We are always on the look out for inspirational family business stories to share and this one is just that. Emma Thackray is the co-founder of Hip Hop, a business that was founded after a simple conversation generated an idea that became a business and the rest is history in the making. Paul Andrews spoke to Emma to find out more about the makings of the family business.
What was the initial idea for Hip Hop?
When Kenny first told me he had tummy issues, I gave him some of my homemade Kombucha which I learned to make when I lived in the US, where Kombucha is super popular. Within a few weeks, Kenny’s IBS was much better so he convinced me to build a tiny microbrewery in my garage in order to start sharing with others. We sold our ‘booch’ on local farmers markets and the feedback blew us away so we decided to take the leap and create a proper grown-up brewery on a beautiful farm in Cheshire.
Tell me a little about the history of the business?
We started out in farmers’ markets in Manchester and Cheshire in 2018 testing out our favourite fermented food and drink – kombucha, kimchi and sauerkraut. We had excellent feedback for all but decided we loved kombucha the most and wanted to focus on that, so we built our brewery in 2019.
We’re growing rapidly, and we’ve won awards for our booch – we love it! However, we realised there’s a huge opportunity for a broader range of gut loving drinks, so we have recently launched our CBD kombucha and will soon be unveiling our Apple Cider Vinegar sodas, too.
What generation are you and what are your first memories of the family business?
My business partner, Kenny, and I set up the business, so this is the first generation of Hip Pop – we hope there will be more!
Are there any other family members working in the business?
Yes. Kenny’s wife, Kate Goodman, is a drinks expert and has her own chain of wine shops, Reserve Wines. She was also a co-presenter on BBC Food and Drink.
Kate and her team taste test for us and advise on flavour development. My husband, Julian, is an engineer and was instrumental in setting up the brewery. He worked with us part time for the first year and we couldn’t have done this without him and Kate.
We also rent our space on a family farm, and that family have been a huge support for the business. It’s a three-family endeavour!
How important is the business to you?
It’s hard to put this into words. It’s everything. It’s like having a child! We are hugely proud of our team and what we produce – it’s our responsibility to get Hip Pop out into the world.
What was your journey into the family business and what do you do now?
Kenny is a serial entrepreneur and has been since the age of 18. He’s always had an interest in health and wellbeing and was looking to set up a business in this area.
I have no business experience. Immediately prior to this I was the director for Dolly Parton’s children’s literacy charity, but I had become obsessed with fermentation when living in the USA. When Kenny tried my kombucha, he loved the taste and it helped his IBS, and the rest is history.
What values are important to the family and the business?
We have a set of core company values. We recruit according to these, and we expect every member of the team to live them out every day.
Some of our values include communicating openly, being curious, having each other’s backs, and not being afraid to fail.
We think values are essential because through living them we create brilliant and stimulating work environments where people are encouraged to develop and grow. This, in turn, allows us to attract and retain the most talented and passionate people.
Do you build the family ownership into the marketing and brand narrative and if so, how?
We always say we are a family business and tend to talk about it the most on our socials. For example, our kids sometimes make an appearance – they are our top tasters.
Never mind the drinks experts, if Lottie and Tess don’t like our drinks they aren’t going out!
What do you think makes working in a family business special?
Any entrepreneur puts themself into their business, heart and soul, but the family dimension makes it extra special because you can share it.
Neither of our partners are fully in the family business but they know enough and are involved enough with it to ask questions and they really care.
Are there any disadvantages associated with working in a family business?
Sometimes it’s hard to leave work at work!
Is there a next generation in the wings?
Our next generation are all kids – the oldest are 12 and 10. They are that age where they think we and everything we do is massively uncool – ask again in about 10 years!
What advice would you give to anyone in the next generation considering joining their family firm?
Think about your communication – how you might communicate with another family member or friend at home or in social situations is not always the best way at work.
Don’t let things fester, be open and transparent. Similarly, set boundaries between home and work. When you’re running a small business it’s inevitable that you’ll bring things home, be that actual work or simply thinking and talking about the business, but be careful that you don’t completely lose any sense of separation between the different worlds.
If you could talk to your younger self before you joined the business, what would you say?
Enjoy not working weekends and evenings! I’m joking, sort of. Enjoy the experience, as you’ll look back at yourself and realise how much you have grown as a result of running a business. Go in with your eyes open to the reality and the hard work, but don’t forget to enjoy it too.
If you could sum up the family business in three words, what would they be?
Exciting. Rollercoaster. Brilliant.