Joyce and Raissa De Haas are the founders of Double Dutch Drinks, creating exciting mixers that aren’t just an afterthought for your drink.
In 2015 they were among the winners of Virgin Foodpreneur, which resulted in a trip to pitch to major US retailer Target. Since then they’ve gone from strength to strength, expanding their range and finding new stockists. Here are the top three lessons they’ve learnt on their journey to success.
Your product doesn’t have to be 100% perfect on launch
Sometimes entrepreneurs want to wait years before launching their product, even though they do have a finalised product that’s just not 100% right yet. For us it was really an advantage to launch with a semi-finished product and just take market feedback to heart and keep iterating while we were already selling. There are a few reasons behind this.
Firstly, you will never know how customers will actually react to your flavour, branding, category or whatever makes your product different. By seeing your product as an experiment and being open to change, we were able to match our product to our customers’ needs. It can be discouraging to get criticism or bad feedback, but it’s important that you don’t take it personally, and you need to deal with failure in the most encouraging way. Customer’s feedback is the most valuable feedback there is, so if your product doesn’t work then changing it to how your customers would use it is a great win-win situation. With change also comes the possibility to change NO’s into YES’s. A few months after we launched our initial two Double Dutch products, we decided to slightly change recipes and completely re-branded labels and packaging. It felt great to change because we knew that clients would appreciate that their feedback was taken into account.
Use all available resources
We live in a time where it is so much easier to reach out to influencers, advisers, investors or just anyone you look up to. We approached all of our customers in the first months via Linkedin or Instagram. When we decided to raise our first investment round, we really had no clue where to start and how to find the right investors. So we decided to make a list of the top 20 people we’d love to have on board; these were CEOs of hotel chains, influencers in the spirits industry, or anyone we thought could add value to Double Dutch. We approached them on Linkedin and found that a lot of them were open to grab a coffee. In fact, our first round of investors all came from Linkedin, and it is really a great mix of people who all have different assets to bring to the table.
Aside from finding investors, we found social media a great way for discovering cheerleaders for your business. I think it’s so important to have people around you that believe in your product, but also in yourselves as a founder of the company. Influencers are great for this but also to give credibility and authenticity to your business. Building the right network is probably one of the most crucial things when starting your business.
Define your unique situation compared to others and try and use it as an asset
When we started Double Dutch, it quickly became clear that the food and beverage industry is a very male-dominated industry. We also just came straight out of university in a city that’s not our hometown. It was often difficult to get any meetings scheduled in because we didn’t have any network, and people often would just not take us seriously. We had to deal with failure and work around it by working extra hard. Eventually people started actually appreciating our passion for the brand, and now I actually think it works more as an advantage that we are one of the few women in the industry. People started recognising us as the two girls producing their premium tonic. People became curious to meet up, and we used this opportunity to pitch our story as much as we could. We didn’t give up despite the prejudice and really used it to our advantage to tell our story to as many people we could. Eventually, you will meet someone who can give you that much-needed break. It’s all about the learning process, and it’s good to know what plays into your advantage and what can separate you from the benchmark.