Jamie Douglas-Hamilton - ACTiPH

Jamie Douglas-Hamilton is the founder and Director of ACTiPH, the UK’s first alkaline ionised bottled water brand. Jamie discovered the benefits of alkaline water out of necessity during a 5,000-mile row from Australia to Africa; realising that freshwater mixed with seawater was more hydrating than freshwater alone, instantly increasing power, energy levels and reducing hallucinations. This revelation helped the team break two Guinness World Records and was the inspiration behind ACTiPH.

Following his revelation, Jamie undertook the Saltire Fellowship in 2014 and then more recently completed ES Conscious Leadership Catalyst and Innovation & Growth Catalyst as part of his longstanding journey with Entrepreneurial Scotland.

THE OPPORTUNITY:

Jamie found out about the Saltire Fellowship from a friend and, after researching this opportunity in more detail, he couldn’t believe that something like this existed. The year-long course would support his next stage of career development, so he applied immediately and was later accepted into the 2014 cohort of the fellowship programme.

Jamie travelled out to Boston for four months where he completed the first leg of his fellowship at Babson College before going on to Silicon Valley where he recalls meeting so many inspirational people and companies who were doing amazing things. He returned from the international syllabus of the course to complete a three-month placement at PureMalt, dealing with senior management and working for a business that exports to 60 companies across the world.

Commenting on his experience, Jamie said, “The Saltire Fellowship was a lifechanging experience and by the end of it, I was a completely different person from the one that went into it. I remember the first day, Les Charm caught eyes with me and asked me to stand up – he said, you have one minute, why would I invest in you – I couldn’t get it right at all. I completely messed it up. The biggest thing I learned was being comfortable being uncomfortable and that was an intentional element of the experience and it has held me in good stead."

Upon completion of the Saltire Fellowship in 2015, Jamie was 30, had no money, was living at home with his parents and was feeling like a bit of a failure. That said, he just knew that there was something in his idea around the importance of hydration and building on the confidence and courage instilled in him through the Saltire Fellowship Programme, he set up ACTiPH.

OUTCOMES:

In its third year of trading, ACTiPH is already the leading brand for the alkaline water category in Europe and the Middle East and Jamie now has his sights set on being the leading brand globally. Already exporting to 15 countries, and experiencing strong growth overseas, international sales account for 40% of the company’s annual turnover. Having already raised 3.5M in total, they are now looking to expand and grow into new markets, following advice and introductions made by the Department for International Trade (DIT).

ACTiPH operates in the same space as Coca-Cola, Nestle and Danone; firms with between 20-100bn turn over. With water increasingly becoming commoditised, they are working hard to change perspectives and educate people about the importance of hydration. Everything they do with ACTiPH 'communicates' and that’s why they have invested effort into making custom made moulds, custom made caps, and more recently, ensuring all of their packaging is 100% recyclable and BPA free.

Reflecting on his time at Babson College, Jamie said, "Professor Jay Rao was an enormous influence in my journey and, I have used so much of his wisdom when establishing and growing ACTiPH. His categorisation of companies by their size, into gorillas, chimpanzees and monkeys has been invaluable. Start-ups would be little monkeys which have a lot of advantages over gorillas. A gorilla in our industry would be a Coca-Cola, a chimpanzee would be a Redbull for example and so with a big gorilla they go through a long stage-gate process, they have an idea, it has to go through consumer testing and it could take as much as 2 years to get to market.

“There's a lot of benefits to being a monkey and being very focused and that was one of the things that gave me the confidence to know that actually, the big companies don't always get it right. These people aren't better than you, you do have advantages over the others. Going into this very competitive space, it's more advantageous to be a monkey.”

When reflecting on the key learnings and outcomes of the Saltire Fellowship, Jamie explained that was it not for his experience, connections and confidence built through the programme, ACTiPH would likely not exist.

"A lot of insight came from understating other peoples innovation in different sectors and looking at how you can implement that in your sector. I have also met so many incredible people in senior positions in different industries from the cohort and many of them have gone on to invest in ACTiPH through our crowdfunding programme. So far, in total, we have raised £175,000 from the Entrepreneurial Scotland network alone,” says Jamie.

Perhaps one of the most powerful takeaways from the fellowship was the international outlook that it afforded Jamie, "Scotland is a very small country so everything you do, you have to look outwards. Export was a key focus for us from day one and following our initial funding round, we trademarked ACTIPH in 50 countries, establishing ourselves as a global brand with exporting as an agenda.”

Jamie feels strongly that the fellowship gave him the confidence to move against the grain, acting on his insights and ability to build an emotional connection between his brand, distributors and consumers - all facilitated through the power of storytelling. “In America, we landed two of the biggest distributors without having a single contract, normally you have to have 25 retailer groups and about 2,000 retailers to get in but just through the way we told the story, we got the business. The guy completely forgot we were selling water and was so immersed in the story. These are key learnings from the fellowship,” he comments.

Jamie feels passionate that investing in leadership development is one of the most important things a business can do and he strives to create a cult with ACTiPH, rather than a company. He believes that very few companies achieve this, and you know you have a cult when people look forward to coming into work in the morning.

Having recently completed the ES Conscious Leadership Catalyst programme, Jamie feels that this course has supported him towards becoming a better leader as he has learned that connecting with his team and supporting them to realise their own individual goals, ensured that everyone remains fulfilled and passionate in their roles at ACTiPH. Jamie also reflects on how this course has supported his ability to delegate more effectively as well as make several pivotal decisions for the business moving forward.

Jamie comments, "Following the conscious leader's course, we committed to making only using 100% recyclable PET in our bottles by 2022. It has given us a lot to think about and a lot of it we can't implement for the next 6-months but as we get over this and make new hires we will be able to delegate more responsibility and ownership to people so that we can focus on more of this."

In conclusion, Jamie says, “Sandy Kennedy, ES CEO has been a very positive driving force. He’s a very passionate person who is driving entrepreneurial growth in Scotland and has had a hugely positive impact on me too. These learnings stay with you for life and I would like to keep doing Entrepreneurial Scotland intensive programmes to keep me on my toes.”