We spoke to the founder of the alcoholic cocktail gummy Smith and Sinclair. Mel doesn’t think being an adult has to be boring and for the last few years she’s been on a venture to add some excitement to growing up.
Where did the idea of Smith & Sinclair come from?
Myself and Emile hosted a board game dating night in East London. It was pre-Tinder, when dating had just started to pique online interest. We wanted to rebel and give adults a chance to still have fun and socialise, but without the time constraints that speed dating throws up.
Our nights were hosted in cocktails bars, which of course meant people had a drink in one hand, leaving just one hand free to play with the board games. Emile is a chef and had always experimented with jelly, so we cooked up the ‘edible cocktail gummy’ – much like a Haribo – to serve at our dating events.
The Alcoholic Cocktail Gummies gathered interest from event organisers who were ordering batches at a time for their events. At one event we met the organiser of London’s Berwick Street Market and convinced them to let us set up a little store. We also set up our online shop in 2014 and it was here that the order of 20,000 gummies came through from Imbibe. We thought it was a mistake but it turned out their marketing manager had put an order in for all Imbibe events, following their visit to our Berwick Street Stall.
Why do you want to disrupt the food and beverages sector?
What you consume and how you consume has long lasting memories. Alcohol is a prominent part of society, yet it hasn’t had a huge innovation other than ‘alcopops’. Younger audiences want playful gifts, they want innovative flavours, surprise and delight – I’m astounded the food and beverage sector hasn’t been disrupted more.
Younger people are drinking less and drinking better quality. Our Alcoholic Cocktail Gummies make it easier to monitor consumption in a clearer way – people know what they are going to get. We call this a measured experience.
Why do you want to bring experience to the high street?
The high street is boring, it’s predictable. We see the same shops, doing the same thing day after day. However, with the rise in online shopping, people are visiting the high street less and less – so we need to make the high street shopping experience more fun or risk more shops closing down.
Why do you want to make adult more fun?
From a young age I found the thought of adulthood mundane – I was an adrenaline seeker. At school I loved drama, I loved the freedom, creativity and stimulation it allowed. As you get older, you have less time to be creative and explore different avenues.
We want to turn the mundane into the exciting, we wanted to find a way to put a smile on someone’s face. These days, it’s common to know someone suffering with mental health issues and a lot of that is routed in a lack of expression and forced routine. It’s important to break through the routine and bring back the enjoyment and excitement you felt as a kid.
How would you describe your working style?
We have a lovely bright open plan office – I think it’s important to move around and have a collaborative working environment. We are a very creative company; our office is always buzzing, there’s music playing, we talk to each other, and share ideas and successes. Most importantly, I like to laugh at least once a day – but that’s not hard in such a great and exciting company.
How would you describe your personality?
Expressive. Eccentric. Direct. Blunt. Empathetic. Provocative.
There’s room to be more relaxed, less impulsive and more sympathetic.
Outside of Smith & Sinclair, what’s the best food and drink experience you’ve had in the last two weeks?
I love the cocktail menu at Happiness Forgets in Hoxton, east London.
Did you have any business setbacks?
Smith and Sinclair has grown rapidly, which has meant i’ve had to learn on the job – very quickly – but it’s a very exciting journey.
What skills do you look for in people that you work with?
I look for people that are passionate about our company, understand our values and what we want to achieve. I also look for people who have a hunger to learn and are ambitious.
What do you love about having your own company?
I love to learn and see people around me improve. I’ve also become totally addicted to feeling out of my depth and thrive off of this. I enjoy supporting others, as together, we help the business to grow.
What’s your five-year plan?
My five year plan revolves around my business – though I am getting married this year! I’d like to introduce two new products per year, become recognised in the US and continue to forge the space between retail and F&B.
On a personal note, I’d like to travel a lot and have the opportunity to speak prominently about what I am passionate about. Mental health, gender equality, pay and promotions…
Who are you most inspired by?
Competition – I am really inspired about people who succeed in my space.