Laura Clacey, founder and CEO of SXOLLIE xider

In our regular series, industry big cheeses take us back to their first very job


Hi, Laura! Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Laura Clacey, and I’m the founder and CEO of multi award-winning SXOLLIE xider. SXOLLIE tastes delicious and doesn’t taste at all like traditional cider as it’s made from fruity eating apples, such as the Golden Delicious and Granny Smith, grown in the South African sunshine, as opposed to cider apples which are incredibly tannic and bitter. UK produced ciders are also often filled with loads of sugar and flavourings to make them palatable, we don’t need to do that as nature’s done the hard work for us! SXOLLIE is the first certified B Corp Cider brand in the UK demonstrating our commitment to people and planet.

Okay. Got that! What was your first McJob?

I was the South African weather presenter on the national news.

Blimey! How on earth did you get that?!

I didn’t want to go down the boring university route of accounting or business, so I decided to become an archaeologist, and happened to take geography. After graduating, it turned out there weren’t many jobs for geographers or archaeologists. My lecturer mentioned they were looking for a weather presenter at the SABC — the South African version of the BBC — and why don’t I go down and see what it’s all about?

What did you have to do?

About 50 of us auditioned in this room with absolutely no camera experience or blue screen training, and the producer said: go do the weather! To my amazement I got the job, but little did I know that the reason I got it so easily was that all the other presenters had quit over a pay dispute. I basically got the job because there was nobody left!

What did you actually have to do?

I had to get there at 3am, six days a week, in time to get my makeup and hair done and go through the weather charts that had arrived overnight from the South African weather service. I’d quickly populate the maps for TV by adding the little icons of sunshine and clouds, update the temperatures and work out if there was a cold front or heatwave on the way. Then I had to present the weather on live TV, six times a morning.

How long did you work there for?

One year. Unlike in the UK, the weather presenters in South Africa are not paid particularly well (hence the prior presenters pay dispute!). Plus I’m really not a morning person! So I applied to KPMG and I moved into hardcore corporate.

What did you spend your first pay cheque on?

Clothes to do the weather! At the time I thought it was glamorous, but when I look back it is so cringeworthy, all fitted jackets and flared trousers.

Did anything funny happen?

I’d have an earpiece so if the following segment was running late or early, they could say: “Laura, you’ve got to stretch to three minutes,” or: “You’ve got 10 seconds until the ad break,” and I’d have to ad-lib it. One morning, I’d been talking and talking when they said: “You’ve got three more minutes.” I’d been explaining how these big floods were about to hit Kwazulu Natal at the bottom of South Africa, but I’d lost my train of thought and blurted out: “If you live on low lying areas, near a river, you’d better make a plan.”

It might sound like nothing, but South Africa has a very different socioeconomic landscape. A lot of people live in extreme poverty on the banks of rivers in shantytowns with no possible way to “make a plan”, so my comment sounded extremely flippant and insensitive. I got called up to the head producer’s office and I had my knuckles racked. Then the media had a field day. People who know me thought it was hilarious, knowing that I’m sensitive to the plight of these poor communities and would never knowingly say such a thing … but it all just came out wrong in the moment.

What skills did you learn as a weather presenter that you still use today?

I obviously learned to present! Plus I’ve grown a thick skin because some people love you and some people hate you (and love to make their opinions known publicly).

Are you still in contact with any of your old colleagues?

A little bit on social media, but it was 15 years ago now.

Why is alumni important in business?

Alumni is essential in business. It’s where you build long term business relationships. Years later, someone you used to know might have moved onto something totally relevant to what you’re doing now. For example, I moved from the weather to KPMG to SXOLLIE. A lot of my prior colleagues have moved into sustainability consulting, so I if I’ve got a specific question on emissions or something technical on our sustainability performance, I can ask. It’s those networks that open up other networks for you like a mushrooming effect.

What would happen if you went back and presented the weather today?

Wake up at 2am? NO WAY!

If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice, what would you say?

Trust your instincts, go with your gut and keep hustling for what you want!





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