By Jacque Talbot
Graduation is on the horizon for many students, as they prepare for their lives on the ‘outside’. Fear, apprehension or in some cases buzz and adventure, are the words on many students’ lips. Luckily, there is a source of inspiration in the figure of Manchester Met basketball scholar Jerelle Okoro, 24.
Jerelle and business partner Sam Lane, 21, first met playing basketball at university and soon became good friends. From the thirsty work of shooting hoops, the pair invented a new drink to keep them hydrated during practice. The original concoction – water mixed with green tea and cordial – tasted so good that most of their basketball friends started using it. Since then, the popularity of the drink soared and the boys decided to turn their favourite drink into their own business.
Their brand, ‘Tuice’, is marketed as a sports soft drink with the added calorie-conscious benefit. The company has been well received, winning the 2015 Young Enterprise Company of the Year award for Leicestershire.
Don’t worry though, the drink isn’t just a mix of green tea and cordial anymore – it comes in two flavours; Apple, honey and chocolate and lychee, lavender and pear.
As part of Humanity Hallow’s campaign to showcase graduate success stories, we got in touch with Jerelle to find out more about the origin of Tuice and whether he has any advice on the world of business for fellow students.
You met your business partner playing basketball. Were you destined to be partners from the beginning?
It’s funny because I did not like him when we first met, but he grew on me. We soon realised that we had a lot more in common than we thought. Ranging from how we like our jam toast to watching hilarious (cute) cat videos to get through the stressful times in university.
Can you tell us a bit more about your brand Tuice?
We both studied at Loughborough and played for the university’s first team and it was there, I used to produce my own makeshift drink. Inside it was a green tea bag and some cordial. It had a unique taste and great benefits through the green tea. However, before I knew it, everyone on the team was doing the same thing and the trend grew to other teams. At that moment, we knew that we had something special on our hands.
Where do you see Tuice in five years’ time? How far do you believe you can take it?
We believe that Tuice can be a household name. We see ourselves as innovators and we feel that this has lacked in the beverage industry in the UK. We feel that we can bring great products to the market that people will enjoy and love.
What obstacles did you have to overcome in order to make Tuice a success?
The obstacles are still very imminent. They come in waves. However, the hardest obstacle to date is getting the drink to production phase. We are still learning so much on this journey that every time we take a step forward we take two steps back. Hopefully, when we hit our next target, we will jump a few steps forward.
How have the skills and experience you gained studying helped you start up your business?
I think the best lesson that I have learnt is the time management. At university we had to study, play professional basketball and run the business. I soon learnt that if I am not able to handle everything that I am doing, it will all soon crash and burn. I know that sounds a bit exaggerated but that is honestly how I felt.
Do you believe in the notion that you must be brutal or ruthless in order to succeed in business – or is it simply a matter of hard work?
I feel that you need to have a lot of love for what you are doing because the stress and negative responses that you receive can turn a lot of people away. If you love what you do, all the obstacles just seem as steps leading towards your vision. Also, I feel that you have to be extremely persistent. I mean sometimes I have called people (that I know are ignoring me) 3/4 times a day to get a conversation that could possible help push the business forward. So I think being ruthless is hard work, but the love for what you are doing keeps the engine running.
What advice would you give to final year students who are about to start planning for their next steps for after graduation?
My advice to students approaching graduation, and even before they see the finish line of graduation, is to do what you love! I completely understand that people are worried about a lot of environmental stressors, but I believe that doing what makes you happy keeps you young and full of life. To me that should be the only way you want to live your life.
If you would like to find more inspirational graduate success stories check out the Manchester Met Careers and Employability page.
You can follow Jacque over on Twitter.