Balancing your day job with your creative outlet: Interview with the Co-Founder of Cold-Drip Co.
Two mates with an entrepreneurial spirit and a love of good coffee, that’s pretty much all it took to get Sydney’s latest ‘curious coffee company’ up and running. Lewis Evans and Bryan Hoedemaeckers noticed that they were spending upwards of $8 on coffees each day and when they put their brilliant noogens together, they came up with the solution: make their own cold drip coffee. And in that, with a desire to trade in some of their screen time for bean time, Cold Drip Co. was born.
Twenty Something Humans caught up with Lewis, Cold Drip Co.'s curator, who had a chinwag with us about pursuing a creative outlet outside of a corporate career - which doesn't come without its challenges - he offered his advice to budding business owners and talked us through how one would actually go about getting a business idea up and running.
Image: Bryan (left) and Lewis (right).
If you had to describe the taste of your cold drip coffee using three words, what would they be?
Chocolate, plum and caramel.
It’s very different to regular coffee because there’s none of the usual bitterness that you taste in a hot coffee, which extracts its flavours using hot steam which stresses the beans. Cold drip coffee is the complete opposite; it’s like a little bath for the bean. We slowly drip water over the ground coffee beans for around 8-10 hours, releasing all the natural flavours.
What lead you to want to start your own business on the side of your regular 9-5 gig?
I was over working digitally all the time! I was starting to hate screens and technology. Bryan works in management consulting and I work in software engineering and product design.
We went on a trip together to America for a tech, music and culture festival and after an intensive four days of looking at the latest things in tech, I was just so over it. When we came back home we both just wanted to go and do something with our hands.
It started out as a learning experience for both of us. I don’t want to be seen as the co-founder of a start-up. I really hate that tech start-up culture that expects you to give up everything, risk everything and try to become a millionaire. It just drives people into the ground. The Co. in ‘Cold Drip Co.’ stands for Creative Outlet. That’s what this is all about for us. Our creative outlet has turned into a business, which is fantastic, but that’s not what we started out as.
Why did we choose cold drip in particular? Well, we were spending $4-8 on coffee every day because we were working in a high-pressure scenario, so eventually we thought, why not just make our own?
We wanted to take the skills that we learn at work, that are often buried in corporate objectives, and turn that into something tangible. I’ve already learnt so much and I do feel very proud. I don’t say that enough, but I am very proud of what we’ve done.
How do you maintain momentum and excitement for the project along with your regular day job?
It’s definitely hard. Over the years I’ve always had ideas and projects that I’ve wanted to work on but to get them off the ground is incredibly hard. For us, what worked really well was dedicating specific time to this project, we were really focused around that. We decided that every Saturday we would get together and work on the business from 9-5.
Afterwards, we'd go up to the pub, have a burger and a pint of beer and reflect on what we’d done that day. At the start of it all, having that time was really important to us because it would have been really easy to go away for the weekend or to go to brunch with friends, but it meant that we kept the momentum flowing. It took us eight months before we were ready to have the business up and running and I honestly think it’s only because we gave ourselves that weekly dedicated time slot to work on nothing but Cold Drip Co.
"We wanted to take the skills that we learn at work, that are often buried in corporate objectives, and turn that into something tangible."
How has the time you spend on the business changed since it has launched?
It’s more relaxed in that we don’t have a dedicated weekly time anymore but we also spend more time on it now because we have something to lose. We want to give the business time because we’ve got money coming into pocket and money coming out of pocket. We’ve got people counting on us and a profile to uphold. All of a sudden, we are accountable to others. It’s like getting a dog, you just can’t go out after work all the time anymore, you’ve got a responsibility waiting for you at home. Whereas when you’re building it, it’s so easy to just say “fuck it” and stop, which is why you need that regularity and a business partner who is relying on you.
…and how do you maintain a balance with all of your other life commitments?
One of the biggest challenges for me is that work becomes everything. When I’m not ‘at work’ I’m at ‘other work’ and that can be really hard. I love both of my jobs but I only have so much energy. Let’s be real, there are a lot of things that you have to drop off in order to make a successful business on the side. My exercise routine has gone out the window and I don’t have time to cook properly anymore. Slowly, these things will be re-introduced into my life – or I fear I’ll lose my sanity – but it’s just the reality of the early days of a business.
What advice would you offer to someone who has all those ideas bubbling around in their head that they can’t quite get up and running? What defines ‘the idea’ that’s worth putting in this dedicated time to?
I don’t think you can ever really know what’s going to go well. Cold Drip Co. has gone well so far but in saying that, it’s not Nespresso, you know? It could all stop next week.
I think if you can sink your teeth into something and actually make something that is real, something that you can hold, then you should go and tell people about it. Then you’ve got risk in the game and like we were saying before, you become accountable for your idea. It gives you the drive to keep going.
What advice can you offer to fellow entrepreneurs?
There are so many nuggets of advice that I would pass on as a new business owner.
All of a sudden, every single conversation that you have with people is about your business, minus a few of your closest mates of course. One of the things that I struggle with is trying not to make the business about me. I don’t want to go into the office and have every single conversation being about me and Cold Drip Co.
Then you just have to reflect and think about it like this: I’m doing something that’s interesting, so people want to know about it. It’s so important to ‘be your brand’ because if you’re not the biggest advocate for your own brand, then how can you expect other people to care about it? You should leverage these social conversations to drive your business forward.
We got hats made and I wear mine all the time now. Instead of wearing a hat representing another brand, like Nike, I wear my hat. I’m proud of my brand and if people ask me about it then I can have a conversation about it. It can be difficult to be an advocate for yourself and it can feel uncomfortable at times, but it’s so important to know how to talk about what you’re doing in a positive way. You need to find the balance between being a walking billboard and a brand advocate. It’s imperative that you are the persona of your brand.
"It’s so important to ‘be your brand’ because if you’re not the biggest advocate for your own brand, then how can you expect other people to care about it?"
Does having a business partner correlate with your business’ success?
It can be hard to do it on your own, which is why having a collaborator is so great. We’ve previously worked together in our corporate jobs, which was really fortunate for us. Sometimes people will start a business with a friend and then soon realise that they don’t work well together, which is a shame.
Bryan and I balance out the business really well; he’s the maker and I’m the curator. We say Bryan does everything until the point that it’s in the bottle and then the rest is me.
It’s important to find someone with skills that complement your own. If I had tried to do this on my own, it wouldn’t have lasted a month. It’s like going to the gym, you need your gym buddy in order to gather the motivation to go.
How do you keep each other excited about the business when one of you is wavering or feeling a little overworked?
That happens all the time. We do lots of little things to keep the momentum flowing. One thing that I do is set up our goals by having them written out on a wall full of post-it notes. We have a goal every three months for our business. It’s a great way to remind us to ‘wake up’ and actually do what we set out to achieve.
The first one was ‘make a thing’ and the next one was ‘turn it into an experience’ – which was a pop up that we just had – and the third is to ‘have our own space’, so that’s what we want to happen in the next three months.
By having these post-it goals, all of a sudden our roadmap is really clear.
We also find it helpful to go back to the root of things if we need to be inspired, sort of like a mini project. I might ask Bryan to make a mini, single-use machine that makes coffee, which gets him excited because he loves mechanics and electronics. For me, he might ask me to make a tasting menu or a banner for a blog post. It makes us both feel valued and that’s really cool.
I’ve got my own bottle of cold drip coffee here, what’s the best way for me to drink it?
Drink it like you’d drink whiskey. Two fingers, on the rocks in a shallow glass. 70-100mls is a serve. It’ll last around three to five weeks in the fridge.
Kate Neilson is the creator of Twenty Something Humans. She's a chronic list maker and a die hard booty shaker. She feels awkward writing about herself in third person. Lurk her @katiepotatierose.