Start-Up Stories – FITCH Brew Co
Cold Brew. It wasn’t something the UK was too familiar with this time last year. But, Emily Fitchett, the founder of FITCH Brew Co is on a mission to change that! In this Start-Up Story we get to chat with Emily about all things cold brew and how FITCH Brew Co are changing the way we see coffee.
So, tell me, where did it all start for FITCH Brew Co?
So, I’ve always been in the drinks industry. I’ve been in it for over 10 years now! I started out at Corona back in the day in the events team and just fell in love with the drinks industry straight away. It’s a really passionate industry, the people are really great, it’s super innovative! I just sort of found my career and found my feet in it. I went on to work for Pernod Ricard, a cocktail company and, most recently, Brewdog.
I always knew I wanted to start my own company but didn’t really know what and really wanted to get experience in the industry that I love so much. I kind of thought it would be a drinks company, but just didn’t know exactly what it was going to be.
“I went on a trip to America, came across cold brew and found out how awesome it was!”
I was like “This is it! I love it, this is incredible”. So, I quit my job at BrewDog and the journey began, FITCH was born! Although I quit and then realised quite quickly afterwards that I knew nothing about cold brew and nothing about coffee apart from the fact that I really liked it. So that was a fun six months of kind of figuring it all out and meeting the right people and preparing the business side of things.
Do you think working at BrewDog had any impact on you starting to be an entrepreneur, as they’re quite a new, edgy start-up business?
Yea, they were really great with pushing people to be quite entrepreneurial in their roles, so it definitely helped. Seeing a company that came from nothing, that’s been built up by the founder was really inspiring.
What experience did you take from that coming here?
Contacts have been a huge thing for us and understanding how the industry works because it has a set way of doing things. The Drinks industry is a complex model if you have not had experience of it before.
“Getting to learn who the right people are to talk to within each of those areas has been invaluable to me.”
I can pick up the phone straight away and be like “Hey, I started up my cold brew company, can we chat”. I think it’s been hugely invaluable for that reason and just generally for me. I love the industry, so it was just a natural progression for me to go into something I already loved. To be a start-up you have to really love what you do. I don’t think you can just start a business that’s any business, you have to really be passionate about the product or service that you do.
We can see that you were really inspired by going to America. But when did it become a reality for you?
So, I spent about six months building up the business plan and working with the team to build the taste profile, brand identity and strategy. Then we got to the end of that but we needed money in order to create the product. We looked at the different ways of raising captial and realised that the best model, for us at that stage, mainly because we were so early on was to do some crowdfunding.
“It’s such a great way to get awareness of the product at the same time as raising money.”
If we went with a sole investor, that’s great, but that would just be one person on board. Whereas now, after the crowdfunding run, we have 148 investors on board. So, that’s 148 ambassadors of FITCH that we have out there. It was the right model for us to do at that time. We went with Crowdcube and ended up raising £150,000, which was £50,000 over our target in just 29 hours. It was completely crazy! I was terrified about doing it because we were so early stage and thought people were going to rip us apart because we didn’t even have a product. I believed people would think we were blagging our way through it and were going to see straight through it. People didn’t, and they absolutely got what we were trying to do and got really excited about it. That momentum we got really early on in the campaign just spiralled and we ended up doing it so so quickly. I just blinked and was like “What just happened”. It was incredible! People always ask me now “what do you think was the reason it was so successful”. I think to be successful in Crowdfunding you need to do all the elements really well which generated momentum and ultimately it gave us the confidence to launch the product, which we did in June last year!
So, the bad ass logo, where did that come from?
She’s called Nebiri which is how you say leopard in Ethiopia, which is where we get our current coffee beans from. But in terms of where the idea came from, ‘Fitchett’, which is my surname, comes from the family name ‘FITCH’. It’s been my nickname my entire life. The FITCH coat of arms has a ridiculous looking leopard. It has a dagger in its mouth, but we took that out, it was a bit aggressive. Lewis, our designer made this really beautiful leopard and geometric design which is going to be great across all our branding. It’s such a strong brand identity for us.
What’s changed for you since starting this business?
Oh God, everything! I don’t sleep anymore, that’s my main one, haha. I just drink loads of coffee and never sleep. Everything’s constantly changing on a day to day basis, life is just a constant roller coaster in constant flux and I think that’s one of the biggest challenges about being a start-up; actually, managing that mental and physical roller coaster that you end up going on.
“You put your all into your business and, understandably, it’s like your child.”
It’s something you want to succeed so much that you will put your absolute all into it and that is very mentally draining and physically time consuming. But, I think that’s one of the hardest things to navigate as a start-up and something that’s not really been shone a light on that much in the industry. You always hear all the great things that are happening in start-ups and no one really says that, actually, 90% of my day is bull but 10% is great! You’ve got to take the highs when they come and just kind of navigate your way through the lows and learn from everything you do.
In terms of what’s changed for me, I mean I’m running my own company, which has always been a dream of mine. Just everything I’ve learnt. I’ve learnt more from doing this than I have in my entire career. You have to do everything, it’s not a case of being pigeon-holed into one role anymore. I’ve always been in sales & accounts and now I’m doing loads like marketing, finance and social media, which I still don’t know how to do! I don’t think I’ll ever get that one! But yeah, you have to be a jack of all trades, which is great in a way because you end up having to learn everything. At the same time, it’s hard work, that’s why the coffee helps!
It’s clearly really hard work! The whole start-up community is very tight-knit. So how would you say it feels to be apart of the FITCH Brew Co. Family?
I think everybody that joins FITCH is joining because they really want to be apart of an exciting start-up and something that’s so different to kind of ‘normal, ‘everyday’ 9-5 jobs. The great thing about being a start-up is that you can actually be quite selective in terms of who you bring in to the company, and you have to be because you’re such a small team, you have to gel so well.
I believe one of my best assests is that I know my strengths and weaknesses.
“I think it’s really important as a leader of a business to know your strengths and weaknesses”
You need to be able to bring people into the business that don’t have the same skill set and qualities as you do. There’s no point in me just having a replica of me coming in to the business, you need people who bring things that you can’t. As a founder, understanding yourself and understanding what you’re good, but more importantly what you’re really bad at is so important. That’s what I’ve tried to do with the team and FITCH, everybody’s skillset really compliment each other.
The team is so crucial, you have to all work together well and also just chip in doing a little bit of everything. There’s so much beauty about being part of a start-up and being part of a team that’s growing and actually being able to contribute a lot to a business. A lot of the time, I’ve worked for a lot bigger companies and sometimes felt that what I was doing wasn’t that important. But you know that every single tiny thing that you do in a start-up is making a huge difference. That’s the exciting thing.
Were there any particular moments when you thought “Is this it?”, “Will this work?”
Everyday! Yeah, I mean everyday you just don’t know. The uncertainty is kind of the exciting bit about it, but it’s also absolutely terrifying. FITCH is still in such early days and it could absolutely fall flat on its ass, as many start-ups do. We’re trying to do everything that we can to make sure that’s not the case. Every single day it’ll cross my mind; “I can’t do this”, “This is just hard work”. But, saying that, I wouldn’t change it for the world, it’s all part of the journey!
Even if you just look at where you are now from where you started, it’s all worth it.
Yea! And sometimes I think you have to step back and put things in perspective. You’re always trying to push, and you’ll find a lot of founders are always just pushing themselves so much all the time and sometimes it’s just really important to step back and have a look at what you’ve achieved so far.
“Take note of the achievements you accomplished because you’re on a journey – you can’t get to where you want to be in one night.”
I sometimes take a step back and look at some of the incredible things that we’ve done such as the people and businesses that we’re now working with. Even when I just hold a can in my hand, that in itself is a great achievement. With that comes a lot of hard stuff but it’s great to look at the achievements.
There are loads of aspiring entrepreneurs out there, especially in the FMCG industry, who want to start their own business. What would you say to those people?
Do it. I think there’s a lot of people out there who have businesses on the side of what they’re doing and it’s a really hard tipping point. You know you’ve got to be able to support yourself financially and emotionally, but it gets to that point when you have to take the safety net away to make it work. I think you have to just jump in and give your all to making it work however hard that may be. Obviously don’t make yourself homeless or anything, but if you can just do it.
Don’t sweat the small stuff, there’s been a lot of times where I went over things and took my time to do stuff.
“You’re a start-up and you’re going to make mistakes”
Don’t stress about the flavour profile being perfect or the branding looking perfect because that’s all stuff you can develop and grow with over time. There’s not one other company who I know that’s a start-up who hasn’t tweaked stuff. I was speaking to another founder friend of mine who was saying they’re on to their 30th or 40th design in terms of packaging and they’re changing it every time they do a production run. It’s just about getting it out there and getting feedback and learning absolutely everything from what you’re doing. But you can’t do that unless you just go for it and just try it, I think that’s my biggest bit of advice.
What was the transition like from BrewDog and Corona to where you are now? It must’ve been full throttle!
There were times right at the beginning when I was kind of twiddling my thumbs a bit thinking, “I should be doing something, but I don’t really know what I should be doing”. You can start overthinking things a little bit, but now there are times when I’m crazy busy and I can’t keep up with myself and my to-do list so managing that has been a challenge.
That transition of coming from a job where you have your set KPIs and you know what you have to achieve, and you know your role, you know who your customer base is. Then all that’s taken away.
You just have this big vast open field in front and you’re thinking “I don’t really know the direction I need to be going in”. That’s been interesting and really great to learn. We start with a big open field and then narrow it down to a single blade of grass.
Where can we find your brilliant brews?
We sell it online on our webshop and then we sell it through loads of bars, cafes and venues around the UK. We’re in places like Giraffe restaurants, Stonegate pub company and Citizeb M Hotels. We’ve got a huge retailer focus this year, so we’re now starting to pick up more convenience stores and supermarkets which is a very exciting time for us.
Where do you see FITCH Brew Co this time next year?
I’d like to see us getting some great traction in retail, it’s an exciting proposition for us. We’ve got a bunch of NPD products coming out so keep your eyes peeled. We want to be growing across the board, it’s hard to say exactly where we want to be but having growth in sales and growth in social media engagement is key. We’re starting to build a great brand identity and doing some exciting summer events!
What events have you got planned for this summer?
We are going to be at Taste of London (Regents Park) in June where we will have some really exciting things happening. An experiential campaign across the UK is also planned so watch this space.
“We did a festival last year and it went down really well – when the sun comes out and people need a little pick me up.”
Then we flipped it on its head in the evening and we’re making cold brew martinis! We’ve got a load of collabs this year too. FITCH is all about challenging people’s perceptions on what you can actually do with coffee and that’s the great thing about cold brew which you’ve not been able to before with traditional hot coffees.
FITCH Brew Co have come some far, and we can’t wait to see their hard work continue to pay off! You can grab yourself some of their awesome cold brews and some FITCH Brew Co merch via their online store here. Stay tuned, FITCH are going huge places!