Can you afford to do it? Can you afford not to do it?
KOMBUCHA, FERMENTED TEA - IS IT A BEER OR IS IT A HEALTH DRINK?
Start-up, Fix8, is set to revolutionise the fermented drinks market with new thought-provoking flavours and wider availability, balancing the constant need to make a return on investment with sustainable wins. Fix8’s first product is a kombucha drink and, after only a year in the making, they have developed a product from scratch and are now getting it ready to distribute into cafés and bars, as well as at the odd festival. At the Wilderness Festival this year, its popularity was proven when they were serving kombucha on tap and it sold out! Joint founder, Michael Eldridge, shared his thoughts with us on this first year and what sustainability means as a start-up.
Fix8 is a fermented drinks business and brand which is looking to deliver better-tasting products to the market, make drinking them more enjoyable and deliver potential health benefits. After looking at the drinks market as a whole and identifying the explosion the United States has seen in the fermented drinks market, – yet to be realised in the UK, – Michael and Freya saw the opportunity to launch a new, re-positioned offering targeting millennials seeking a healthy buzz. In an age of negative addictions, from social media to sugar, Fix8’s kombucha gives consumers that buzz, which fits into a positive lifestyle where fixes come from exercise, meditation, travel and friendship. Fermented drinks are hard to find on sale and are either packaged as a beer or a health drink. Fix8 plans to change that.
HOW HAS THE START-UP JOURNEY BEEN SO FAR?
Fix8 decided early on to make two substantial investments; firstly spending money on branding and, secondly, on getting the taste right. Putting money into the brand so early on could have been a risky strategy for a young company, but by working with an agency Fix8 was able to establish how to deliver value right from the start. The positioning has been important, with a premium feel. This ran in parallel to getting the right taste and that is where an expert herbalist helped. Together they developed very unique flavours but with an element of familiarity by combining fruit with herbs and spices. There is a complete focus on exceptional taste without compromising the authenticity of the product.
WHAT HAVE THE CHALLENGES BEEN?
Development of the first product has been the largest milestone; this has been the result of numerous decisions on the interrelated bottles, caps and labels, just to name a few! Glass was chosen for the bottles and metal caps, to avoid plastic. At each step, it was a compromise between style, bottling a living product, and environmental impact. Many of these challenges were unknown at the start, even selecting the right label adhesive has been decided on in detail. Working with suppliers on such an innovative product has presented new questions and experiences, almost a chicken and egg scenario with ‘which comes first the bottle or the label?’
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE ANOTHER START-UP?
Engage and find experts who really know what they are doing. Getting the right advice on branding, premises, funding and finance (of course) has enabled meaningful progress, despite the challenges. Paying for the best you can afford at the start will set you up for the future.
HOW DOES SUSTAINABILITY AFFECT YOUR BUSINESS?
At every decision point, Fix8 asks what is commercially right and how to balance sustainability now and for the future. Choosing the glass bottle was important and so was making sure waste is minimised. From the production, tea is the only waste product, which is then recycled as a fertiliser. When the scale of production increases there will be bigger decisions to make, such as distribution. At the moment, Fix8 uses one of our customers to make deliveries as part of their routes, to save adding another vehicle to the road and one-off trips. The next step with premises, moving from rented will allow even bigger impacts to be made with the choice of suppliers and beyond.
HOW DO YOU VIEW SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS IN THE FUTURE?
We set up Fix8 with the objective of being trusted and transparent, which is what today’s consumers demand. Sustainability is therefore a win-win; a win for the commercial success of the start-up, but also for customers, for the future of all businesses and effective operations. They refer to this as conscious capitalism. With millennials, social conscience growing, now is the time to build it into Fix8 and any company where the right opportunity arises. An important next part for Fix8 is to set up a way of giving back through a foundation, to make sure we can reach good causes and to keep questioning each decision. Becoming a Certified B Corporation, a community of leaders that aim to balance purpose and profit is also an aspiration for the near future.
Investors need a return, the business needs growth, customers need value and the business needs to meet expectations and responsibilities for sustainability. The ultimate accountability for the future of the company and then, of course, the world. At every stage Fix8 have asked, can we afford an agency? can we afford an herbalist? but for sustainability the same logic applies; can we afford to do it and can we afford not to do it?
Michael Eldridge - Joint Founder
- Wealth of leadership experience and commercial acumen.
- Previous experience includes growing a business from its early stages to a successful trade sale for £42m.
- Advisory board member for tech start-up.
- Mentor for start-up accelerator and investor in several early-stage companies.
- Fanatical about food & drink.
Freya Twigden - Joint Founder
- A young, lively and enthusiastic millennial entrepreneur, combining her love of food, drink and wellness with a positive purpose.
- Well connected in the food blogging scene.
- Worked for various food and drink enterprises, such as Vita Coco UK, where she was Brand Ambassador.
- Yoga teacher and healthy-living fan.
- Studied in China.
- World traveller.