Dragons Den star Levi Roots has been working with students at the Royal Agricultural University to boost their entrepreneurship and skills. Here, he shares some lessons for success.
Food and farming businesses owners need to put themselves into the brand and sell themselves, according to Reggae Reggae Sauce founder Levi Roots.
Mr Roots’ business took off when he appeared on the BBC’s Dragons’ Den where he won around the investors with a song and has built his brand around himself.
Prior to the show, he was selling the sauce at festivals and singing his song, when he felt a tap on his shoulder.
“I had never seen Dragons’ Den, so I did not have a clue what this woman was on about,” he said.
“Later, when I showed her business card to my kids, they all got excited as they knew exactly what the programme was.
“I believed I had a great sauce, but if you watch the clip back of my appearance you can see how nervous I was. I was sweating profusely, and got all my numbers wrong.
“But I had seen something in those Dragons’ eyes that made me believe they were going to invest.”
He said it was vital for farmers to put themselves into the brand.
“The brand is ‘Levi Roots’ – I am the brand,” he added. “That way I was able to be more diverse and go into other areas that perhaps would not have been open to me otherwise.
“It is really important to put yourself into your brand. Sell yourself first and the rest will follow.”
Mr Roots has been a long-term supporter and champion of the Royal Agricultural University’s (RAU) Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Programme, and a regular judge and mentor on its Grand Idea competition for student entrepreneurs.
He has also served on the University’s School of Business Advisory Board.
He said he has been really impressed by the students’ ideas.
“Each year brings new and innovative ideas from these bright girls and boys,” he said.
“I am blown away with their clever ideas and how they are always improving upon the year before.”
He said the best piece of advice he had received from Dragon Peter Jones was to just ‘be yourself’.
“I would just add to Peter’s words and say be the best version of you,” he said. “By that I mean, make sure you are ready to take on the challenge ahead.”
He added he had managed to keep his personality in the brand by being careful what he puts his name to.
Being able to adapt and change was also vital in this industry.
“For instance, I have watched some products come and go over the past 12 years, he said.
“You cannot get too upset that you have a line being discontinued. It is the way of the supermarkets.
“There are so many people competing for a relatively small shelf space that the markets can change just like that. That is why it is important to keep things fresh.
“Come up with new and exciting things that people are keen to try.”
Mr Roots was currently in product development for new ideas which he hoped would be on the supermarket shelves for next year.
“There is also my Rasta’raunt in Westfield shopping centre, Stratford, which also takes up a lot of my time.”