The Evolution of Icely Done continued…
Part 3 – 5
Part 3: 2016
2016 was a great year for Icely Done. In April, we moved in to our present-day HQ which was an empty white warehouse. The race was on to build the kitchen in time for mid-May when the festivals were set to begin. Creating our new home meant that we now had the foundations to take on more work and we were subsequently involved at over 30 events and festivals with our frozen cocktails.
I estimate that we sold somewhere in the region of 140,000 drinks between June and September. We also more than trebled our revenue which was a great confidence boost and a pleasing reflection of how far we had come. We took on our first three employees, Kyle, Jakub and Jawad who helped us through the busy summer months meaning my mum got to retire, hopefully forever from Icely Done.
I went to most of those events as I had always done, and peoples’ reaction to our frozen cocktails gave me real energy. The event bar operators were happy because they were able to serve consistent and delicious cocktails to the masses in record time and the serve was uncomplicated for their army of student volunteer staff which was a big bonus.
By now, I was getting a sense that cocktails dispensed from frozen drinks machines were really coming in to maturity and I was starting to believe that we might be the company that best understood and could best deliver this serve. In 2016 I had also learnt a lot more about where our frozen cocktails worked, and where they didn’t work so well. I learnt that frozen cocktails served in a themed beach environment for example, was much more harmonious and a lot more fun than serving them in the neighbourhood pub. For that reason, in the winter of 2017, we created Tropical Shade which gave us the ability to help folks to create an awesome, tropical themed environment to match our beautiful frozen drinks, and indeed cocktails of all shapes and sizes.
Going in to 2017, the intention was to introduce Tropical Shade to the event bar operators we worked with as well as potentially an Icely Done concession to perhaps dip our toe in to retail to see if our expertise operating bars, might be called upon. The retail aspect didn’t happen, but it may be one that we revisit in future.
Part 4: 2017
With the strengthening foundations of our frozen cocktails we began to turn our attention towards a second product, that was to spawn an entire new product range. Enter our cocktail blends. These products were a natural evolution of our slush blends in the sense that we were attempting to address some of the same obstacles faced by bar operators.
We wanted to use our pretty extensive cocktail understanding to help bar operators serve inventive, imaginative cocktails quickly and consistently. This time, the resulting drinks were not served frozen and therefore didn’t need a frozen drinks machine. Instead, we intended them to be versatile products with bold and imaginative flavours that bartenders might use to create remarkable, best-selling cocktails of their own. Our goal was to start building relationships with bars and events that we might work with all year round. By having small and regular orders we would give the business a chance of a predictable and healthy cash flow which would take the pressure off of our reliance on festivals (and good weather).
2017 unfolded to be an amazing year. We continued investing in frozen cocktail machines and now owned somewhere in the region of 40. This meant that we were involved in a great many events and longer standing summer pop ups. But something else happened which was a dramatic turning point for us.
Before this moment, we were a seasonal business which meant that profits generated between May and September had to pay the bills all year round. In other words we didn’t have a healthy cash flow (or much flow of cash at all in fact). Enter Zane-Chiswell Rivas. I worked with Zane at The Hawksmoor and he had left before me to join the sales team at a gin brand. He came to see us during the time that he was pitching to Be At One for their new menu in the summer of 2017. We prepared cocktails using the gin he represented, and some of our own blends. Our blends made it easy to serve some inventive and imaginative cocktails quickly and consistently. The bold and interesting flavour profiles also meant that the drinks had a real chance of becoming best-selling menu cocktails. He later presented these to the folks at Be At One and the drinks, using our blends made it on to their menu in October 2017. For Be At One, the idea that they could serve tasty, inventive cocktails quickly and consistently, with less bottle pickups, was an attractive proposition. This created something extraordinary for us. For the first time, we had a regular, predictable and stable cash flow. We also had real market proof that our range of cocktail bases had legs and was a worthy addition.
As a business, we could now protect the profits made from frozen drinks sales in the summer and use them to reinvest in the project. It also meant that we had the cash flow every month to start building the team that the project deserved. We hired Paul to help us in the kitchen and at the end of 2017, we hired Zane to help us look after Be At One and our handful of other customers, and also to help us find out if there are more folks out there that might like to work with us.
Part 5: 2018
Much of the early part of this year was spent planning the months ahead. Being a founder, I am very aware that most startups are gone within 5 years so whilst I have a long-term vision for the project, I have never planned (in any real detail), much beyond 1 year ahead. There is no point.
In the past, I have found that if we get the early part of the year planned, and done right, it gives us a chance of being operationally sound and in a great position to face the challenges of the months ahead.
Aswell as the planning aspect, much of February and March was spent playing with new flavour and product ideas. The main thing to come out of this was our Rhubarb & Strawberry blend. Be At One took this on in dramatic style, and their drink “A Bit of Me” is currently their third best-selling cocktail since their new menu launched in April 2018.
Our Zane has also been busy pounding the streets and making new friends in the bar world and we’re delighted to be working with over 50 fixed venues at the time of writing.
This year has also seen a lot of exciting new collaborations unfolding, particularly with spirit brands. This is a very natural partnership for us, particularly as our products allow their spirits to shine, through inventive and imaginative serves, a solution that helps bars serve cocktails quickly and consistently.
We also built our cocktail bar at our HQ and have had lots of visitors for cocktail making afternoons which has proved to be a great way to develop existing relationships and create new ones while showcasing our products.
In March, we went through a bit of a rebrand which was a much needed freshening up. In the same month, we were able to strengthen our team further, and Louise joined us to create a marketing presence and help us build an enduring, sustainable and long-lasting brand. In April, figures were in for our year end and we grew revenues by a respectable 50%.
In May, we expanded the team further. We hired Stephanie, my sister to help with order processing, transport, logistics and general office management. Stef has gone a long way to ensure that we continue to grow on really solid foundations with excellent processes and systems.
May and June were a bit of a blur in the sense that I personally become very operational (and less strategic), and very frozen drink centered. Although we’ve experienced solid growth with our cocktail bases, (largely through Zane’s tireless work), it is still the frozen cocktails that we’re best known for and this is their time of year. We’re proud of our achievements and reputation in this area and we are determined to keep building on our achievements to date.
So that brings us pretty much up to the present day. Follow us on social media to watch the journey unfold and later this year/early next, I’ll tell you about the second half of 2018.
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