On the up Hunter Ruthven · 26 June 2017
Antler & Bird: An inspiring journey of startup to profitability in 12 months
Theo Garcia, co-founder of Antler & Bird, tells the story of how his business went from an idea to selling 1, 200 bottles of cold brew coffee a week. (1) Who are you and what is your business? My name is Theo Garcia, Im 22 and a co-founder of Antler & Bird, a cold brew coffee start-up based in the Cotswolds. I launched the business with my business partner, Alex Foss Sims, in July 2016. After working together as baristas in a local caf, we noticed the lack of cold brew coffee available and wanted to create an alternative to shop-bought coffee, which can often be expensive and inconsistent in quality. (2) How has it grown since foundation? After launching in July 2016, we were initially selling around 50 bottles each week. One year on, we are now selling around 1, 200 bottles each week a 24x increase on sales in just under a year. A big part of our growth comes as a result of securing new stockists. Our drinks are sold in local caf’s and shops in Stroud and Tetbury, as well as caf’s in Bath and Bristol. More recently, weve extended into London by securing listings in Pimlico and Marylebone. This brings our stockists to a total of 50, which were incredibly proud of. (3) What do you attribute that growth to? Before launching the business, we did heaps of market research. We found that the majority of cold coffee drinks were saturated with sugar and that there werent many natural, low-sugar alternatives. As former baristas, we spotted a growing demand for cold brew amongst coffee lovers. And while these brands existed in other countries, there was a gap for a similar product in the UK. Once the idea was borne, we trialed samples on friends and family and spent lots of time perfecting the taste. (4) What are the challenges of running a company in the Cotswolds? The biggest challenge is the distance to surrounding cities. Alex and I often have to drive further to get specific resources, as our nearest city is 30 miles away. Sometimes it can also be a difficult winning over traditional coffee lovers to try cold brew. As with any new product, the challenge often lies in winning over new customers, but were slowly getting there. (5) How have you gone about getting your product stocked what strategy has been most effective? In the initial stages, we gave stockists lots of free samples to try. We dressed these up by giving each buyer a hand-written letter explaining why we thought our drinks would work well in their store. Although feedback is usually positive, we often have to chase for a yes or no answer. In that respect, persistence is key. Fundamentally though, Alex and I are firm believers that if a product isnt right, it just won’t sell. Because of this, we spent lots of time perfecting the taste and consistency of the brew before final bottling. (6) Why did you pitch for funding from the Start Up Loans Company, and why do you think you were successful? After first launching Antler & Bird using our personal savings, we quickly realised there were plenty of unexpected costs like product testing and branding design in the initial stages. With sales on the up, we were struggling to meet the fast-growing demand of the product. We approached the Start Up Loans Company to secure the additional capital needed to grow the business. After successfully applying, Alex and I received a 25, 000 low-interest loan. We used the funding to upscale production and improve the brand design. Start Up Loans assigned us a mentor to help create a tailored business plan, which outlined the next steps to help grow the business. Both the funding and mentoring support was instrumental towards helping us take the next step on our start-up journey. (7) What has been fundamental in achieving profitability? Understanding our pricing. To do this, we simply worked backwards and we knew we wouldnt pay through the nose for a cold coffee, so wouldnt charge our customers that. We worked out what was a realistic price and based our product costs around that.
ABOUT THE EXPERTHunter Ruthven
Hunter Ruthven was previously editor of Business Advice. He was also the editor of Real Business, the UK's most-read website for entrepreneurs and business leaders at the helm of growing SMEs.