The Evolution of Icely Done
Part I: 2011 – 2014
Icely Done was born in 2011. Fresh back from travelling in South America and living in Australia, I was bursting with enthusiasm to put something of my own in motion. I had kept a little notebook of ideas detailing cool things I had seen on my travels and I revisited it on my return to London. One thing in particular jumped out at me. Travelling between Salvador and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, I had encountered sacolé, a fresh fruit ice pop. This was a homemade street food product, often sold through living room windows to passers-by.
Back in London and living with my dad with no cash, it wasn’t long before I met Stuart Langley who had been my boss at Sosho (Match Bar Group) and I began working with him on a freelance basis helping with his drinks offering while he and Fred built their exciting business. In a Shoreditch kitchen they were operating from, I took the opportunity to start creating these fresh fruit ice pops and with expertise in cocktails and mixed drinks, it wasn’t long before spirits started finding their way in to my recipes. Not long after, I had a product that I was ready to test the market with. Two of my best friends agreed to come along for the ride, and they generously agreed to support and fund the project since I was broke after my travels and didn’t have a clue what I was doing. And so it began.
Keeping to the inspired tropical origins of the product, we kept to tropical flavours and in the same way as we do today, we used the tastiest and most natural products we could afford.
Our flavours included:
Rum & Guava
Rum & Mango
Rum & Coconut
Vodka, Pomegranate & Pink Grapefruit
Gin & Zesty Lemonade
We tested these in outdoor pop-up markets the first being Red Market, now the site of The Last Days of Shoreditch. Peppermint Events also gave the product a chance at an outdoor, Brazilian themed event and sales were pretty respectable. I was propelled forward by the feedback of folks that bought them, and although we experienced great sales at some iconic UK music festivals, ultimately, we ran out of cash and decided not to produce any more product.
A personal heartbreak, and a business failure that I accept 100% responsibility for. It was my first venture and my inexperience was plain to see. I probably made every mistake possible. Luckily my business partners are still the best of friends and Icely Done has since experienced a rebirth.
In hindsight our biggest mistake was choosing to outsource production. We had started by producing the product in our kitchen and when we outgrew it, we jumped head first in to pretty substantial, large-scale production runs. My over optimism and lack of commercial nouse mean’t that we produced more product than we were able to sell and this resulted in us having left over product that fast ran out of shelf life. A painful process, but I don’t regret any of it, largely because of the unbelievably steep learning curve it offered.
2014 – 2015
Whilst most of our efforts had gone in to exploring the potential of the frozen cocktail sticks, we had also played around with frozen cocktails dispensed from slush machines. We have some pretty funny memories of slush machines that we bought from China. We had set them up in a room that I was living in (rent free – courtesy of my business partners). Where possible, we wheeled them in to events with pretty great results. In hindsight, this should have been the product we pushed forward with.
So when we wound up the frozen cocktail sticks, and the business that housed it, I decided that I would keep the Icely Done brand name and explore cocktail slushies as a new business. That’s not entirely true actually. Although I had decided to start anew, we tried to sell the business, with the name included, without success, which was a fitting final failure to what was a commercial disaster. I didn’t want to sell, but I conceded on this because it was only fair that my business partners retrieve some cash back in light of how much they had lost.
Since no one wanted to buy our failed business, keeping the name, I took a government start up loan and I spent most of the cash on acquiring frozen drinks machines where I had started to see demand.
I was still working in cocktail bars because the business wasn’t paying me a wage. Although not ideal, this kept my bartending skills sharp and kept me on the front line of the cocktail industry, constantly learning new skills. The last place I worked was ‘The Hawksmoor’ and I learnt as much about bartending as I did about building an incredible institution and work place.
The event bar companies I had previously supplied with our first product were keen on my new offering and with a track record of delivering a good service and hopefully operating with integrity, we continued to supply them, and this time we had a product with an even better rate of sale.
I have one very distinct memory of preparing Paloma cocktails which involved me juicing limes and pink grapefruits for the whole night. I went to bed in the morning daylight. Stock was provided sale or return for Field Day 2015 and it was pretty heart-breaking when much of that stock was returned after the event and subsequently went off and down the sink.
Although work was sporadic, and very seasonal, my landlady no longer allowed me to produce the cocktail blends in the kitchen of the house I was renting and my dad had long since grown tired of Icely Done production in his kitchen. A friend of the family, let me take some space in his warehouse, rent free, and I thanked him by ripping out his kitchen, putting my own in, and encroaching on his warehouse space. Basically, being a pain in the butt as he likes to remind me. He affectionately renamed me “pest” for my endeavours. My mum was my only employee and being rent free, the business managed to save 20k from sales in 2015. With that capital, in early 2016 we were able to take on our present warehouse and kitchen space in Hoddesdon which was a wonderful moment and milestone.
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