Hello! Who are you and what are you working on?
My name is Alex French, and I am the co-founder and CEO of Bizzy Coffee. We manufacture products for the coffee industry specifically focused on cold brew.
We are the #1 bestselling blend of cold brew coffee on Amazon, and that has allowed us to get into retail stores like Walmart and Target. This year we plan to be in over 1000 stores.
What's your backstory and how did you get into entrepreneurship?
I've always wanted to be an entrepreneur ever since I was a kid. I grew up with the famous Lamborghini Countach picture on my bedroom wall and asked my dad how I can get one of those. He told me you have to be a business owner and basically since then - I was probably 10 or 12 - I have been laser-focused on being a business owner.
Do not to go to a bunch of networking events. Those are waste of time. You just need to go out there and execute.
Of course, at the time I didn't know what an entrepreneur was other than you just need to own a business. So basically since I was a kid I've been selling things, doing things to make money whether that was selling beanie babies on eBay, mowing the lawn, shoveling - you name it - I've probably tried and sold it at one point in time.
Nowadays, I take a little different approach to it where if we're going to launch a product we always make sure there's existing demand. I try and quantify that using some sort of data source and specifically for the product that I'm launching, not just the actual category, but truly the specific product that I'm going to sell.
We’ve gotten a little more sophisticated whereas before I used to just guess and sometimes I work 10 times and didn't now we're a little more focused you know when I started Bizzy coffee I was working in a covered siding basically following all of my extra income into the store Heard up which was very stressful because it was every kind of penny I had but that's that's kind of what it takes to start so we did our initial investment I just my cofounder and myself to get started and that is kind of what the cost out of the gates
Take us through your entrepreneurial journey. How did you go from day 1 to today?
The journey for me really started while I was working in a corporate job. I was working at General Mills so I was already in the food industry, and I've been making cold brew coffee myself with my roommate who is also my business partner.
Basically, what I did is I did everything I could on my own and if I ever had a question I would just ask a co-worker or a mentor, or anyone that I thought would be able to provide good advice. I did a lot of meetings with co-workers and it was actually interesting because I was at first nervous that people would know that I'm starting a business so that I can quit my job. What I actually learned is that everyone wanted to help.
Most people that are in a business setting want to own a business but they typically don't because it is so much riskier than just collecting a paycheck. But because they want to own a business, they will live vicariously through you and give you advice and then watch you execute it. So I did a lot of that right out of the gates with co-workers and then also would reach out to local entrepreneurs that had some experience - ideally in the food or beverage space, but I also would try and meet with people that have just built successful businesses on their own and I was just asking questions.
This was early on in developing the brand, the packaging and the strategy. So that's kind of how we initially started. It was just talking to mentors, and then as the business progressed, it became more of OK how do we work with a contract manufacturer, what are normal terms, and pricing, and we would just kind of take the next logical step to get the product into people’s hands.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today is looking pretty good! We're number one on Amazon. We have a couple of new products that were going to be launching within the retail channel, which we’re really excited about. Our margins are really good - kind of in line with scaled CPG manufacturing businesses.
We definitely are looking to become more focused on our approach, to go narrow and deep within our few products. We want to generate more trials and more repeat purchases. Our numbers are looking pretty good. Our cost to acquire customers (CAC) online is under four dollars which is pretty amazing for something consumable coffee. We're just continually trying to lower acquisition cost, increase margin and increase retention so almost all of our efforts are going into that.
We do want to be in the largest categories of iced coffee in the end - all the grocery stores main stream and conventional. We want to get into 20,000 stores with our products and continue to drive more customers on Amazon because that's been working so well for us. The ultimate goal truly is to become a household brand name that's available and in every grocery store in the country.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Get mentors that know your industry. You can save so much time and money by bringing in mentors and advisers that know the space especially if there is a rigid way on how things are done in that space.
Our main challenges were figuring out how things work in selling a product at a physical store or the way pricing works for promotions. We lost a lot of money in certain scenarios by using the wrong distributor, or putting in the wrong pricing up, or having to change pricing. Having a mentor and advisor that has done that before, that knows the rules in the playbook of a specific industry, is a must.
We also had a lot of issues with contract manufacturers. As a small business they have all the leverage and you have none, and they will do whatever they can to make an extra buck off of you because in most cases start ups fail and so they want to make as much money as possible. We learned it's really important to make sure you have a good contract, and to work with someone that knows how to manage your contract manufacturing relationship. If you don't produce the product yourself that is critical because that is your most valuable relationships. Making sure that everything is clear upfront early on is extremely important.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We do most of our business on Amazon and so most tools we use are specifically for Amazon. Our favorite ones are Excel, Feedback Genius and Scope.
These tools allow us to get specific data within categories, to know how big an opportunity is. If we're gonna launch a new product online, we really want to make sure we have a good understanding of what the pricing needs to be in and how big that opportunity is. We do use Fiverr for some freelance work.
We also use Facebook advertising. We love Slack, Basecamp, and Evernote.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I'm a huge podcast listener. When I was getting started or before we actually launched, to get pumped up, I listened to podcasts about other entrepreneurs taking the risk of starting the business.
I used to love Entrepreneur on Fire - that was my go-to. Now that I'm a little deeper into the business, I try and read more tactical books about selling and negotiating, and managing organizational structures.
My favorite podcast is definitely This Week in Startups. It’s very business focused. It talks about fundraising and how to a scale of business.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
When it comes to advice for other entrepreneurs who are just getting started, the goal is to always mitigate risk as much as possible and then you got to execute. At the end of the day, no one's gonna push you to do this - these are your own objectives and goals. It's too important to just do it, see what happens and never trying to minimize the cost of failure. If that's going to be the case - which is fine - then just go out there and have fun, and make sure to surround yourself with good friends and family.
Another piece of advice: Do not to go to a bunch of networking events. Those are waste of time. You need to go out there and execute. Through the business you'll make really strong relationships and other entrepreneurs that can help you on your journey. Again, make sure to have a really strong network of mentors. Ask for advice all the time. If you're looking for money, ask for advice because that's how you get it.
Where can we go to learn more?
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