Notes from last night - "How to Start a Drinks Business"


Last night 60 Escape the City members came together for an Escape School talk at Adam Street Club in London for a talk and Q&A with the founders of Mello Drinks.

The evening was a treasure trove of insight, advice and wisdom that co-founders Rose and Shay gained over the two years they developed their business in the lead up to their launch in November last year. Already their products – the first raw melon juice drinks in the U.K. market – are stocked in Wholefoods, Planet Organic, Harrods and Ocado.

Despite them having only launched the brand 6 months ago, what they shared with us in the Rehearsal Room at the Adam St Club felt like years of accumulated wisdom!  Over the course of the evening, they shared 20 rules that have helped them so far, divided into two parts: the basics, and their 10 tips for making a venture work.

Rose and Shay’s 10 basic rules to follow in your venture.

These rules were formed from the experiences they had taking their business from being an idea in their kitchen, all the way through to launch. These are the essential points that they say will help you take your idea from being a concept to being a product and a brand.

These basic rules were all topics that they were asked about when they started approaching buyers, so by following these rules, you’ll know your business in a way that will allow you to communicate it clearly to people.

1. Identify a market gap.

Throughout their talk they emphasised the importance of research.  Reading, educating yourself and knowing what information there is can be done easily and is vital.  Look in the area you want your product to sit, what advantages does your product have, where are the gaps that you can fill? When they first had their idea, they had to identify and refine new fruit juice processing technology that would work for them, which is now a competitive advantage of theirs.

2. Research the market environment.

Look at your competitors, both direct and indirect ones.  Know what they’re up to and what you can do that they’re not.

3. Invest time and resources into product development, research and focus groups.

Develop your product, try as many combinations, flavours and textures as you can, narrow it down, testing it on focus groups, friends, family, everyone!  All feedback is good feedback. Packaging and branding is just as important as the product itself, so don’t overlook these things.

4. Create a live and dynamic business plan.

When you have a new business, having a business plan that’s set in stone won’t work.  You will change direction as you discover new things, so your business plan needs to move on and evolve as well.  Get it on an A4 page and review and develop it as your business develops.

5. Identify your manufacturing process.

Whatever it is you’re producing, do the legwork, call around, make sure you find the right partner for you and your business.

6. Identify your target market.

Remember that this may change (which is why your business plan needs to be a living document) as you discover more about who you’re going to sell your product to.

7. Set your pricing.

This is very important.  Shay and Rose talked more about this later in the evening, reminding us that the pricing models they created were based on achieving a particular volume of sales.  Shay reiterated that to begin with, you won’t necessarily make a profit, not until you can scale up.  Your pricing should take into account that the volume you sell when you first launch will be different to what you sell down the track.   Your pricing will change, you will get it wrong at times, but persist and keep working on it.

8. Get your supply chain right.

It’s vitally important to get your transportation sorted, especially if your product needs to be kept cold.  Because their drinks have to be kept at cold, Mello Drinks found a logistics partner to help prepare them for when they launched and started taking orders.

9. Secure funding.

Rose and Shay talked about the financial commitment it takes to get a company like theirs off the ground.  They saved before they started working on the company (Rose even sold her car and moved back home so she could save money to put into the business) and they spent it all.  However, the demonstrated commitment they showed to their idea paid off.  By putting their own money in, they showed their dedication and this dedication attracted people to them who wanted to invest money in their idea too.

10. Target buyers.

This is the last step.  If you follow these 10 points of advice, you’ll be ready to go.  Buyers will ask you about each of these topics, so you need to expect them and be able to answer the questions.


Top 10 tips to make your venture work

As if their first 10 tips weren’t enough, Shay and Rose went on to share with us their Top 10 Tips to make a venture work.  These were the bits of advice that they’ve gleaned through their journey.

1. Don’t let fear hold you back, you have nothing to lose.

Rose shared her own story about being on the precipice of quitting her job as a lawyer to fully commit her time to Mello Drinks, how she listened to Steve Jobs’ famous Stanford commencement speech, and how this drove her forward and motivated her to follow her passion.

2. Commit.

Shay talked about how early on they registered their company name at Company House, then registered a trademark and finally the company’s domain name.  In all it cost a few hundred pounds, but to them, it made it real, it pushed them forward towards making their idea a business.  Committing in this way makes you start believing in yourself.

3. Believe in yourself, even if others don’t.

They talked about the people in their lives who discouraged them, not from any negative motivation, but out of a desire to protect them.  Ignoring these people and maintaining self-belief will drive you and your business forward.

4. “I don’t know” is not good enough.

Not knowing something is not a good enough reason to not do anything.  We live in an age where nothing is a mystery that can’t be discovered.  Shay told us that his most important business mentor was Google, where anything he needed to know he could find.  It may take 2 weeks, or 2 months, but you can learn anything and apply it.  In educating yourself as you develop your business, you’ll put yourself in a competitive position, you’ll know more than the people who have been in the business for years and have grown complacent, who have stopped learning about their industry.

5. Learn from your mistakes.

You’re going to make mistakes and you’re going to make lots of them, they told us!  Sometimes you won’t see them as mistakes until you look back, but be mindful of them, take the lesson and remember it for the future.

6. Find partners you can work with.

There are only so many hours you can devote to the venture, so find someone or some people with complimentary skills to join forces with.  Even having someone to tell you to hang in there when things get tough is incredibly valuable.

7. Be prepared to give your life.

This point of advice resonated with me the most.  Rose shared a quote, a definition of what it is to be an entrepreneur: “An entrepreneur is a person who is willing to spend a few years of their life like most people won’t, so they can spend the rest of their life like most people can’t”. Doing this will also help you discover who your closest friends are, they’ll be those who stick by you and support you when you’re in the midst of it.

8. Don’t compare yourself to the competition.

There’s a big difference between knowing your competition and comparing yourself to them.  It is really dangerous to compare yourself to your competitors, it can be incredibly demotivating. It’s important to keep an eye on your competitors, but stay primarily focussed on your own business.  Continue the journey you started.

9. Celebrate every small achievement.

Rose and Shay said that this may sound trivial, but you’ll find it’s so important to take a step back and reward yourself when you do achieve something.  It motivates you and reminds you as to why you’re doing what you’re doing.

10. Never ever give up.

These are four magic words.  They reassured us to take that last step, you’re so close when you feel like quitting.  If you can take that last step, you’ll make it.

As you can see, it was a lot to take in!  After they presented their two lists of 10 amazing tips, rules and advice, they took numerous questions, which could have gone on all evening, everyone was so motivated and curious to get every last drop of help from them.

It was another great Escape School event, one I walked away from brimming with positivity and motivation for my own venture!  Thanks again to Rose and Shay for sharing their amazing insight with us.

This post was written by Ede Strong. Ede is currently planning his own escape, developing Ede’s Rascals, a food business that will soon bring his novel and delicious sweets, desserts and drinks to the streets of London. Check him on YoutubeFacebook and Twitter.

What is Escape the City all about then?

Frustrated by climbing the corporate ladder, we decided to build a community to help people build meaningful careers doing work that matters – to them and to the world. We help talented people find fulfilling work by making big career changes, building businesses, & going on big adventures. We’d love you to come with us on this journey.

How do you get involved?

1. Job Seeker? Create an Escape Profile to get matched to exciting jobs.

2. Aspiring Career Changer / Entrepreneur? If you’re in London, come and see us at The Escape School.

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