These are a few interview style questions that we put to Hugh Thomas about their battle with work life balance as Ugly Drinks breaks into the beverage industry.

Start-up projects and entrepreneurship are a big talking point right now with a move away from faceless corporate jobs towards the dream of ‘making your stamp on your industry’. But what is it really like for a young adult trying to make their way in an ever-condensing market of brands and influencers? Read Hugh Thomas’s answers to find out.


What is your role now and what are the main responsibilities for you?

I started Ugly with my good friend, Joe Benn, and we split the responsibilities of running the Ugly business between us. My responsibilities entail marketing, strategic planning, financial management and people…it’s a lot on the plate and I’m learning a huge amount.

How long have you been doing this for and what did you do before?

Ugly launched in January 2016. Before this, both Joe and I worked for coconut water start-up, Vita Coco Coconut Water from its launch here in the UK. We both learnt a vast amount during our time there and decided to leave to give the beverage game a go ourselves!

Can you think of any key challenges you had to overcome and how did you battle them to get to where you are?

There are plenty of challenges and obstacles along the way (that’s one thing we can guarantee!) and you will need to learn how to deal with them when they come. In 2015, we had shelf life issues with our first product (a bottled version of the drink) and needed to go back to the drawing board on development. This was a challenging time for us, but we believe so strongly in our mission to create a beverage without sugars or sweeteners that we stuck to the task.

What is the dream, or where would you like to see yourself in five or ten years?

We started Ugly to create an accessible and affordable alternative to fizzy drinks for as many people as possible. We see the brand growing and want to get more flavours and formats on more shelves. The UK is sweet enough already and we want consumers to have access to a drink without any nasties!

How do you find balancing lifestyle and downtime with your job?

Balance is certainly challenging. I think I’ve accepted that some months will be different to others and you need to roll with the rollercoaster. Some months will be hectic and you’ll need to work hard, but when you have a little more breathing space, you need to take the time to rest and recover. It’s more obvious to us than ever that this is needed to maintain a fast-growing operation.

If you could give one piece of advice to a young spark looking to start their business, what would that be?

It would be…the obstacle is the way. The journey is going to be long and tough. Anyone getting into this game should know they will need to be patient and resilient especially when things get tough. Stick to it, keep moving forwards and try to see the opportunities in the obstacles…!

What has been your favourite event you have attended this month? If not month, this year?

The Bread and Butter Food Founders Festival ( was fantastic this year. It was great to see everyone with similar stories and challenges in one place at the same time.

And finally, what do you think is the best part about being an upcoming, self-employed business owner right now?

The UK is a fantastic place to start a business right now…and there has never been a better time. The thing I love the most is meeting people. Other founders, other employees, staff in stores and customers. You learn different things from everyone and being a founder gives you such a varied outlook on life…it’s a real thrill…

Thank you so much for talking to us and telling us about your experiences! We can’t wait to hear all about what you get up to in the future, your definitely our new favourite office bev!

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