Posted on October 05 2016
This week's Wednesday Woman is incredible entrepreneur Amanda Thomson, Founder and CEO of Thomson & Scott Skinny. After a successful career as a BBC television and radio broadcaster, Amanda moved to Paris with her family for a year to learn about wine. It was there that an idea to create sugar free Champagne was born, and despite some initial naysayers, Amanda and her Thomson & Scott Skinny business has gone on to revolutionize the drinks industry.Newnham: Can you tell us a bit about your background and what you were like growing up?
Amanda Thomson: Determined, I'm told. I’ve always had my own ideas and way of doing things. Perhaps frustrating to parents but invaluable for business, especially in the early days when so many “experts” were telling me I was trying to achieve the impossible.
Newnham: What's your story - what sparked your idea for Thomson & Scott Skinny and how did you make that dream a reality?
Thomson: I’ve always been a healthy eater, and was brought up on a no-sugar and vegetarian diet by my single mother. I can’t pretend I took as much notice over what was in my drinks, especially in my previous incarnation as a BBC arts journalist racing around at 100 miles an hour living on caffeine and over-sweet Champagne.
Like many people I was really shocked when I discovered that mainstream sparkling wines are given a “dosage” of processed sugar. When I met a Champagne producer in Paris who created delicious Champagnes with no dosage, it was a true eureka moment. It became my mission to create fabulous no- and low-sugar sparkling wines with a focus on transparency in labeling.
Newnham: What have been the biggest obstacles you have faced and how did you overcome them?
Thomson: In the early days it was hard to be constantly told that I had no chance in succeeding in the multi-million Champagne and sparkling wine industry. The French told me that no one cared about sugar quantities in Champagne and sparkling wine, consumers seemed happy with what they were drinking, thank you very much, so why muddle the market with focus on the healthier option? This complacency only made me more determined to succeed. If I was horrified that Champagnes routinely contain up to 18 grams of sugar per litre – that’s 4 and a half teaspoons to you and me that aren’t needed if the quality is there - surely others would be too.
Newnham: What advice would you give other women looking to start their own business?
Thomson: The same advice I’d give to anyone: work out what you’re good at, and never be afraid to ask for help. I’ve learnt masses from some incredible mentors, including tech guru Jacqueline de Rojas, and am always asking questions – that’s the secret. Journalist training was great for that, it’s in my DNA.
Newnham: What’s next for you?
Thomson: We’ve gone nationwide, selling out in Selfridges, featuring on the wine list in all 140+ Zizzi restaurants, and creating rock star levels of excitement in Manchester and Dublin (really – at launches I was treated like a celebrity!) I’m now focused on building a global empire that inspires the next generation of wine drinkers to drink better and “cleaner” by cutting sugar consumption in alcohol, while expanding my campaign for complete transparency in wine labeling.
Newnham: What/who inspires you?
Thomson: Positivity, warmth and honesty. It’s all about integrity, ultimately. My husband and children make me want to create a legacy and be a better person. A large dose of humour is always key though. After all, it's sparkling wine. It's supposed to be fun!
Newnham: Finally, what advice would you give a younger Amanda just starting out on her entrepreneurial journey?
Thomson: Enjoy it. Stop and smell the roses. Life races by. Especially the good bits. Make the most of every second. And I would remind myself how freeing it is when you stop caring what people think of you. And that you just have to focus and stay on that train no matter the twists and turns. You'll get there. And what a fabulous journey a Champagne-fueled one will turn out to be!