Theo Maloney

Theo Maloney (Marketing and Management with Psychology 2021) is the founder of Just Add Rum (JAR). The London-based startup creates and sells a fruit-based mixer to which, as the company’s name cleverly communicates, customers need only to add their favourite rum to enjoy.

Theo Maloney speaking to the audience at a LinkedIn panel event.

Theo's story

While studying in the University of Sussex Business School, Theo secured a place on the eBay Next Generation Graduate scheme, which he joined after graduation. There, he worked in a brand partnerships role focusing on collaborations with the English Football League (EFL) and Sky Sports. In addition to running JAR, which he founded in 2023, Theo now also works in Product Marketing at LinkedIn.

What led you to study at Sussex?

It was an easy decision for me. I visited Sussex in year nine as part of a Brilliant Club initiative with my secondary school and loved the feel of the campus. So, when I was looking for universities, Sussex was top of mind. Being from London, the opportunity to experience East Sussex while being close to Brighton was also a deciding factor.

Which course modules at Sussex have been most useful to you in founding your own business?

Consumer Psychology was my favourite module, and it has been very impactful in allowing me to understand how to appeal to buyers.

How did the idea for Just Add Rum come about?

My entrepreneurial spirit was born while I was at Sussex seeing all the work from the innovation and entrepreneurship team. So, when I came up with the name JAR – “Just Add Rum” - I was determined to make it happen! It all started with that name.

What has been your biggest challenge in starting JAR, and how did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge was initially sourcing all the packaging and finding suppliers for key ingredients. There were a few instances where a supplier couldn't fulfil the amounts we needed or had shortages. A memorable challenge was the closure of the company that created the packaging for distribution. To overcome this, I decided to lean into sustainability – something that Sussex really promotes – and re-use cardboard packaging for shipping JAR products. Now we collect used packaging from nearby businesses and repurpose it.

Be agile. Being able to adapt and move with your customers is key.”

What are you most proud of in your life?

I am proud of accomplishing some of the goals I had previously set for myself, such as working for a tech company and working on a global advertising campaign.

Do you have any top tips for budding student entrepreneurs?

Be agile. JAR isn't my first business or idea, and it may not be the last. JAR started with the dream of being in Tesco and Sainsbury’s, but we have now pivoted, and newsagents and corner shops are where the product fits best. Being able to adapt and move with your customers is key.

Two JAR products lying in a bed of sand.

What do you love most about your job?

Alongside building JAR I am currently working at LinkedIn, where I love being able to build a platform that helps to provide opportunity for those without extensive networks and connections. I get to help build a product whose ultimate purpose is to create economic opportunity.

What's the skill you'd most like to have?

Knowledge about the computer programming language SQL. Being able to manipulate and control data is so important as the world becomes more technologically advanced and data becomes key in every decision.

What piece of advice would you give to yourself if you were still a student at Sussex?

I would tell myself to make use of the entrepreneurship team and to try every idea I have. Support exists and it's promoted. If I could do it again, I would take advantage of that opportunity.

What extra-curricular skills did you develop at Sussex and how have these helped with founding your business?

The most important skill I developed at Sussex is communication. I learnt how to work and communicate with people from across the world and across the country, with those that had similar upbringings to my own as well as those from very different backgrounds. This has allowed me to speak to buyers from pubs and bars, as well as to host parties and barbecues with JAR.

Quick-fire questions:

Favourite place on campus? / And in the world?

The hill behind Northfield. In the world, a tiny island called Happy Island in St. Vincent.

What are you currently reading?

Alchemy by Rory Sutherland.

What’s the soundtrack to your time at Sussex?

The song Elevate by the singer Popcaan.

Favourite type of rum?

My favourite type of rum is overproof rum, which is a bit stronger than other rums. Specifically, I like a rum called “Rivers” from Grenada.

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