This is a follow up story for Fernweh. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published over 2 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
I’m Courtney, founder of Fernweh. I run a coffee subscription company in New Zealand, we feature a different coffee each month from a different roaster.
When I first started the company five years ago I wanted a way to connect people with coffee and highlight all the beautiful roasters we have in New Zealand. We mainly sell monthly subscriptions along with some coffee brew gear.
This company started off as a side hustle and remains a side hustle five years later. As it’s grown with subscriptions and partnerships with roasters over the years, I’ve thought about turning it into a full-time business but as a side hustle it enables me to be creative and free.
While I have a full-time job that does keep me busy, Fernweh is where I can express the love of coffee and the creative partnerships we have all around New Zealand. Fernweh is set up in a way that it can run without a lot of management, I usually put 2-3 hours a week into it but that varies around the holidays with more time being spent on the company it is manageable with a full-time job.
Five years ago feels like a lifetime, especially with the effect of the last couple of years with COVID. We have seen an 8% revenue increase each year. During the lockdowns, our sales went through the roof, and since we were deemed essential, we could ship our coffee, which was great!
Tell us about what you’ve been up to. Has the business been growing?
Over the last two years, the company has grown substantially as COVID was good for us. When we first went into lockdown, everyone needed coffee, so we saw sales skyrocket overnight, which continued through the years. During the lockdown, we had a 20% increase in sales from people not being able to go out and since it all happened so fast, online shopping made sense.
This side hustle is a way for me to embrace my creative side and connect with great people who love coffee.
We haven’t introduced new products, but we have pushed the monthly subscriptions, which has been great. Our monthly subscriptions are great one-off gifts as they keep on giving. From one month to six months or a more regular subscription we try to pan to all types of coffee lovers. Since the lockdowns have been done, we have maintained a good balance with sales.
Our existing customers are happy and keep coming back, especially around the holidays, as it’s the gift that keeps on giving. During the holiday times whether it’s Father’s Day or Christmas we run some extra social media posts and some email marketing that is specific to the holiday.
Our pricing strategy hasn’t changed over the years, we raised our prices once as the shipping costs have gone up over the years which has somewhat tightened our margins on some products. We try to keep it reasonable as it is a side hustle so it’s not like anyone needs a full income from it, it’s more just for fun and on the side. The main goals are to connect people with amazing coffee and tell the coffee roasters stories to connect people with something other than supermarket coffee.
We are passionate about supporting local, especially in the last few years it’s been important to keep that as our focus. There hasn’t really beenmpetition as we only send out the single origin, there are a couple of other coffee subscription businesses but they mostly send out blends. We are set apart by sending single-origin coffee which has a niche customer base.
I hired a new person that looks after our social media, she is based remotely but is brilliant with her creativity, and email marketing which is much appreciated. Emails are something we all get a lot of these days and for the last few years, we have mostly relied on them for communication so we like to keep our emails sharp and to the point. We have a great email base of customers from the tradeshows we have done over the years it has helped us grow that marketing tactic.
We did a tradeshow this year, I made a “guess the coffee game” they were given three different coffees they had to mark down the correct numbers to the correct coffee. The sheet had a place for their email and their guess, if they were right they won a sample pack if not they went in the draw for an epic coffee prize that was worth over $150. I managed to collect 350 emails without many of them thinking twice because it was a game, it also made interacting with the customers easier to tell them about our subscriptions. This then enabled us to boost our email base, just in time for the holidays.
What have been your biggest challenges in the last year?
The main challenges have been keeping the momentum going, with the last couple of years of uncertainty, it’s been a juggle.
I know we all experience it, and we all have had struggles, but the main challenge is to remain positive and keep going. What keeps me going is a lot of coffee, remaining productive, and having a balance between work and life.
The last one has personally been the hardest for me to maintain. I worked through all the lockdowns and I was studying full-time online, so having the balance of work, study, and life was hard. However, through that time I learned what my true capacity was, and how much I could take on before burnout which I’m happy to say I’ve never reached. I’m originally from the States and I don’t have any family in New Zealand so working towards going to see them was my motivation.
Having a clear vision and goals helped me through the tough times. I have a vision board in my room that reminds me each day of why I’m working so hard or what needs to be achieved.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
To keep going no matter what, as there are ebbs and flows with business. As this is still a side hustle, it’s been tricky to prioritize at certain times of the year with other commitments.
However, this side hustle is a way for me to embrace my creative side and connect with great people who love coffee.
While I would probably never turn this into a full-time business, I do have some background plans to expand into more of a choose-your-own-for-each-month option. Giving the customers more control and the option to choose from right now I set the calendar for the year of who we will feature and what coffee we send out.
This option would be great for people to try the roasters they want and the coffee they want, although a lot more admin and work on my end would be fun to try. To set this up I’ll have to work with a web developer as it will take some coding to get it right. It’s trying to find the time to do this too, which will probably be in the holidays as we are coming into the busy season.
What’s the best thing you read in the last year?
The culture mapis one of the best books I’ve read this year. It dives into how and why different cultures interact with the work culture.
I found it interesting as an import myself, to gain some understanding of why I feel certain frustrations or bewilderment sometimes with the different cultures around me. I highly recommend it.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
With all the changes and ups and downs of the last few years, it can be hard to remain positive and keep going but that’s what we need to do. Having a mentor has really helphrough the tough times as you feel you have someone on your side.
Powering through even when it feels like it’s a long way up is key. Listening to podcasts, upskilling, and giving yourself time and space to breathe are the main encouragements I would give.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Fernweh has provided an update on their business!
10 months ago, we followed up with Fernweh to see how they've been doing since we published this article.
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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