One minute with…Dalston Cola Co’s founder Duncan O’Brien
From hand-making sodas in his kitchen to running a brewery with thousands of sales, read our 60 second interview with the chef-turned-entrepreneur
A highly competitive market, fizzy drinks wouldn’t be the most obvious industry to start a new business in.
But, back in 2012 with the support of a £5,000 Start Up Loan, former chef Duncan O’Brien decided to do just that and take on the big boys with his range of all natural alternative cola.
Having “noticed growing consumer demand for high-quality, natural refreshment options” and intent on creating a pop that would be both “natural” and “great tasting”, O’ Brien set about blending and mashing the first Dalston’s Cola by hand in his kitchen.
Five years on and O’Brien’s fizzy drinks business is scaling fast – and has come a long way from kitchen counter tops.
Now manufactured from its very own ‘Brew Yard’ in East London, the Dalston soda range includes everything from the traditional cola, lemonade, and orangeade to cream soda, apple fizz, and ginger beer – all made with real ingredients and less sugar than the big brands.
Sales have soared, regularly hitting 5,000 bottles a week, and the business has attracted more than 140 restaurants and coffee shops as customers including Peyton and Byrne, Wahaca, and Bodeans BBQ.
So, what’s next for the pioneering carbonated drinks brand and what has O’Brien learnt from his start-up journey? Read our quick-fire 60 second interview with the pop pioneer to find out…
See if you can get a Start Up Loan to help you start a business idea
(external site, opens in new tab)
What is the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given?
Make the best quality product you can and there’ll probably be a market for it.
The thing you wish you’d known when you started Dalston Cola Co?
How structural margins work in the soft drinks industry.
The biggest challenge or obstacle you’ve had to overcome?
Getting Dalston Cola Co investment ready.
Golden rule of business?
Work hard and be thankful.
Entrepreneurial company you most admire?
Maharishi – ethically it is on point, and its clothes are amazing.
Entrepreneur you most admire?
Business achievement you’re proudest of?
Building our team.
Regrets? Name one thing you’d change about your business journey given another chance:
Not appreciating the importance and complexity of sales work from an early stage.
Where do you go for trusted business advice?
My mentor, investors, and the community of food and drink founders.
What metrics do you monitor most in your business?
As many as we can realistically given our size and without a dedicated CRM system.
If you were prime minister for the day, what is the one thing you’d change for entrepreneurs?
Can the prime minister radically change the lending practices of big banks to small businesses?!
What’s next for Dalston’s?
We’re set to launch a crowdfunding campaign soon…watch this space!
Learn more about Dalston Cola Co and the story behind the London-based soft drinks business here.