5 things we learned from David Spencer-Percival

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In the latest episode of the Gentleman’s Journal podcast, we take some sage advice from the No.1 Rosemary Water founder and serial entrepreneur…

"You’re going to give up this enormous salary, house, extremely comfortably living and great business to go and set up a water that doesn’t exist?” asked David Spencer-Percival’s mother, after he told her his plans for his new botanical business.

Did this line of inquiry throw him off course?

Of course not. “I had utter conviction about it. I didn’t care, I wanted to do it.”


If you like the sound of that, you’ll love the sound of our latest episode of the Gentleman’s Journal podcast, where the Chiltern-born entrepreneur and founder of No.1 Rosemary Water – a drink which contains 2% rosemary extract – discusses the topic of how to reinvent yourself with host and GJ editor Joseph Bullmore in London’s Dukes Hotel.


Find out how Spencer-Percival went from leaving school at 16 to become Lloyds Bank’s youngest-ever cashier, to working in fashion, to selling all his worldly possessions to start an energy recruitment company, to launching No.1 Rosemary Water and most recently  No. 1 Botanicals, a new range of botanical-infused drinks with various health-giving properties. And all in under 45 minutes (the podcast episode, that is…)


To give you a little rosemary-tinted taste of the podcast, here are 5 “How To” tips we learned from the man himself…


How to find your next big idea


The answer doesn’t always lie in the unexplored recesses of your mind or, indeed, the world – where you’ve disguised a holiday as an opportunity to “find yourself.” Just open the newspaper.


The story of No.1 Rosemary Water begins with the residents of Acciaroli, Italy. The tiny village caught the press and public’s attention after it was discovered that its population contains quite a high density of centenarians – one in ten live up to and beyond their 100th birthday – and all relatively illness-free.


Their secret? Chewing and eating rosemary. Spencer-Percival happened upon a newspaper article about Acciaroli – “Note to self, must eat more rosemary, want to live to 100” – and was still thinking about it a week later. “I thought, ‘There’s no way I’m going to eat rosemary every day. How am I going to get it into my diet? I know, I’ll drink it.’” Obviously. And after a quick Google proved fruitless, that’s where he found the gap in the market.

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No.1 Botanicals

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How to get more self-belief


So you’ve got your big idea and everyone around you thinks you’ve lost the plot. Do you take that leap? Spencer-Percival is right behind you. “The problem with people who go into business, “ he says, “is that everyone has an opinion and, if you listen to everybody, you never get anything done.


“Sometimes you have to shut everything down and say ‘I don’t care what you think. I know you think I’m mad and having some sort of crisis but I believe in it and that’s all that matters.’”


How to be successful


“Distractions are everywhere in business. Everyone’s got an idea on how to spend your money.” Spencer-Percival credits Sir Peter Ogden, his partner in global energy recruitment agency Spencer Ogden, with giving him the best advice he ever received. “’If you focus on one thing,’ he told me, ‘and do it consistently every day, for a long period of time, you’ll be successful.’”


How to be number one


OK, this is quite an easy one in this case: be the first and only ones. “We own the name Rosemary Water as the trademark,” says Spencer-Percival, “but I thought it seemed like such a generic name. So we decided on No.1 as a brand name, because we were the first. The drink didn’t exist before we invented it.”


... And how to avoid a mid-life crisis


“They do say get it out of your system early,” says Spencer-Percival.


We’re not sure who “they” are but, whatever they told him, we’re listening. “I’m a child of acid house and Thatcher. I hit my teens at the point when house music started to explode. The pilgrimages to Ibiza, growing your hair long – it was a rite of passage for my generation and I hedonistically followed it. I can’t even remember growing up until I was 26 when I came out of this haze. I had a terrific time.”