For the last few weeks, I have been processing the lessons learned from the release of our cold brew bottles. It was not a perfect release, which to be honest, very few releases are. The important thing through all of this is that we improve. These are are the business lessons I’m learning as I deconstruct what we built.
Cost trumps cool : We agreed that we wouldn’t sell anything that we weren’t proud of. We were, and still are, very proud of the cold brew bottle we put out. We loved it. People loved it. It was freak’n cool. It represented us perfectly, but it’s not sustainable. The cost to produce those bottles puts us in a price range beyond what I believe people are willing to pay. So what did we really learn from making something really cool, but isn’t sustainable? We learned that the principle behind the bottle was the blurring of lines between coffee and alcohol. Each beverage has a type of bottle. We blurred that line, which told people that this is something special, something to appreciate, as you would a good bourbon. The message is what we want to communicate through the bottle, it is not the bottle itself. That frees us to review other options, where we were not even considering any other type of bottle during development.
Repeat customers the measure of your business : Most of our sales are because people know us and want to support us. I’m not talking bad about that. I love those people and am grateful for their support. The question is, will they buy another one? I have gotten a lot of feedback on the product, so I know the coffee is good. Whenever I ask about the price point though…silence. That means, “no.” This is the other side of the sustainability coin. Not only do we need a certain profit margin to stay alive (i.e. reduce cost), but we also need people to purchase coffee repeatedly. People will pay high dollar for something once because it is novel, but if the value proposition isn’t there then that is where it ends.
On a more personal note:
My creativity shines brightest when there is a problem to solve : Designing the cold brew bottle was pretty close to miserable for me. I’m not good with uncertainty, so I had knots in my stomach through out all the work I did prior to the release. Regardless of all the work I did, it was a very flawed product. Now that we have released it, it is somehow more tangible. If it is tangible, then I can fix it. I can identify the problems, prioritize them, then start checking them off the list. Now that I have a list of itemized fixes, my mind is not burdened with the cold brew release as a whole. I can focus on a single thing and put all my brain power into finding a good solution for that single problem. For example, I only shopped online for the bottles. I did not once consider going to a distillery and asking them if I could purchase some of their bottles. They buy in bulk and get huge discounts that I will never get purchasing twelve at a time. That could solve the cost problem with only a slight logistical cost with an overall net gain. This is something I’ve known about myself, but this clarified it for me. The only greater mirror than children (because those jerks point out all of your flaws with cruelty) is starting a business. It very quickly points out what you are good at and not so good at.
This cold brew bottle release has challenged my understanding of business and marketing as well as how I fit into this whole thing and where I can bring my strengths to the table. The biggest last, and most important, lesson I’m learning is resilience. Do not ever give up. Work hard and push through. The reward is there if you don’t quit. That being said, we are taking pre-orders for the next round of bottles.