The founders of a cold coffee start-up have received a £200,000 investment less than 12 months after the business came close to going under.
Former baristas Theo Garcia, 24, and Alex Foss Sims, 29, who met while working in a coffee shop in Gloucestershire, started producing bottled, chilled coffee after noticing a growing demand for cold brew among coffee lovers.
Extensive market research showed that most cold coffee drinks in the UK were saturated with sugar, which gave the pair the idea of creating a natural, no sugar alternative.
After six months of trading, Theo and Alex secured a £25,000 fixed-interest loan from the Start Up Loans programme, part of the British Business Bank. This enabled the business to upscale production and improve the brand design, rebrand the business from Antler & Bird to Solo Coffee, repackage their cold brew into bag-in-box and offer nitro taps for cafés, bars and offices.
A major hurdle came last August when the pair were forced to recall their products because of a manufacturing problem, leaving them almost bankrupt.
In a bid to save their business, they pitched to almost 50 investors and, having rejected an initial offer due to the terms and conditions attached, they accepted a £200,000 investment in return for an 18% stake in their business. With the money secured, Theo and Alex can now fulfil outstanding orders for their ‘bag-in-box’ cold brew coffee – which has capacity for 40 servings at the push of a button – and begin expanding the business to meet growing demand.
Mintel research published last year revealed that around 20% of global new coffee launches last year were iced and ready to drink, up from 16% from 2016.
Theo Garcia, co-founder of Solo Coffee, said, “We’ve always believed in our vision, but it’s hard to get investors to have the same belief. Luckily for us, the market for cold brew coffee is blowing up right now and no one quite has the same offering as us.”
“Everyone else seems to be focusing on flavoured, retail facing cold brew. We decided to make it easy to drink good coffee in your office, home and café – the places where people actually drink coffee.”
“Starting a business isn’t easy. It comes with a lot of risks and anxiety. We couldn’t have done it without the support of the Start Up Loans scheme. They assigned us a mentor to help us create our business plan and guide us through our journey. Both the funding and mentoring support have played a huge role in the growth of our business.”
A spokesperson for Start Up Loans said, “Solo Coffee is a fantastic example of a successful UK start-up. The resilience and tenacity of its founders shows what can be done if you are committed and follow your passion.”
“We recognise the value of small business and enterprise to the UK economy and it’s our mission to help as many people from all walks of life to follow their passion and set up their own business.”
British Business Bank’s Start Up Loans scheme has lent over £468m to start-ups and early stage businesses since it was launched in 2012 and has delivered nearly 61,000 loans at the time of writing.
Pictured: Theo Garcia (left) and Alex Foss Sims.