15 Nov The FOAL Chronicles – #2 – Peaks
#2 – Peaks
Today FOAL is flying down to London. I’m currently sitting on a Ryanair flight from Glasgow to Stansted (picture it – 6’5”, laptop on lap, seated in a Ryanair plane – not particularly comfortable) and going to visit some interesting people in the Big Smoke. The 4.50 rise wasn’t too much fun, but it should be worth the sleepiness. I’m sure caffeine will see me through…
The few weeks since my last blog have been pretty busy. Had a really good and interesting start to November, which I’ll explain in a bit more detail below. Given these couple of weeks have been really positive for FOAL, I’ve gone for ‘Peaks’ as the title for this blog. Hopefully there won’t be too many troughs to write about in the future.
Similarly to the last time, I’ve noted down most of the stuff I’ve been up to. This makes sure my memory is retaining at least most of my busy schedule, while hopefully giving a bit of an insight as to what FOAL has been up to in the world of craft soft drinks and start up business.
Pitch, pitch, pitch
Entrepreneurial Spark is a fantastic business accelerator for entrepreneurs and start-up businesses. The enablers and mentors are super-keen to make sure that the entrepreneurs they look after are as successful, credible and investable as possible. From day one on the programme, it was made pretty clear that pitching your business was high on the agenda for making this vision a reality. On day two its importance was even more obvious, when a total of eighty knees were knocking together as all the new entrepreneurs had to stand up and pitch to their business idea to their peers with very little preparation.
While this first bash at a sixty second pitch was daunting in the extreme, I’m really glad we were all pushed out of our comfort zone. On Wednesday last week, after three months in the programme and numerous pitch practices (with an audience or a mirror), the #GoDoAcceler8 pitching competition took place in the Ayrshire hatchery.
After making the cut from the heats a few weeks previous, I was fortunate enough to be lining up against seven other amazing entrepreneurs and the nerves were jangling from arrival at 8.30. We were made to wait all day until around 18.00 to actually deliver the script, which didn’t exactly help the tension. Luckily, the content of the day’s event were all about self reflection and remaining positive in the face of adversity.
I managed to therefore push (most) doubts to the back of my mind and stood up to deliver my sixty seconds to the (I’m guessing) eighty people in the crowd. The atmosphere was thankfully nothing like a hostile Dragons’ Den and I managed to get through a long minute without fluffing my lines. After an anxious wait while the judges deliberated, I was delighted to be told I had won one of the two prizes of £1000 which were kindly provided by RBS. Not bad for sixty seconds work…. (plus all of those hours in front of the mirror, in the car, in the gym, pitching to my family, to the cats, to strangers….well worth it though!).
Only last week we stated selling though an awesome Glasgow-based wholesale company – Lomond Fine Foods. Shameless plug, but if you know anyone who would be interested in stocking FOAL tell them to get in touch!
On Tuesday last week I had the pleasure of spending a day in their office to tell the sales team all about FOAL and how we want to bring old bar favourites to the masses. The team were awesome, bought into the product immediately and I can comfortably say they thoroughly deserved the spot prizes handed out during the day. As a result of their work, we now have another fifteen great stockists who are backing the #darkhorse and have a reach which now includes Aberdeen, Stirling and Kirkcaldy!
We are also, excitingly, coming to the end of our current stock as a result of Lomond’s love for FOAL so will be running new bottles over the next week or two, with some exciting wee tweaks to the branding which I hope you will all love (or at least give me your feedback on!).
It has also been a great fortnight for exhibitions. On Saturday 5 November, we were lucky enough to exhibit alongside some of the biggest players in the food and drink industry at the BBC Good Food Show in Glasgow’s SECC. Understandably attracted by celebrity chefs such as Tom Kitchin, Michel Roux Junior, Tom Kerridge, Paul Hollywood and John Torode we spoked to thousands of people on the day. Lots of people got to taste FOAL and some people were keen enough to buy some bottles or one of our Christmas Gifts. I was supported by my loyal Strachan Team and we all had a great day!
The Sunday after the Good Food Show was a much mellower affair at the Urban Market in Drygate in Glasgow. While it didn’t quite have footfall in the thousands, it was still a great day speaking to awesome consumers with some great company!
Meetings and networking
On top of the excitement above, I’ve also met a variety of interesting people over the last fortnight. I’m always open to speaking to new people about the brand and many of these are able to provide some education in running and growing a business.
From digital marketers, social media gurus and sales experts right through to successful entrepreneurs, lawyers and academic lecturers; I’ve met a great array of people recently. Each of them has been able to give their own insight into FOAL. Whether that is how to increase brand awareness, how to boost sales or even how to engage with our customers, every snippet of advice is valuable in helping us grow!
I’ve travelled through to Edinburgh several times including a trip to the Zoo when, sadly, the pandas were too shy to come and say hello, but I did get a wave from a couple of penguins. I think they’d love a FOAL.
So, the last couple of weeks have been really busy, but thoroughly enjoyable. There have been a lot of optimistic signs and hopefully we can continue the momentum going forward towards the festive season. I think everyone should ask for some FOAL from the big man in the red suit….