Levi Roots, popularly known for his Reggae Reggae Sauce, recently shared his inspiring story at the SME XPO in London’s ExCel Centre. Roots shared his humble beginnings in Clarendon, Jamaica, where he grew up in a large family that eventually moved to England. After a tough patch which included a nine-year prison sentence, Roots changed his life around, and he now shares the lessons he learned from his experience.
The overarching message of Roots’ talk is to be true to oneself. He emphasized the importance of not comparing oneself with others and rejoicing in who you are. But, it also helps to have someone who can spot your potential and mentor you. Roots stated that it was a mentor who first believed in who he was and that people who have gone through struggles need someone to mentor them. Roots has been mentored and now seeks to mentor others.
Roots advises having the right people around oneself, like-minded individuals who share the same passions and goals, who can offer support and encouragement. He recalls how Peter Jones, his new-found investor, helped him sell his sauce at Sainsbury’s. Though the other investors on “Dragons’ Den” were not as forthcoming, Peter Jones was instrumental in connecting Roots with Sainsbury’s.
Roots also advised that outsourcing was a key way to grow one’s business. He explains that when he had the opportunity to make and sell his sauce at Sainsbury’s, he had to outsource production as he didn’t have the facility to meet their demands. He emphasized building a powerful brand that makes people want to partner with one. When a brand has value, outsourcing makes production and delivery faster and smoother.
Roots stresses the importance of finding one’s market; no one has a right to a market, so businesses must go out and create their market. Roots talked of how he thought he would easily sell his sauce because of his local reputation as a musician, but it took two years before he started selling. In addition, Roots also advises protecting one’s brand and identity from the onset; it is costly to fix legal issues after the fact.
Finally, Roots shares a personal experience where a lady gifted him William Shakespeare’s complete works while in prison, and that inspired him. It was from Shakespeare that he took his favorite quote, “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune,” and the attitude of being prepared to seize opportunities whenever they present themselves.
In summary, Roots emphasizes the importance of being oneself, finding a mentor, having the right people around you, outsourcing, finding your market, protecting your brand and identity, and being prepared to seize opportunities. These are the keys to his success and a guide to business growth.