My Early Hour: Hugh Thomas, co-founder of Ugly Drinks

Ugly Drinks is a range of 100% natural fruit infused sparkling waters with no sugar, no sweeteners, no calories and no artificial ingredients. We talk mornings, business and fizzy drinks with the co-founder Hugh Thomas…

Hugh Thomas, 27, is co-founder of new drinks brand Ugly Drinks.

Where do you live and with whom?
I live on Exmouth Market in Clerkenwell and share a flat with two Italians and an Australian (currently!).

What’s your home like?
It’s certainly not glamorous… but the location is great for getting around London for work.

What time are you up in the morning?
I’m usually up between 6-6.30am.

What wakes you up?
In winter… my phone alarm. In summer… natural light!

How do you feel?
I certainly find it easier when it’s light outside…if the sun is shining, I’ll feel great.

What do you do first thing?
Always coffee. I love the process, the taste and the early morning buzz.

In three words, describe mornings in your home?
Coffee. Shower. Go.

Tea or coffee?

How might the rest of your day pan out?
It’s usually pretty non-stop. I’ll either be in the office cracking on with work, or in meetings around London.

What’s your workspace like?
We currently work out of a shipping container in Elephant and Castle. It’s small but perfectly formed and has windows, a kitchen and plenty of storage space for our Ugly Drinks.

Tell us about your business: when did you launch, and how/why did it come about?
Joe (my co-founder) and I, launched Ugly as a response to a soft drinks industry that we felt was overly sweetened. Ugly is a range of 100% natural fruit infused sparkling waters with no sugar, no sweeteners, no calories and no artificial ingredients. We think sugary and sweetened fizzy drinks cause many of the issues associated with diabetes and obesity and wanted to create an offering that gave consumers a healthy, affordable and fun alternative.

What’s the greatest challenge when running your own business?
The challenges are non-stop and daily, but the hardest challenge is creating product-market fit for something we dreamt up 2 years ago… we think we are close!

What makes it all worthwhile?
Every time someone posts a nice comment or picture on social media…it makes it all worthwhile!

Are there aspects of the production that you delegate to others?
Joe and I have certainly widened our skillsets since launching the business (you have no choice), Joe looks after sales and operations, whilst I look after marketing and finances. Hopefully as we grow, we’ll be able to delegate some of these things to people with far more ability than we have in those areas!

Are you a happy lone worker, or do you enjoy the buzz of a shared workspace?
I like a blend of both. Sometimes it’s important to get your head down…and I generally do this between 8-12 in the morning…but I think it’s important to have a buzzing atmosphere to generate momentum and keep everyone energised…work should be fun!

What’s the secret to career success?
I really think that the quote ‘you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with’ is one of the most important. Surround yourself with positive, ambitious people… and that’s what you will become.

Is the juggle real for you… do you find it difficult balancing/me-time/time for friends/career?
The juggle is certainly a challenge, but something you adjust to and get used to. Starting your own business is a lifestyle decision too, and one that I jumped into with eyes wide open! I love it and wouldn’t change it.

Describe an ideal weekend?
I get energized by travel and visiting new places…so a European city trip with friends is probably my ideal way to spend a weekend.

If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?
Somewhere near the seaside…this could be a tropical beach or the British coastline.

Any other comments?
Check out Ugly Drinks at and on social media @uglydrinks. We’re trying to change the face of soft drinks in the UK, and hopefully you’ll enjoy following our journey!