motivation? What triggers mean that you won’t be able to unwind in the evening? Turn the positives into non-negotiables, time block so you’re not just working from a to-do list but have time set aside for the hard-hitting tasks, and turn off distractions - this all leads to freeing up time, and so why wouldn’t you do it?

Documenting and understanding these habits has meant I can design my most optimised day. Because of that, I’m more present and happier, I’m in my peak state of mind.

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Chlo: I’m definitely going to be giving habit-hacking a go. Any final pieces of wisdom or parting advice you want to share?

Louie: Be relentlessly you. That’s how you can be different without even trying and people will relate with you so much more. It’s easy to comprehend and hard to execute, but the more you do it, the easier it gets. I have a quote on my lock screen on my phone, “speak your truth without fear of judgement or of being ignored”, and it reminds me not to care too much. If you’re an entrepreneur, chances are you care about fine details and are hyper-aware.

You need to learn when to care what people think, and when not to, and I call that being compassionately detached.

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Chlo: What a perfect place to end the interview. Thank you so much, Louie.

Louie: Absolutely, no worries.

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Find out more about Peak.