Diversification key to success as entrepreneurial businesses feel the squeeze

Among the highlights of this year’s RSM annual conference was the inspirational presentation by Duncan Goose, founder and Managing Director of Global Ethics, owner of the One brand. Duncan shared his story as to how he took a business idea for bottled water from a chat with friends in a London pub, to the shelves of major supermarkets across three continents. The branding and business model is very powerful. Each One product funds a directly related project in sub-Saharan Africa. The profits from the sale of One Water go directly to fund water projects, while the profits from One Supersoftly Toilet Tissue fund hygiene and sanitation projects, and so on.

A profile of Duncan Goose in the Daily Telegraph earlier this week, addressed some of the issues which Duncan – and undoubtedly many other entrepreneurs - are grappling with right now. Businesses supplying the retail sector are feeling the squeeze as supermarkets reduce the number of brands they stock, and put pressure on the remaining brands to offer promotions. The rewards of doing business with a large multinational supermarket can be immense, but entrepreneurial businesses who do not manage the relationship carefully, can find that the coveted contract they have secured can be a curse almost as much as it is a blessing.

Partly as a consequence, One is diversifying into energy and financial services. This is a smart move, as not only does it allow One to shield itself against supermarkets rationalising their product lines, but it also taps into the current consumer disillusionment with energy and financial services providers in the UK. Duncan Goose thinks that customers buying electricity through One should also save £80-£100 on yearly bills, as well as doing some good. What’s not to love about that?

Duncan provided some fascinating insights into how his business has become so successful and alluded to some of the trade-offs that all small businesses have to make, such as how much profit should you reinvest to grow a business, balanced against how much you should distribute to shareholders? In One’s case though, the shareholders are communities in Sub-Saharan Africa.

It was a fascinating insight into a business and entrepreneur who many RSM members have said was one of the highlights of this year’s annual conference.


Jean M Stephens
Chief Executive Officer