On the up · 22 October 2015

YoCo Club: The whisky subscription service shunning “traditional etiquette”

Those put of by lack of knowledge when it comes to whisky are catered for
Those put of by lack of knowledge when it comes to whisky are catered for

Well aware that the subscription model can be a particularly lucrative one if done properly, the founding pair behind YoCo Club are creating a unique blend of their own – bringing together one of Scotland’s greatest exports with a business model employed by the likes of Netflix, Spotify and Amazon.

Calum Leslie and Fraser Sutherland are providing a monthly delivery which introduces customers to new whisky and comes with tasting notes to educate. As the business begins a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, Business Advice caught up with Leslie to find out more.

(1) Who are you and what’s your business?

We are a team of young Scottish entrepreneurs who love two things: technology and whisky. The team is comprised of me, a law graduated who founded a technology company upon graduating, and Fraser Sutherland, an architecture graduate and product aficionado. Our company is called YoCo Club and is a monthly whisky subscription club that delivers two single malt Scotch whiskies to subscribers. We just launched on Indiegogo and are aiming to raise £10,000 over the next 30 days.

(2) What was the inspiration for the company?

We graduated from university a few years ago and as our lifestyles improved, we became tired of drinking low quality, cheap beverages. Drinking alcohol became less about quantity and more about quality, so it was time to upgrade our drink of choice. Being Scottish and huge fans of Mad Men, whisky was the natural solution. Yet, like most people we felt a little overwhelmed by choice, undereducated in taste and discouraged by price. So much so that the thought of purchasing enough whisky to discover what we liked didn’t appeal. So, YoCo Club was born.

(3) How do you make money?

We sell monthly subscriptions. Subscribers can sign up for either one, three, six or 12 months and will receive a case in the mail for every month that they are subscribed. Subscriptions start at £15 per month for our taster’s case, and you can find all options on our Indiegogo page.

(4) What makes you different and why should people take notice?

We are a whisky subscription club for our generation. YoCo Club is more than a whisky club. YoCo is an abbreviation of “Young Company” and we are on a mission to become this generation’s answer to discovering, delivering and revelling in Scotch whisky. We are a lifestyle club that escapes the old school image of a whisky club. Whether you enjoy drinking whisky with ice, water, one sip at a time or all in one go, we don’t mind and we won’t hold you to “traditional etiquette”. We’re here to deliver great whisky directly to your door.

(5) What was key in terms of getting started, and what does the next year have in store?

It was key to sort out our supply. There are over 100 distilleries in Scotland producing a variety of single malts and it was important to strike up relationships with a range of distilleries in order to be able to provide our subscribers with the best single malt Scotch whiskies. We spent the last year touring Scotland to do exactly this and we now have over 60 whiskies in onboard. Over the next year we will be acquiring subscribers, expanding our whisky list and growing throughout Europe and the US.

Fraser Sutherland and Calum Leslie are on a mission to bring whisky to the masses
Fraser Sutherland and Calum Leslie are on a mission to bring whisky to the masses

(6) What’s your biggest achievement to date?

We have world-leading whisky expert Charles MacLean signed on as an ambassador. Having his seal of approval was key in giving us the validation we needed to move forward. It also gives us an elevated status in the whisky world, an infamously hard industry to break into.

(7) What setbacks have you had along the way?

We have a specific model in that we are delivering whisky in 5cl and 20 cl bottles. The issue with this is that not all single malts come in these sizes as it is expensive to bottle 5cl and 20cl whiskies. As a result, we met with a number of distilleries that were interested in the concept, but did not produce whisky in the correct sizes of bottles. We hope to change this as we grow and our concept becomes more popular.

(8) In five years’ time, I will be…

We will be the world largest alcoholic drinks subscription service. We are starting out with single malt Scotch whisky but aim to venture into new territories relatively soon. Our name, YoCo Club, gives us flexibility and we set out with this in mind.

(9) What one tip would you give to others starting out?

Know what you’re getting yourself into. Running a startup is like being on a rollercoaster – you have great days, terrible days, but there is never a boring day. It sounds cliché, but it’s true. If you’re prepared to take the good with the bad, work harder than your friends, cancel social events for deadlines and become obsessed with your startup then don’t let anyone stop you. Oh, and remember that equity is king. You can’t get more than 100 per cent so be selective in whom you choose to work with.

(10) Who are your business heroes and why?

Richard Branson. I picked up his book “Screw It, Let’s Do It” in first year of high school and was glued to it. I admire his passion, energy and ability to turn opportunity into success. I am adamant in trying to replicate a fraction of his success and believe that this can be done through tech. With tech, we can change the way people behave by writing a few lines of code and nine times out of ten this is done by a bunch of kids sitting in their pyjamas in a college dorm room. With low barriers to entry, practically no startup costs and a great team, anyone can make a dent in the universe.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Hunter Ruthven is the editor of Business Advice. He is also the editor of Real Business, the UK's most-read website for entrepreneurs and business leaders at the helm of growing SMEs. Alongside this, he is part of the team that hosts the Growing Business Awards, First Women Awards and Future 50 initiative. Prior to his role at Real Business, he was editor at competitor website Growth Business and head reporter at M&A Deals. Throughout his career he has interviewed leading entrepreneurs including Alex Chesterman, Lopo Champalimaud, Sarah Wood, James Averdeick and Alex Saint.

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