How do you build a business in 6 months?
That’s the dilemma Angels Share MCR Ltd founder Stephanie Buttery faced when developing her latest start-up Chu-Lo soft drinks.
After several months of dedication to hard work, and with the first batch in the market place, Stephanie chronicles here the steps she took to make her vision reality and inspire others with a dream to do the same.
Feb 19 – The Idea
It started out as an idea.
Having spent most of 2018 in Japan I came back with an addiction to Japanese culture, and whilst Manchester has no shortage of Asian Fusion restaurants, it was curious to me that the only soft drink offerings were a Cola or Fanta.
In my enlightened state these drinks did not compliment the cuisine and I saw my gap.
Create a Japanese style Soft drink which looks great and tastes like being in the heart of Tokyo.
Feb 19 – Concept Development
I came up with the name Chu-Lo to play on words with the original Japanese drink chūhai, (you can read more in the origins of Chu-Lo) I wanted my drink to be low in sugar, alcohol-free but a little bit western.
The ‘Lo’ sound is untranslatable in Japanese similar to the use of UniquLo.
I ran this name past a few Japanese friends and had laugh out loud responses, they loved the play on words with High and Low.
With the name and branding coming together I needed flavour ideas. Each flavour what carefully chosen because of their association with Japan and Chuhai.
Lemon Sour is the classic flavour from 1980’s Japan and also the first variation of chūhai I tried, in a karaoke bar in Sasebo.
Apple was chosen next because it is the best selling across Japan and also my favourite flavour of chūhai.
The third was hardest to choose but I decided on Peach because of the wonderful association Japan has the fruit and peach blossom.
With £10,000 in my business account – saved while on my travels – I committed to making my vision a reality.
My next first step was to enlist the services of a professional marketing team.
I contacted Top League Brand Design and briefed them on my Chu-Lo vision.
Satisfied that Charlie at Top League understood my concept and he was as enthusiastic as me to deliver a successful solution, his team began creating mood boards and branding ideas including the Chu-Lo logo, design aesthetics, tone of voice and a package design which would span the three products which I had planned.
Feb – Mar 19 – Mock Ups and Samples
With the flavours decided, I needed to find someone who could actually product the premium drink. This proved to greatest challenge so far and was nearly nearly brought about a premature end to my vision of Chu-Lo.
I had early success finding a canner who was able to give me an idea of minimum orders, most large companies will want 150,000 cans minimum but thanks to the booming market of craft beers there are smaller companies who are willing to produce small batches of 7,000 cans.
You pay a premium for the small batches but this is the nature of a start-up.
My next challenge came in trying to find a flavour developer.
I must have phoned every lab and developer in the country!
There were many that would close the conversation straight away, as they ‘don’t deal with start ups’ – it’s a difficult response to deal with when you have complete belief in your product.
I then found a few that would string me along only to tell me later that they don’t need my business because the batches are too small.
To overcome this problem I went local and looked for developers in Lancashire.
Simpson Beverages came to my rescue and put every faith in my idea.
I sent them my notes from Japan giving detail of the flavour profiles of chūhai and they began to make samples.
We played with a few different versions of the flavours but after a month or two of trial and error including focus groups we reached the flavours we have today.
Apr-May 19 – Funding
With the flavour in place and the canners lined up I was ready to hit send… except for the £10,000 budget, I set out to start up was dwindling.
Once you have paid for Intellectual Property, a graphic designer, marketing and a website things get expensive. I had highlighted the need for more money