Notes from Last Night: "How to Launch a Food & Drink Startup" w/ Jimmy's Iced Coffee & Simply FMCG


On Wednesday, Simply FMCG and Jimmy from Jimmy’s Iced Coffee graced the stage of the new Escape School 3rd floor venue at Bathtub 2 Boardroom. While Simply FMCG dished out gems of wisdom on starting up in the food & drink space, Jimmy rapid fire-rapped his story of starting a British iced coffee revolution. The following is one attendee’s take on the Jimmy’s presentation.


Given that Jimmy of Jimmy’s Iced Coffee is one of the most funny and charismatic guys I’ve ever seen speak, this blog won’t get close to getting across the amount of energy he exudes, nor the size of his beard (which must be a contender for best beard in London).

I’m frankly amazed that I managed to take any notes at all (Rob also had this problem) and probably also have RSI from trying to keep up with him.

Anyway, here goes:

Jimmy’s Story

Initally on a trajectory – his words – to be a dick – (art school, Bournemouth, Graphic Designer) he quit his course after 3 months as he was rubbish. Loving the event scene, he became a Red Bull Ambassador, attending festivals and having, what sounds like, absolutely amazing summers. If you’ve been to Bestival and seen a man with a huge beard dressed as a mermaid, the likelihood is it was Jimmy.

Once festival season was over, Jimmy would return to labouring for £50 a day throughout winter.

“So I was a mermaid in summer and I’d stare at builders bums in winter. It’s not a good CV.”

After a few cycles of this, the mermaid ended up in Australia where he discovered Farmer’s Union Iced Coffee. It was Jimmy’s amber nectar. Tasting so good first time around that “I drank it in 2 seconds and had to drink a second one immediately, just to make sure it didn’t contain ecstasy or something.

Pestering Farmer’s Union for a franchise opportunity, but with no luck, he arrived back in the UK just in time for mermaid season, but a little voice kept saying:

“Where’s that Iced Coffee…where are you going to get it from?”

“Nice, simple, refreshing Iced Coffee simply didn’t exist.”

It just so happened that Jimmy’s café-running sister, Suzie, was having a bit of a time with her business too, so the timing seemed right to start something. Jimmy’s Iced Coffee was born.

It was impossible to get all of Jimmy’s advice down (please can we video him next time!) but here are some of the best bits:

“It’s worth talking to shelf-stackers and other people who are in it all the time.” This will help you get to know consumer habits and food buying trends.

“Don’t go to a design agency – instead type in #design #corporate identity or similar into Twitter. You’ll find someone cheaper and better.”

“Go and speak to anyone who might need your product at a specific time.” Try out your product on the people you envisage buying it. Jimmy thought about who would need an iced coffee and set about approaching surfers after they’d just come of the sea. See also lawyers, shift workers etc – anyone who loves coffee. Guess what, they all loved it.

“Keep it simple.” This applies to design, logo, packaging, business model, and marketing. Jimmy’s company structure is made up of Suzie – in charge of operations – while he’s in charge of marketing. That’s it.

Similarly, logos, colours, blurb etc – people have no time to read it.

“Make sure you and your business partner are chalk and cheese.” Otherwise if you both hate spreadsheets they’ll never get done.

“Outsource what you can.” They have a finance guy called ‘Autosum’.

Use a strapline that works – “Keep your chin up” worked for Jimmys as it’s quintessentially British, works for coffee and you need to keep your chin up to drink it.

“Go somewhere where you can get perspective.” For Jimmy that’s by the sea in Bournemouth. But it could be a massive forest or the top of a hill. It helps him think about “how everyone in my eyesight is going to try one of my products. It’s an amazing thing.’

“Be there the entire time as you are the only one who gives a shit.”

“Don’t go to a milk section.” It’s important to place your product in the right place. Supermarkets kept trying to put Jimmy’s next to the green top 2 pint bottles, but people just grab and go when buying milk. It’s not just the ingredients but the ‘needspace’ for your product – Jimmys ended up next to Vita Coco in Sourced Market and Selfridges.

Earn, Engage and Educate (I missed the fourth)

Engage with all of your customers. After finding out that one of their most prolific buyers was an 85 year old who’d bought 50 cartons because of a £1 offer, Jimmy’s created Jimmy’s people – which showcases the people that love the product.

“Spend money on the right thing” – consider where the big money needs to go.

“Create a dialogue with consumers straight away – Twitter’s so quick that if you mess it up its already gone.”

“It’s really, really important to put anything that you are doing offline, online.” Things like tasting events, dressing up as a mermaid, etc.

“If you have leftover stock, give it out to anyone in the best way that you can.”

“If you get to the point of exporting, you need a Brand Manager and Sales Manager in the country you export to.”

“Think about merchandising – people like wearing brands.”

And lastly:FBpost

Always, always Keep Your Chin Up.

Phew. This is only a snapshot of Jimmy’s story, so make sure you watch out for his next foodie start-up talk, check out this video on YouTube, or go to Bestival, where, if you’re lucky, you just might get to see him back in a fishtail and a bra made of shells.


Guest Reviewer: This post was written by Lara Hayward. You can follow her on Twitter (@auspiciouspixie) or on her blog.

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