Outside the box
Our year in short
The cliché of a start-up being a rollercoaster journey could not be any truer this year. A mountain of uncontrollable external hurdles teamed with a shit load of teething issues - this year has been a battle. Obviously this is the case for everybody, but I feel businesses have either been labelled as benefitting from the pandemic or at an obvious loss. You're either a Zoom or a Topshop. It's hard to tell where we'd be if COVID didn't exist, but we think there's been a silver lining for us. Either way, here's how we weathered the storm (here's our smug round-robin).
Having launched our 3L cold brew box mid last year, we were starting all the right conversations with wholesalers and had begun stocking a number of independent bars and cafés. We felt we had built a strong foundation to start the year. Also, Alex became a dad!
Bars turned to hotels and we were starting to make a name for ourselves in the London hospitality scene. A handful of supportive customers started buying online. Talks of a chinese bat-related virus started to fill conversation.
Those conversations began to dictate our actions and we quite quickly looked to moving the whole operation from wholesale to direct-to-consumer. All hospitality stopped ordering and the whole world was put on pause.
We called up our PR and digital marketing contacts and went balls to the wall. By the end of April, god knows how, but we had been featured in Vogue, Time Out, Evening Standard, and Grazia. Online orders started flooding in.
For being in the depths of lockdown, we were more active than ever. My screen time was embarrassing, but our sales were handsome. Apocalypse was in our favour. Then the cracks began to show.
Along with the rest of the nation, the impromptu holiday lost its novelty. Our growing demand gave growing complaints. Our service was all over the place, and couriers became heavy handed and customers less patient. We learned the importance of something called customer retention.
Having listened to the feedback, we took a long hard look at ourselves. Orders did not slow down, but nor did the complaints. The product and service had seen better days. We went back to the drawing board and ironed out all our creases. The result was a much cleaner, indestructible 3L box, with a postal box and all.
The world opened back up, and we were blessed with a hot summer. Record breaking sales. Back breaking work. The hospitality industry opened up too. And since learning self-reflection. We looked at our wholesale demand - or lack thereof.
We re-opened the discussion of “wouldn’t it be cool to replace espresso in an espresso martini”. We picked up where we had once left off, product research. Luckily we had a lot in place to get this product to market and now was the time to get the coffee concentrate out. We hired our much needed power house brand manager, Chris Eyitayo.
We scrambled to get our first production run of our coffee concentrate. After tasting some very small trial runs, we took the gamble and ordered 10,000L of our new recipe. On October 28th – having not tried the finished product – we announced that the coffee concentrate was ready to pre-order. That day was the biggest day for online sales. Yes, we are crazy and will never do that again.
On November 10th we hastily opened 1 of 10,000 cartons. THANK FUCK it tasted amazing. Better than the trials in fact. I’m no astrologist, but the stars had definitely aligned. We managed to start selling on Amazon, reached number 1 in the category, shortly after sold out of stock. Wholesale distributors started getting in touch. We decided to give a percentage of the concentrate sales to the Drink’s Trust in order to help the hospitality industry get back on its feet after a terrible year.
Lockdown 2 ended, and the vaccine news gave a glimmer of hope to the hospitality industry. We began selling our concentrate into bars for the first time, and we got our first major distributor. As the dust settles from the tumultuous year, we are looking at planning our next year. But as we all now know, not everything always goes to plan. Nothing is certain, but I would hedge my bets that there will always be a demand for coffee, and we will always try our hardest to keep you lot caffeinated. We'll do our thing, so you can do yours.
Thanks for everybody's support this year. Big love to you all.
Theo and Alex