Garnish Communications: Nik Koster
The founder on why he launched his PR business for "creative freedom" and how bootstrapping your start-up is possible – with the help of some friends
Name: Nik Koster
Company name: Garnish Communications
Date launched: 01/05/15
Tell us what your business does:
Garnish is a PR and media agency for premium drinks brands. We provide bespoke campaigns for drinks brands looking to stand out in a crowded market. We also produce our own events.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
All through my teenage years I wanted to get into PR, I started in big agencies and moved on to smaller ones. Since day one I wanted to start my own agency mainly for the creative freedom.
I stumbled into doing drinks marketing and PR but found it was definitely my niche and around three years ago decided I wanted to have my own specific drinks agency. This year was the perfect time to do it.
How did you know there was a market for it?
My last role was a brand manager at Charter Brands, I learnt how important it is to get the most out of your budget. Big drinks brands are spending big money meaning smaller batch and more premium brands need to be smarter in their spend and see a return on investment with every penny of their market campaign.
Garnish can offer this and so far the reaction has been great.
What were you doing before starting up?
Graduating from Swansea University with a degree in Public & Media Relations I did both internships, freelance and permanent work at various PR agencies building experience with brands both large and small.
My last role was in-house, which I successfully contributed to the rapid rise of Langley's No.8 Gin which is now established in the premium gin market globally.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
In my previous roles I always tried to learn as much as I could from the business owner knowing I would eventually want to be in their position. There's something quite special about having your name metaphorically ‘on the door' of your business, it's something I take a lot of pride of.
How did you raise the money?
The business has been running bootstrapped so far. Luckily with PR you only need a phone, laptop and a black book of contacts which aren't too expensive!
I've been lucky enough to work with Mark Dawkins and Mark Crump who have 20 years each in the drinks industry and run Charter Brands. As directors they are supporting me through bringing in brands, back of house support, expenses, office space etc. It's great working with them and I can't thank them enough. I'll also need to eventually throw a party for all my friends who are helping me out and giving me there expertise and time for free.
Describe your business model and how you make money:
Garnish Communications will be gaining revenue through two main avenues; first and foremost we'll be bringing brands on a retained basis in which they'll be paying a monthly fee for our services. We're selective about the brands we bring on-board and only work with ones we feel we can do an effective job for.
Secondly, we'll be working on collaborative/individual campaigns. Working in the name of promoting great brands we'll be the curators of interesting campaigns to promote better booze. An example is Ginuary which brings in some the best gin brands globally across the traditionally quiet month of January.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
So far it's all been about ‘time'. All our current clients want to see me, as do the new business leads and my team. I have to also make sure we're doing the best work we can. I can't always give time to it all.
Inherently the PR industry doesn't like to say ‘no'. Now I'm running Garnish I've had to start learning how to. As much as clients want to see you, they care about getting their return on investment more – it's about being upfront and honest with them to make sure you haven't spread yourself too thin.
What was your first big breakthrough?
Without a doubt it's been having brands such as Langley's No.8 Gin on-board since the word go. It's meant we've got clients paying money straight away, it takes away a lot of stress and gives the business an opportunity to show what we're doing immediately.
The drinks industry is in general a small place and the reaction so far has been excellent. I'm lucky it's also such a nice place. Having venues such as The Jones Family Project at Old Street coming to us with ideas for our brands is brilliant, everyone's so keen to work with us and our brands!
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Use social media as a business tool. You can meet new and important business leads through social media, you build a subtle reputation, you're constantly up-to-date with everything in your field, it's an excellent free platform to get yourself ‘out there' in a number of ways.
You wouldn't believe how many leads, partnerships, sales and long-standing business relationships I've gained through social media. Get started as soon as possible.
Where do you want to be in five years' time?
I want Garnish Communications to be the go to agency in the UK for drinks brands. I'd like us to have an excellent reputation and to have around 20 of the best employees in the business but continuing to do creative and cost-effective campaigns if there was still three of us. Also, seeing and learning a bit about the drinks market in the US, I'd like to be looking at launching an arm of Garnish stateside.
Lastly, to still be enjoying every second of it as I am now.