Jackie Fast

Successes and failures count in equal measure

Jackie Fast

Published: 30/12/2021

Apprentice star, serial entrepreneur and author of a bold new leadership manifesto, Jackie Fast’s latest venture, Sandbox studios, helps companies create and test new consumer products. She is an entrepreneur in a hurry.

When Jackie Fast arrived in the UK from Canada in 2007, her ambition was limited to a spot of backpacking across Europe’s elegant capitals. However, the 14 years since, she’s managed to build and sell Slingshot Sponsorship, launch REBEL Pi, the first British-based Canadian ice wine company, write a book, appear on the Apprentice and launch a YouTube channel. She has made success look easy, if exhausting.

That said, her first business was born of frustration and failure. In spite of multiple degrees, relevant experience and an abundance of drive and determination, she was rejected by every major sponsorship agency she applied to. The agencies were staid, she says, unwilling to experiment with new ways to deliver a brand’s messaging.

This experience had two consequences: first, she decided she was going to set up on her own, approaching sponsorship in a different way. Slingshot ultimately sought to educate its blue-chip roster of clients – including Sir Richard Branson, the Rolling Stones, Shell and Red Bull - about the kind of sponsors they should be working with, and making those deals happen.

It also taught her about leadership, which ultimately found voice in her book ‘Rule Breaker’: Its punchy opening is: “It is clear we are all sick of hierarchical, traditional, old-style leaders who haven’t done much for pushing the needle forward for everyone… ‘Rule Breaker’ is a manifesto for how to lead now.” She wants to see a new wave of leadership: “one that operates in flatter workplaces where command and control doesn't work, and where people are entrusted with powerful purpose that grows businesses and communities.”

Where it started

Slingshot’s success was rapid, but not without a lot of “relentless” hard work, she says. She brought in nine sponsors for the What Car Awards, increasing revenue by over 1,000%. Others quickly followed, including sponsorship for the Rolling Stones World Tour, and promoting the Office of the Mayor of London’s Ride London event. Her approach was to be “first in and last out of the office, and to do regular coffee runs.”

She sold it six years later for an undisclosed, but substantial, sum. She had three offers on the table for Slingshot, having worked really hard on all of them. “We eventually sold to a venture capital fund - I know how to negotiate a deal,” she says.

If that makes it sound straightforward, it wasn’t. She adds: “There are always failures before success. No-one starts a business and gets off scot-free. In our first office, we were denied access. We had paid our landlord, but they hadn’t passed the money onto the owner of the building. We lost laptops, documents and had to start again from scratch. My first speaking gig was awful. But everything I do within my professional life is a stepping stone. Successes and failures count in equal measure. We can learn as much from both.”

How it’s going

Jackie’s most recent venture is Sandbox studios, launched in 2021. It is a venture capital/agency hybrid, providing advice and/or seed capital to consumer products companies looking to grow. It looks to develop partnerships deals with celebrities, sports stars, actors, musicians, and influencers. It has recently done work for Casamigos, Kylie Cosmetics, Fabletics and Aviation Gin.

She says: "We are moving away from transactions into an era of value and Sandbox Studios is leading that shift by not just working with brands and talent to create these opportunities but fuelling them through investment. By combining $500k - $1m of seed capital with my expertise in creating world-class partnerships, we are developing a new asset class. One that has been virtually untouched until this point."

What’s next

She remains at the helm of REBEL Pi, her Canadian ice wine business. ‘Ice wine’ is a type of desert wine produced from grapes that have been frozen while still on the vine. REBEL Pi is the only 100% single-vineyard Roussanne ice wine. The Roussanne grape originates in the Rhone Valley, usually better known for its drinkable reds. It was the first product that had got her really excited since the sale of Slingshot.

For the time being, Sandbox Studios is still brand new and occupying much of her energy. But she’s still got plenty of side-lines: she is non-executive board director of fintech disruptor The Money Platform and chairman of the European Sponsorship Association Awards. She writes and speaks on entrepreneurship, investment, collaboration, sports marketing and scaling high growth businesses. She has built businesses, communities and a new model of leadership, but still has a wealth of ambition from here.