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Business Through Covid

Emily Mummery, Operations Director, discusses the challenges of adapting the business during the COVID pandemic.

What was your professional world looking like pre-covid? What were you doing and had you got any particular plans for the year ahead?

We launched Niche Cocktails in February 2020 and had a full business plan ready to be put into action, all focused on selling to hospitality venues. We were setting up meetings with hotels, restaurants & pubs and creating point of sale items for the venues, like t-shirts and table talkers. At the beginning of March we got our first 5 clients signed up and sold our first few cases of cans and then it all ground to a halt with lockdown.

 

How soon did you start to recognise there was an ‘opportunity’ amidst the despair of the pandemic?

Initially, when lockdown began, our plan was to go on furlough, cut out as many overheads as possible and hope to ride out the storm. However we soon realised that online sales were rocketing and we had a warehouse full of canned cocktails that people could be drinking at home. So some of our team very swiftly set up an online shop and our commercial director Paddy created a new role for himself as a box packer & delivery boy!  

 

What was the first thing you did to start to put the plan in place, and to gain a sense of whether there would be an ‘audience’ for the idea?

Our web designer Tim created an online shop for us in about 2 days and we just contacted all the friends, family, co-workers and investors we could, to spread the word and get sales going. We knew there was a growing demand for online alcohol sales as all pubs and bars were shut and the sun was out, so it was just a matter of getting the message out there that we existed.

 

How have things been going? Have you had particular successes or hiccups you want to share?

It has all gone incredibly well, given the very quick turnaround. Building what is essentially a whole new business over Zoom chats and WhatsApp definitely has its challenges, but proves how much really can be done remotely. One success we are really proud of is that 4 weeks after launching our online shop, the Evening Standard chose us as one of their best canned cocktails to try in 2020. It was a complete surprise to us to see ourselves in there, but so proud to be listed among what were mostly large drinks companies.

 

Do you feel the government and other business support organisations have been of assistance to you and others, or that they could have done more?

We were lucky that we were such a small and new company that we were able to be very versatile and change our plans but also use the furlough scheme when we needed to. So we have been much more fortunate that many other small businesses or self-employed workers.

 

And what next? Do you see the service you’re delivering now, being something you’ll be able to continue or evolve in the future – even after the pandemic?

With the uncertainty still around the hospitality sector reopening, we are very focused on online sales and will be for the rest of the year. Even once we start being able to sell to pubs & hotels again, our online business allows us to diversify our revenue and gives us a better consumer base to build a brand for.

 

Has the experience changed you as a person?

I don’t think it has changed me as a person but has taught me that in every difficult situation you should always see the positive as it’s often possible to turn it around into a new opportunity.