Bottle & Bean: Charlie Pountney and John Clegg
The start-up's co-founder Charlie Pountney explains how his business plans to stand out in the competitive artisan coffee and craft beer markets
Name: Charlie Pountney and John Clegg
Company name: Bottle & Bean
Date launched: 01/03/2015
Tell us what your business does:
Bottle & Bean is an online craft beer and speciality coffee shop. We also have an immersive monthly subscription service helping people discover new independent beer and coffee producers each month.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
I first had the idea for an online craft beer shop back in 2012. As a bit of a beer geek, I was disappointed with the levels of service from some of the online beer retailers and it was my dream to create a modern and fresh one. I met my business partner John, who as a coffee enthusiast who was hoping to bring together great coffee roasters on one platform.
The partnership seemed like a good one since we both saw the close alignment between the artisan beer and coffee markets.
How did you know there was a market for it?
We built the website, took our own product photos and tested the idea of a ecommerce shop in the period before Christmas. This was a great way to check out the market. The trial was successful and we were able to prove that there was a demand for boxed beer and coffee gifts!
What were you doing before starting up?
I was working in operations at a bank in London and John runs his own video production company.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
My interest in start-ups began in around 2011 as I was looking for something a bit more fulfilling from my career. It opened my eyes to a whole new world which existed; full of people with energy, passion for what they do and the support networks surrounding the industry. It was exciting and very different from the corporate environment.
I’d always thought I’d like to try starting my own business as it appealed to my desire to be more creative, to work on something I enjoyed and cared about, and to interact with many different and interesting people.
How did you raise the money?
We are completely self-funded right now. I was made redundant and have been using the money to support myself and the business until it grows.
Describe your business model and how you make money:
Our business works off a referral/agency model where we take a percentage of each sale, which we pass onto the producer who then handles the order, pack and dispatch. This means we can scale efficiently as we can concentrate on sales and marketing.
It also gives our suppliers control over the handling of their goods, which they are happy with as it enables them to ensure customers receive the freshest products.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Operationally we experience different challenges daily because of the nature of the products. Coffee deteriorates rapidly in quality and flavour after it is roasted and this means we can’t hold stock because it needs to be completely fresh when the coffee is sent out. For beer the challenge is different, it does not deteriorate as rapidly as coffee but it has its own challenges being relatively cheap per unit, but very heavy and bulky to transport which makes it expensive to distribute.
As with all young businesses, getting our name out there and coming up with effective marketing campaigns is an everyday challenge!
What was your first big breakthrough?
I believe we are the only subscription service right now which offers video tours and live online tastings. Successfully running our first live online tasting was a great breakthrough and we were delighted that the technology worked!
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
The best advice I can give is just to take the first step. It is extremely daunting but just taking a step in the right direction, however small, really helps. The first step is something which so many people dream of taking but never do.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
We would love to have a successful business that helps thousands of people get closer to the incredible UK producers we are so lucky to have in this country, and perhaps take our service to the rest of the world too.