P | P | P – our chat with Epic Impact
We caught up with James Brown, CEO and a Co-Founder of Epic Impact as part of ‘Product | People | Potential’. Epic Impact strive to help consumers maximise the positive impact of their individual actions on humanity, nature and the environment. The Epic Impact app provides a platform that links ethically minded consumers with like-minded businesses, allowing users to see how their purchasing power can make a difference to the causes that are important to them.
The purpose of article series ‘Product | People | Potential’ is to feature and showcase the very best UK start-ups with grand potential, truly inspiring businesses that are shaking up their sector. We capture and share the stories behind the name. We collate authentic peer to peer real talk, while celebrating the growth and success thus far and gather a glimpse of what’s ahead.
Imogen @ ADLIB: Hi James, nice to meet you. Please could you introduce yourself, what Epic Impact do, the stage you are currently at and what makes Epic Impact unique?
James: Hi Imogen, nice to meet you too. I’m James Brown, Co-Founder and CEO of Epic Impact. At Epic, we have a vision of a world where every time we spend money, we can have a positive impact on humanity, nature, and the environment. One of the biggest barriers to this is that, despite 65% (and growing) of people across all ages wanting to shop from brands that share their values, only 26% are doing so and even then, it is not with regular frequency. There are many reasons for this, but the primary one is that people don’t believe, at an individual level, that they can make a difference in the grand scheme of things.
We want to change this mentality and that is why we are spearheading the creation of a new lifestyle management category, which we like to call ‘Personal Impact Management’. In fact, Epic stands for ‘Ethical Personal Impact Companion’. With Epic, people can search for, and receive personalised recommendations of, vetted and verified merchants and brands that share their values. They will also be able see a breakdown of their day-to-day spending by the values that they support. If you think about personal financial management tools like those you can see in your mobile banking app, you get a breakdown of your spending by categories, such as utilities, transport, groceries, or entertainment. What we want to do is similar, but our app will allow people to see this breakdown by causes supported such as humanitarian aid, conservation, or wildlife protection. We can then use this to show people that no matter what their level of income simply shifting their spending from merchant A to merchant B can have a big impact across the world.
Imogen @ ADLIB: Epic Impact sounds great as it provides a mechanism of supporting good causes without the need to background check companies in your own time and with an easy customer interface. Please could you share the origin story behind Epic Impact?
James: In 2018 I was going through a period of personal reflection that led to me thinking about my role within society, within my community and what more I could do to support causes that I connected with. I was volunteering at a wildlife hospital at the time, and I thought there must be more than I can do to help every single day rather than once a month. At the same time, I was exploring what would be required to increase the take up and use of electric vehicles for private use. If you think of the nature of consumption, consumers are very use to getting something in return for making a purchase. With fossil fuel vehicles, there are reward programs that reward the use of petrol and diesel, however, there wasn’t anything like this for electric vehicles. This meant that despite a reduction in long-term ownership costs there wasn’t that comparable psychological marketing element to running an electric vehicle on a day-to-day basis. For example, think about Tesco’s Clubcard; people will there are people will fill up their cars exclusively at Tesco fuel stations to earn sufficient Clubcard points to pay for a weekly shop; if you have that sort of relationship with reward programmes, where they can help you save significant amounts each month, the barrier to changing to electric vehicles, who don’t have a comparative reward scheme, is massive.
From here, it was a natural evolution to realise that what was needed was something similar to Nectar but designed exclusively to help consumers have a positive impact in the planet. And so, Epic Impact was born.
Imogen @ ADLIB: Speaking of people, could you share some challenges you have faced, are facing, or are anticipating around scaling and growing your team? Do you have any top tips for businesses you think will share the same issues?
James: For businesses like Epic, which is very much purpose-led, you really cannot afford to recruit people that aren’t also purpose led, no matter what their skills are. With start-ups, there can be a tendency to go with people you have worked with in the past, because you trust them and know they can do the work and get things done. However, no matter how good the person is, if they are not likeminded on the business purpose, they will lack the necessary subconscious instinct that can spot an opportunity or generate a new idea specific to your mission that could give you a competitive advantage. Unless you have people around you who are subconsciously thinking of your purpose, you’re going to hit barriers to that natural flow of ideas. Realising this and learning to trust a person’s purpose rather than simply their skills has been the most significant mindset change for me personally, closely followed by having the patience to find the right people.
In terms of what I anticipate in terms of scaling and growing the team, I don’t have any concerns. This is because we were lucky enough to be approved for the Kickstart programme and the people, we found through this programme are absolutely brilliant. I was surprised that these Kickstarters were not snapped up already by another employer! Now that I have found those two people, I know that I can find more. I think this would be my top tip for others; invest in the time to be patient and wait to find the right people that are purpose-driven, then it’ll be easier to attract the next wave of employees.
Imogen @ ADLIB: What has been your approach to implementing product market fit or sales cycles?
James: We are not yet live, but the main points are user-centric, iterate, and don’t try to ‘boil the ocean’ with it all. It is about making sure that the customers are involved in the development of your solution.
We are B2B and B2C because we have a loyalty rewards platform for ethical and sustainable merchant, as well as the mobile app for conscious consumers, so we have had to ensure they are both involved in the evolution of the product. In terms of the sales cycle, we like to focus on building relationships rather than a rush to build revenue. This way we can learn more about what we need our merchants have to then build a solution that works for them.
Imogen @ ADLIB: Are there any challenges and barriers you have come across when developing Epic Impact?
James: Plenty! Although, none of them insurmountable. The key is mindset and accepting that plans and best intentions will always face disruption. So, as long as you take the same approach to building a business to building a product, iteratively and in conversation with your stakeholders – customers, colleagues, mentors, investors, friends and family – the best way forward will always eventually reveal itself.
Imogen @ ADLIB: In terms of investment, what advice would you give to other start-up and scale-ups?
James: It is a momentum game, so you need to take the time to get everything in order before you start, and once you start just don’t stop. Again, it is a learning curve, and I would say that you need to have at least two people involved; one to focus on product and operations, and the other to focus purely on fundraising. It’s very difficult to manage the workload that comes with building every aspect of a startup, so be sure to have a co-founder to share the journey with. Oh, and don’t start to raise investment until you’re ready to see it through to its conclusion; regaining lost momentum is no fun!
Thank you for your time, James!