What was inspired you to start CRU Kafe?
- The desire to allow people to drink great coffee in the convenience of their home.
- The team, I met John and Bodil who had the original idea and needed someone with more of a business background to help them take the idea to market.
- The competition were just going after price and I really felt that the market cared more about ethically sourced organic great coffee then saving a few pence.
What do you most enjoy about running a food startup?
My background is a bit all over the place but finance is at it’s core, so it’s been interesting creating a physical product from scratch and throwing it out to the world and seeing what people think of it.
I believe product development and marketing are at the heart of all great food startups and this has been a nice change from the zero sum game of finance.
How does CRU Kafe stand out from competitors in the industry, what made you decide to use a subscription model?
We’re the only premium alternative to nespresso on the market. Using only speciality grade coffee that comes from plantations that are certified Organic and Fair Trade. We take the passion that you’ll find in a cool speciality coffee shop and try to deliver a piece of that in a capsule to enjoy at home.
We initially thought that subscription was the easiest way forward because coffee is such a habitual product, however, we quickly realised that people are extremely fearful of subscribing to a new business and nespresso customers had been used to order around 200 capsules at a time so the monthly subscription didn’t seem enough to them. We quickly learned from communication from customers that they wanted to purchase one off orders alongside their subscriptions – so we’ve allowed this to happen and it’s all going well.
What does your normal day look like, do you start the day with CRU coffee?
I absolutely start the day with a double shot of our light roast with a bit frothed milk!
I live very close to the office so my day starts around 8am and generally finishes closer to around 7pm. I always take a bit of time every morning to create my “today list” things that I won’t leave the office until are finished. After thats completed I usually spend a bit of time while the office is still quite to get back to emails, I really try to get back to every email within 24hrs if possible.
I’ll then move to my list, which often includes checking up on inventory, supplier, distributors, events that we have going on, having meetings with various parts of the team on new products or initiatives. I also always try and touch some of our customers every day, whether that’s actually taking some phone calls or answering some customer emails or social media interaction.
It’s important to touch your customers daily to understand what they’re enjoying and what they’re having problems with. I also sometimes will spend a few hours on the shop floor in Harrods selling, tasting and speaking to our customers!
As a Canadian how has starting a business in London been for you? Are there any differences in the food tech scene?
Coming from a different country I had to spend a lot of time building my network, one of the most important things that helped this was doing my MBA in London (Hult International Business School) and having all of my classmates as a network but also a year where all I did was study and network.
My one co-founder is from the UK and the other is from Norway so we each have a unique perspective which I think makes us unique in the way we communicate and market our product.
The tech scene in Canada is growing but it’s still well behind what we have in London. I’m very fortunate that I co-founded Silicon Real and my access to the tech community is fantastic. I love meeting and interviewing amazing people doing fantastic startups – I learn so much.
What has been your most valuable lesson so far since starting your business?
Pick good business partners and hire great people. I like to think that I have a good level of self awareness and try and hire people that are not only smarter then me but often have an area of expertise that I don’t. Making mistakes is fine but if you can avoid or minimise them then do so at all costs.
What has been your greatest achievement so far?
If I look back at what we’ve accomplished in just under a year we’ve created 4 blends that people like! We’re in Harrods, in every room of Soho House globally and Jamie Oliver’s entire office is drinking our coffee. It’s definitely a pretty good start.
Apart from running CRU Kafe you also work on Silicon Real a talk show interviewing startup founders, how did that come about? What do interviews do you find most interesting?
I self produced, financed and starred alongside my brother in two adventure travel shows riding my motorcycle around China and India. I had done a lot of interviews that were very short and just sound bites.
I really wanted to tell my story and encourage people to go on their own adventures. I was a big fan of the Joe Rogan Experience and when Brian Rose was on talking about his Podcast called London Real, I became an instant fan and when my TV show was airing in the UK I reached out to him hoping that we would provide a platform for me to share my story. He agreed, and after the show we continue a dialogue and friendship, I then went to his birthday party and suggested that he use some of his excess capacity of his studio and interview some people that surrounded old street and were huge parts of the tech scene.
It really feels like we were part of the gold rush of tech and looking back in 10 years it will be great to watch these interviews of the amazing people that helped make it all happen.
It looks like you have a passion for motorbikes as well as coffee, when did it start? Do you still keep doing motorbike challenges?
Motorbikes, I definitely enjoy them but what I like more is exploring the world and meeting people from completely different backgrounds. I also love the idea of removing myself from the world for a period of time, I find when I return I have a completely different perspective.
My brother is planning another trip around Brazil for next year but I’m much too busy with my various projects to leave them for any length of time, so I’ll be sitting this adventure out 🙁 Maybe next time.
In the coming year, what would you like to achieve with CRU Kafe?
I would like to see CRU continue to expand our reach in the UK single serve coffee market and build our brand to the point where we’re known for a company that provides amazing products that are all ethically sourced and grown, with a very high standard of quality.
I would also like to be in a few other retailers and slowly looking at entering some new markets.
What advice can you give to newcomers to your industry, or the startup space in general?
- Work harder than everyone around you and people will rise to your level.
- Don’t be afraid to take calculated risks
- Don’t sit on the sidelines – take a leap of faith and just start.
- Find good partners
- Create a product that a few people love and build from that.