Down to business: Club Soda

Jenessa Williams

We talk to Laura Willoughby MBE the co-founder of Club Soda, an organisation dedicated to supporting mindful alcohol consumption

Readers Digest: How did your business get started, and how would you best summarise what you offer? 

We started in 2015 as a supportive community to help people change their relationship with alcohol, whether their goal was to cut down, stop for a bit or quit completely. But we now work on projects a lot wider than this. As well as our behaviour change courses we run the Mindful Drinking Festival, a drinks and venue guide for mindful drinkers, we work with students and also the drinks industry to improve the sales of low and non-alcoholic drinks. We have also just released our first book—How to Be A Mindful Drinker. Our overall goal is to create a world where nobody feels out of place not drinking.  

 

RD: What line of work were you in before this business got started? 

I am a campaigner by background, and was running Move your Money—an ethical bank switching campaign. 

 

RD: How does your work complement your personality? 

I am an activist by nature, so I like to solve problems and make change happen. It’s great fun for me, but often means we are trying to do too much with too little money! 

 

RD: What have you found are the biggest misconceptions or struggles people have when trying to adopt a more mindful approach to drinking?  

People often fear their social life will suffer if they change their drinking habits. I want people to know that it will change, but it can get better. Working with our social spaces in the UK to make them more accommodating to non-drinkers definitely helps! 

 

RD: A big part of the Club Soda brand is about finding a community who can support you in your endeavours to change your relationship with drinking. How do you go about facilitating those relationships?  

Our communities on Facebook and our App are essential—online works so well for forging community. We also bring people together at our festival and various social events throughout the year.  

 

RD: What does a typical day at Club Soda HQ look like? 

There is not really a typical day. One minute we are talking to a person about their drinking habits, and the next we’re holding a meeting with a big drinks brand about producing new products in this space. It is very varied.  

 

RD: What are your favourite and least favourite parts of your job? 

Creating a business is hard. Cash flow is always a struggle and it stresses me out the most! But I really believe we are doing something empowering and hope that we can make a difference to people. 

 

RD: What do you like to do to switch off? 

Brew single estate loose leaf tea, run and go to the theatre. 

 

RD: What has been the most valuable business lesson you’ve learnt so far? And your proudest achievement? 

Don’t undersell yourself. I think my proudest moment would probably be the book—it’s a pretty big, tangible achievement, it has been published globally and is never something I thought I would do! 

 

RD: If you weren’t running Club Soda, what do you think you would be doing as a career 

Very good question. I have no idea. Setting up a business sort of subsumes you and it is hard to see where you may now fit into the world. Who knows… 

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