Students and alcohol is hardly a new formula, but whilst at Manchester University entrepreneurial duo Alex Dixon and Ralph Broadbent took this formula and turned it into a thriving business by esta
Students and alcohol is hardly a new formula, but whilst at Manchester University entrepreneurial duo Alex Dixon and Ralph Broadbent took this formula and turned it into a thriving business by establishing Victor’s Drinks. A range of home brew ale and cider kits, all you have to do is add water, wait a few days, and enjoy the fruits of your labour, in moderation of course!
Here they talk about the challenges of setting up a business at university and their appearance on Dragons Den.
Home brew has always been a bit hit and miss in terms of alcohol content and quality, how does your product compare to the traditional home brew?
Not only is it hit and miss, it’s expensive, bulky, time consuming and there’s a requirement for some expertise. Victor’s Drinks have taken these problems away from the customer and standardised it. If you buy 10 Victor’s Apple cider boxes and fill them all up at the same time, you will get 10 identical brews. And the quality is consistently good because of the ability to standardise.
Was it hard to rejig the brewing science behind the traditional techniques to put it into a home brew kit?
Yes, which is why it took 3 years to develop!
There is currently an explosion of micro breweries throughout the UK, producing some fantastic, unique and diverse local ales and ciders in local pubs. Do you think there’s room for both home brew and this thriving micro brewery industry in the current market?
Absolutely. Although trends will change, drinking at home and drinking in the pub will always remain. We just hope the trend shifts to drinking at home, which we think it will, given the continual rise of duty on alcohol and the threat of minimum pricing, neither of which have an effect on the Victor’s Drinks products.
What prompted you to go on Dragons Den as opposed to more traditional investment options?
It was the opportunity to pitch to people we knew would have an incredible impact on our business with a proven track record of taking businesses to the next level.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt from your experience with the Dragons?
Make sure the packaging reflects the brand.
What’s the best lesson you’ve leant outside of your experience with the Dragons?
If you want to grow a company, make sure it’s scalable.
What advise would you give to aspiring entrepreneurial students?
I think that comes from the above answer. When setting out business plans, unless you want a lifestyle business, make sure it’s scalable and the market is big enough to hit your targets.
You set the business up whilst at university, how easy is it to launch a business as a full time student?
It wasn’t easy and the business probably grew a lot slower than if we’d been working on it full time. That said, we had the advantage of being surrounded by our target market, so research was easier. It also meant we were excellent at being frugal with money, something we learnt very quickly at University!
What has been the hardest part of setting the business up?
Getting the product ready. It’s a new product, so a lot of time and investment went in to making sure the technology worked.
What has been your biggest regret or missed opportunity with the business?
Our biggest regret is probably that we didn’t launch a year earlier!
Where do you see the company in five years?
Our aspiration is for Victor’s Drinks products to be sat next to ready to drink products on the supermarket aisle as a genuine contender when people are deciding what to drink at home. We want to expand and elaborate on our range, including wines and lagers and obviously want to continually develop and improve the product and look at exporting it.
What concerns do you have for the future of the company?
It is difficult to have concerns for the business when everything is going well! There are things we need to be aware of which can damage any business, particularly a fast growing one. These include credit control, working capital requirements and ensuring we can scale up our operations in order to fulfil our ever increasing order book.
Excluding yours, what company do you admire the most and why?
Innocent Smoothies. They’re a great example of how a brand, tone of voice etc can add so much value to a product which is essentially the same as many others on the market.
If you could or when you start another business, what would you most like to do and why?
It would have to be in technology. It’s one of the fastest growing sectors with huge valuations placed on companies getting it right. You only have to look at simple products such as Snapchat and Flappy Birds to see the sheer level of opportunity that is there. It’s also a sector that allows for real innovation and creativity, something I love.
What do you think? Have your say in the comments section below.