Introducing our Entrepreneurs in Residence 2021

2020 was a rough year for early-stage start-ups. On that, we can all agree.

 Eager to help new founders get off to a good start in 2021, in December, we decided to launch a search for two teams to become our Entrepreneurs in Residence at our White City and Ancoats hubs. 

We set out to find the most exciting new names in food tech, fashion, and media and lend a much-needed hand. After an overwhelming response,, we narrowed down over 50 finalists to two very worthy winners. We’re very proud to introduce you to Huckletree West’s new food tech vanguards Reformed Characters and Ancoats local force for good Manchester Fashion Movement.

From Naomi Campbell to Miley Cyrus, more and more of us are embracing the low or no-alcohol lifestyle; Reformed Characters’ founder Daniel is making his mark on this growing industry by not just producing a tasty offering but by encouraging consumers to celebrate the benefits of mindful drinking. 

Both ladies over at Manchester Fashion Movement are fashion entrepreneurs in their own right, with Alison founding Sustainable Fashion Party and AllyPally Vintage and Camilla spearheading  Wardrobe Wellbeing. Being extremely passionate about second-hand ethical clothing, they decided to combine their shared wealth of knowledge and experience to create MFM, an educational, collaborative collective on a mission to future proof our world through fashion. 

We’re excited to have these two impressive companies looking to positively impact our everyday lives by championing mindful consumption, be it bubbly or bell bottoms. We caught up with the founders to find out a little more about where they come from, where they’re going, and what their plans are for the next twelve months. 

Here’s what they had to say.



What inspired you to start your own business?

Daniel:

I have worked in design for food and FMCG for many years, and I always knew I wanted to start a food brand of my own, but I wanted to wait until I felt really passionate about something. After trying a few Dry Januarys and Sober Octobers, I pretty much stopped drinking entirely and couldn’t believe the fantastic benefits of mindful drinking and sobriety. I was also surprised by how little brands in the non-alcoholic space were really speaking about it and what was driving such a large amount of people to moderate or stop drinking. From my own experience, I also felt a distinct lack of products in the non-alcoholic category, so I set out to create my own with Reformed Characters®. 



Alison & Camilla:

We set up Manchester Fashion Movement (MFM) during the first lockdown; two sustainability advocates who wanted to build something we were passionate about, during a time of shifting expectations and significant major adjustments. Our Community Interest Company is here to enable communities in Greater Manchester better understand the impact of the fashion industry and recognise the benefits of a more responsible approach to consumerism. We wanted to create something which was positive, made a difference and reached more people.

What does being Huckletree’s Entrepreneur in Residence mean to you?

Daniel

I’m really looking forward to working with the team at Huckletree on our plans for investment and scaling, and also connecting some more with the community here at Huckletree West. I’m very conscious of building Reformed Characters® as a community-focused brand that consumers genuinely want to engage with and gain value from –  a huge part of that is in having a great group of people around you.

Alison & Camilla: 

Being at Huckletree will give us the business support we need to effectively scale up Manchester Fashion Movement. It will help us develop a platform with better functionality to ensure we can monetize our offering and maintain a sustainable business model. It will enable us to start spreading the MFM messages within Huckletree, the wider community and across a more B2B environment. Having a central base gives us a presence in the city which we are supporting and allows us to immerse ourselves in what's happening around us. It’s going to be a game-changer.

Where would you like to see yourselves a year from now?

 

Daniel:

A year from now, I would like to see us having brought a strong first product to market, having raised investment, and gaining listings in key grocers and retailers. I have huge ambitions for Reformed Characters® and how it can add value to people's lives within the mindful drinking and non-alcoholic scene, so I will equally be looking to see how the brand can enhance consumers’ lifestyle and experiences. 

 

Alison & Camilla:

A year from now, we would hope to be in a position to have gathered the rich quality information we need to spark change. We want to be able to offer employment opportunities within the Greater Manchester area, and help individuals develop their skillset by creating a mini MFM team. We aim at having a strong strategy in place to ensure our business outcomes are met, and we have continued success. MFM will be the go to movement when striving for a more sustainable lifestyle; a recognised way to help people make a difference in their lives, starting with their clothing choices. “Future-proofing our world through fashion”

What’s the most challenging and most exciting thing about having your own business?

 

Daniel:

I would say the most challenging thing is the sheer overwhelm which can often hit when you think of how many roles you have to be split across when you are a solo founder in a startup. From accounting, to investment, product development, marketing and sales – you need to be able to get a good grip across all of them, initially at least. The most exciting thing is crafting a brand and product yourself, and the potential of where that can take you, the sky really is the limit for startups, but sometimes it’s a juggling act of reigning some of that ambition in and saying what is achievable in the here and now. 



Alison & Camilla:

Having realistic expectations can feel tough and wanting to do everything all at once but remembering what’s actually possible! The most exciting thing? Experiencing flourishing ideas and dreams that can become a reality. That does feel pretty special.

 

What support will you be seeking from your new community at Huckletree? 

 

Daniel:

I would love to engage with the community as much as possible. Especially with things like the tasting of the product as it develops. 



Alison & Camilla:

We would really benefit from insights on how to find investment, monetize our offering, scale-up at a sensible pace, and provide some tech support to add and improve the functionality of our website.

Also, as we are new to forming a CIC, guidance in this specific area would be appreciated.

 

Are there any businesses or fellow entrepreneurs that really inspire you? 

Daniel:

Within my own category, I look at brands like BrewDog and how they have managed to take on industry giants, and make sizeable waves in their own right. They know they can’t compete with the titanic drinks groups on marketing spend and advertising, so when they do it, it is intelligent, gets people talking, and feels right for their audience – they are a seriously clever brand.

Alison & Camilla:

Jennifer Neff, Co-Founder of Elemental Software. The business model is amazing and Jennifers drive to succeed is inspiring. Vandana Shiva - honestly, inspirational in every way. Also Mary Portas. We love her direct and solution-based approach.

As a founder, what was the most valuable lesson you learned from the challenges of 2020?

 

Daniel:

I think so many of us could quite happily consider 2020 a write-off. I think it was a year (and still is) where any of us could happily lean into those easier negative emotions and habits. I think we have all learnt resilience and how we can make the most of a pretty bad situation, be that mentally or physically. I heard this quote this morning which I think sums it up for me "So many problems happen because we’re doing something in the moment, which in the future, we’ll wish we hadn’t."

 

Alison & Camilla:

We have learnt resilience; what may feel like a negative at the time can shape your future. Inner strength is everything!



Keep up with our EIR’s on their journey here. Interested in helping the founders on their journey - reach out, we’d love to hear from you. For now, here’s to a promising 2021.