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“We launched Niche Cocktails in February 2020 and had a full business plan ready to be put into action, all focused on selling to hospitality venues. We were setting up meetings with hotels, restaurants and pubs, and creating point-of-sale items for the venues, like T-shirts and table talkers. At the beginning of March we got our first five clients signed up and sold our first few cases of cans – and then it all ground to a halt with lockdown.
“Initially, when lockdown began, our plan was to go on furlough, cut out as many overheads as possible and hope to ride out the storm. However, we soon realised that online sales were rocketing and we had a warehouse full of canned cocktails that people could be drinking at home. So some of our team very swiftly set up an online shop and our commercial director, Paddy, created a new role for himself as a box packer and delivery boy!
“Our web designer, Tim, created an online shop for us in about two days, and we just contacted all the friends, family, co-workers and investors we could, to spread the word and get sales going. We knew there was a growing demand for online alcohol sales as all pubs and bars were shut and the sun was out, so it was just a matter of getting the message out there that we existed.
“It has all gone incredibly well, given the very quick turnaround. Building what is essentially a whole new business over Zoom chats and Whatsapp definitely has its challenges, but proves how much really can be done remotely.
“One success that we are really proud of is that, four weeks after launching our online shop, the Evening Standard chose us as one of their best canned cocktails to try in 2020. It was a complete surprise to see ourselves there, but we were so proud to be listed among what were mostly large drinks companies.
“We’ve also been lucky that we’re such a small and new company that we were able to be very versatile and change our plans, but also use the furlough scheme when we needed to. So we have been much more fortunate than many other small businesses or self-employed workers.
“Now, with the uncertainty still around the hospitality sector reopening, we are very focused on online sales, and will be for the rest of the year. Even once we start being able to sell to pubs and hotels again, our online business allows us to diversify our revenue and gives us a better consumer base to build a brand for.
“I don’t think that this experience has changed me as a person, but it has taught me that in every difficult situation, you should always see the positive, as it’s often possible to turn it around into a new opportunity.”
Image credit: Simply C Photography