Meet the MD: John Story of CO2Sustain

Containing the fizzing excitement of a new venture isn't easy for any entrepreneur. However, John Story had to do just that while waiting years for intellectual property to be granted for Stephenson Group's spinout company, CO2Sustain. He tells us about the business and his ambitions for its growth.

What is it the company does?

CO2Sustain are the inventor and own worldwide patents, distribution and brand rights for a unique processing aid that controls the size of carbon dioxide (co2) bubbles in the manufacturing of carbonated beverages. 

CO2Sustain controls foam during the filling process, significantly reducing costs, whilst increasing the fizziness of the consumed beverage, extending the carbonation shelf life.

Describe your role in no more than 100 words 

I am managing and technical director.

As managing director, I am responsible for setting and delivering the company’s five-year strategic plan for the shareholders. 

As technical director, I head the company’s technical function at our Leeds UK HQ, but also visit all global key accounts, demonstrating the performance of CO2Sustain in both a laboratory environment and then assist customers to scale up to full production during factory trials.

Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?

I started my career in 1979 as a laboratory technician with British Coal and held several increasingly more senior technical roles until the coal industry’s demise in 1989. 

I then became a shift supervisor for Doverstrand Ltd, a manufacturer of synthetic rubber in Humberside, stayed there for three years and was then promoted to assistant production manager.

In 1992, I joined Stephenson Group Ltd in Leeds, a family-owned manufacturer of speciality chemicals for the paper, rubber and textiles industries, as works manager. 

During my career there I held the positions of operations director, chief operating officer, and managing director, and was head of the company’s technical function. I started the company’s personal care ingredients business with the executive team in 1998 which has grown from zero to a £20m turnover today.

CO2Sustain was invented by Stephenson using its 160 years of bubble technology experience; after securing worldwide patents and trademarks, it launched in 2017.

In 2019, CO2Sustain Ltd became as a stand-alone legal entity and I became its managing and technical director.

What do you believe makes a great leader?

I am an entrepreneur who doesn’t let hurdles stand in my way.

I have enough technical ability to understand the issues that customers face, and the management skills to relay those issues back to the clever R&D (research and design) people who can come up with the solution to the customer’s problem.

What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

CO2Sustain was invented several years ago - the biggest challenge was to curb my entrepreneurial spirit and try not to sell what we found to be an industry game-changing product until the intellectual property and trademarks were granted. This took several years!

How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?

I go to the gym three times a week even when I am travelling abroad, which is most weeks.

Also, I am lucky to have visited 25% of all the countries in the world - I always find some time to indulge in the local culture.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a Formula1 motor racing driver.

I have been to watch many Formula1 Grand Prix races, but my ability as a driver isn’t close to the required standard. 

Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?

I hate it when I am told, “no it just can’t be done” without offering any suggestions on alternative solutions to make the answer yes.

Where do you see the company in five years’ time?

In five years’ time, I see the company being at least 500% larger than it is today, selling to many of the world’s most recognisable carbonated beverage brands.

What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

1. Believe in yourself and your own ability

2. The business leader who you most admire, respect and strive to emulate is not out of your league – he or she just has more work and/or life experiences than you at this stage in your development

What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?

Rome wasn’t built in a day; everything takes longer than what you think it will so don’t start something tomorrow that could be done today.

Neina Sheldon
Article by Neina Sheldon
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