This month we’re introducing you to the finalists in this year’s The Pitch awards, run by SiftMedia in association with Yell. The Pitch 2011 supports and celebrates small businesses from start-up to success.
Today we meet Naomi Kibble & Helen McAvoy whose pre-packaged, bar quality frozen cocktails, Rocktails, won them the Welsh heat.
For any of our readers who aren’t aware of you, can you give us an introduction to the business?
ROCKTAILS are born wild and fruity. Captured inside each double-serve Rocktail pod is our lovingly created, unique fusion of fruits and vodka, blended to create a spectacular frozen cocktail like no other. At 10% ABV, they come in 3 distinctive launch flavours; Frostberry, Coolcumber and Arctic Passion..
Where can we find you, and why did you choose to set up shop where you did? - What attracted you to that area?
Available from November in selected Sainsburys. Also available online.
We are a national brand but out offices are based in South Wales – we love the Welsh. No other reason! The Welsh Assembly are really supportive with grants, the living costs are really low and it’s only 2 hours to London on a train.
What inspired you to start your business?
Helen and Naomi, the Co-Founders of ROCKTAILS, met through a leadership development organisation, AIESEC, and soon after formed a social enterprise in Cardiff whilst studying at the University Business School. Both Co-Founders later went on to work in London, Naomi for a FTSE 250 company and Helen for AIESEC.
We had always enjoyed busy social lives in London, and spent more than enough time in cocktail bars around the city. However, we had a real problem re-creating this bar experience at home when we cooked for friends or organised parties; the ingredients were expensive, crushing ice was messy and no-one wanted to spend time in the kitchen away from the craic (as Helen would say). We sat on the idea for quite a while and nothing came to the market which filled the gap. It was only when Naomi started planning a little summer money spinner (selling alcoholic slush-puppies out the back of an ice-cream van on the beach in Cornwall) did it occur that what we should really do was actually create a cocktail which met this need for being able to enjoy bar quality cocktails at home and with a little bit of research, the idea quickly evolved.
The big leap came at the end of August; after copious weekends and evenings spent planning the business and juggling full-time jobs, we decided to move out of London and work fulltime on the business. On 7 September 2010 we opened the office, where we set about turning our ideas into a reality…this was the start…
What’s your philosophy in a nutshell? What would you say makes you stand out from the crowd?
We have found that people don’t have access to premium, bar quality cocktails at home as they need a lot of spirits, time, effort, skills, knowledge, equipment, and be willing for their kitchen to be turned upside down in the process! ROCKTAILS solves this problem by providing cocktails that are;
Full and Fruity – ROCKTAILS have a powerfully fruity and authentic taste, making them incomparable to the synthetic cocktails currently offered.
Frozen – No other pre-mixed cocktail currently in the UK market which is frozen– this instantly differentiates us.
Chillingly Impressive– there’s no cocktail prowess needed. ROCKTAILS are perfectly mixed every single time as everything is included. When decanted into a glass they create a frost on the outside of the glass which is only seen in bars.
Wildly Convenient - super easy, minimal mess, no waste. Simply FREEZE, LEAVE, SQUEEZE.
Free From - artificial flavourings and colours. Pre-mixed cocktails are full of rubbish. Ingredients don’t have to be disclosed on the label, so manufacturers get away with murder, some cocktails are even made with fortified wine rather than proper spirits.
Responsibly Transparent - Clear unit measure, calorie content, and nutritionals are listed on every pod– this promotes responsible drinking and makes sure consumers know exactly where they stand. This isn’t a common and legal requirement on alcohol products but something we have found consumers really value.
What would you say is the secret to a successful independent business? What advice would you give to someone looking to follow in your shoes?
Satisfying customers, cashflow and forward planning make a successful business.
• Make sure you have the time and the money to launch your business. You can’t have one without the other – and one can’t be substituted for the other.
• Plan, plan and plan some more. Make sure you plan every step of your start-up journey. If you miss a stage or go about things in the wrong order it could cost you dearly. And remember – a plan is useless without action.
• Have fun. It’ll be harder work than you imagined, so make sure you’re enjoying it or you’ll never survive.
Can you share a few of your favourite local, independent businesses with us?
Not local but still fab - Righteous all-natural salad dressings and cooking oil.
Big Mouse Productions - Managed by 2 absurdly talented audio/video guys, Sam and Jamie. Their approach to their work is fantastic. They are a joy to work with, they listen to every detail of your brief and always over deliver. The work they create is just brilliantly creative and extremely high quality.
Huw Jones Photography - another hugely talented guy with a real eye for quality. He’s a onestop shop for all things photography and his work in food and drink, really does make your mouth water. He has a great setup, a studio bigger than your house and its really comfortable if your on a long shoot.
Also, Gower Cottage Brownies, Cartridge Mate and Empire Events.
How does it feel to have won your heat of The Pitch?
Great – it has provided some great exposure and it’s always nice to hear other people talking about it with the same passion that we have.
Are you confident about the final?
There are some fantastic businesses in the other regions and we feel honoured to be competing alongside them. We’re confident in the product..I guess the rest will take care of itself!
If you could give one piece of advice for an Entrepreneur considering entering next year’s Pitch competition, what would it be?
Do it – you have to be in it to win it!
Finally, following The Pitch, what can we expect from you in 2011/2012? Anything our readers should be looking forward to?
There is loads going on! We will be increasing our reach, and the amount of stores currently stocking ROCKTAILS. Running some fab competitions for people to win cases of ROCKTAILS and most likely bringing ROCKTAILS to a festival near you!
The overall champion will win a package of business products and services worth £50,000, we wish them all good luck!