My Week: Jonnie Shearer of Pussy Drinks

Jonnie Shearer, founder of energy drinks company Pussy, on going mainstream, competing with the big boys, and why the brand name isn't as shocking as you think it is.

by Rebecca Burn-Callander
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

When I first started the company back in 2007, we didn't have any spare cash for marketing. I needed a name that would do the job for me. Pussy, as you can imagine, really got us noticed. We were up against hundreds of other brands desperate for shelf space and the name just gave us the competitive edge.

We started out really small, supplying only the coolest nightclubs, premium parties and events in the UK and beyond. It was a niche market, and it was amazing for the brand. But you can't sell the volumes you need to be a successful business just by supplying the Amber party at the Monaco Grand Prix. These days, I'm focussed on growth and landing bigger deals. In the last few months, we've signed contracts with Selfridges, Virgin Trains, Itsu, Ocado, and Tesco, with a number of other big names coming up. We're in Russia, the US; I think Pussy is distributed in 20 or so countries now. We're selling half a million cans every month.

Between dealing with big customers and working out ways to grow the brand, I'm insanely busy. I work 12 hour days, six or seven days a week. The only thing I find time for outside of work is tennis. Tennis and eating pizza. I do a lot of both.

Pussy has come along way from its humble beginnings, when I was a one-man band working out of my bedroom. There were a fair few horror stories in the first six months, I can tell you. But now, we've got some heavyweight investors on board, and we're investing every penny of profit back into the business to make sure we grow as fast as we can.

It's not easy, though. Marketing is still an issue: our biggest rival has millions to spend and, as I said, we're concentrating on growing the business, not flashy campaigns. But luckily, our core demographic doesn't need that kind of advertising. Around 60% of our customers are women, typically in their thirties or older. Male-dominated, aggressive, extreme sports, cliff-diving ads just won't appeal to them. And it's a really great selling point with the multiples: Pussy appeals to a customer that doesn't usually buy energy drinks. We're 100% natural, very feminine, something new.

The name has been a huge sales driver right from the beginning but it's really not as rude as people think it is. It's like our tagline says: 'The drink is pure. It's your mind that's the problem.' The word isn't new - even back in the sixties there was Pussy Galore in James Bond. There have only been a handful of buyers who were put off by it.

I've had a lot of help making this business successful. Holly and Sam Branson are both involved. In fact, back when I was 18 and just playing around with formulas, we borrowed two giant fish bowls at Holly's house and tested out a couple of flavours at a party. It's great to have them both involved.

The support from the British entrepreneurial community has been incredible. I dropped Julian Metcalfe of Itsu an email about the brand recently, and within weeks the chain was stocking Pussy. But not all the attention we get is positive. We've has a few weird overtures from people who wanted to be involved with the brand, as you can imagine.

Still, I wouldn't change the name for the world. And watch this space: there are going to be a few more Pussy businesses launching in the next five years. All British, all irreverant, all very, very cool.

Find out more about Pussy Drinks

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