The Wisdom of Craig Sams, Green & Blacks
Yesterday I was delivering workshops at the Get It Sussed event in Gateshead. While for some the highlight was hanging around in the foyer with a rather sullen looking Little Mix showing no X Factor whatsoever during a fire alarm (their dark lord, Simon Cowell, was said to have been spotted as well), I was rather more starstruck by the keynote speech from Craig Sams, founder of Whole Earth Foods and Green & Black.
Sams tells a great story – from his parents growing up in the dust bowl in the 30s (flour companies started producing prettily decorated sacks as a form of marketing as it was standard practice for desperately poor farmers to upcycle them into clothes for their children) through the hippy entrepreneur days at Whole Earth to his more recent work on Green & Blacks and biochar. I took the following points away:
- We are (or should be) all pioneers in this game. This takes resilience, guile and, above all, unrelenting optimism;
- The product is paramount – Whole Earth peanut butter is very popular because it has a great taste, Green & Blacks because it is very rich chocolate AND they are both very sustainable;
- Branding should be bold – they chose the name Green & Blacks because it was strong, easy to remember and had the hint of environment (green) and dark chocolate (black). Names with “eco” or the like in them were considered but quickly ditched;
- Storytelling is a very powerful form of communication – and Sams is a master;
- If you are not failing, you are not trying hard enough – he told us how at one point he had bailiffs evaluating how much his bakery was worth, but he managed to pay his tax bill just in time.
It was great stuff and very inspiring – I’ve heard him tell most of this story before but it was still worth sitting through again.