IN this week's SME Focus,
we hear from an entrepreneur
who used credit cards for funding when starting a business in Scotland.
What is your business called?
10 Dollar Shake Ltd/The Tippling House
Where is it based? Aberdeen
What does it produce, what services does it offer?
10 Dollar Shake began as a bar events company supplying drinks solutions including mixology workshops and staffed pop-up bars to a mix of private, corporate and wedding events. A few years ago, pop-ups appeared in cities such as London, Berlin and New York. They were temporary bars, restaurants, art galleries and fashion outlets appearing for a limited period before disappearing again. 10 Dollar shake provides customers with their own pop-up bars.
I had been managing bars and restaurants for over a decade and the pop-up bars started as a way of retaining a foothold in the going-out market and relevance with drinks brands. By the third year, a lease became available on the market, and I moved quickly to obtain a conditional leasehold.
Through a mix of self-finance including my savings and
capital from the events side of the business, investment from a new business partner and loans from family members, The Tippling House opened in October 2012.
The Tippling House is a bar and restaurant in Aberdeen. It's inspired by colonial port towns and in partnership with Beetroot Restaurants can provide food and drinks both in-house and on location for events.
Who does it sell to?
The majority of 10 Dollar Shake events are in the wedding and corporate markets.
It also provides training and consultancy for the drinks and hospitality industry. The Tippling House is aimed at
the casual dining and niche drinks market.
What is its turnover? £850,000.
How many employees?
Currently 12 – more will follow.
When was it formed?
Why did you take the plunge?
It has been a long-term ambition to work for myself and own a
bar/restaurant. Working for other people is great for building experience and confidence, but it seemed like the right time in 2010.
Luckily, 10 Dollar Shake had a couple of big events towards the end of 2010 that provided some initial working capital for business.
What were you doing before you took the plunge?
When I was young I dabbled with some different options, among them architecture, DJing and marketing, but essentially I think I was trying to release some creativity and create an impression. Then I started bar tending. People often cite working in a bar as a fall-back career option or something you do when you have finally exhausted all patience with the role you are in. I guess it begun like that for me, as a cliche, but it developed into something else.
After a four-year stint as general manager of Snafu nightclub in Aberdeen, I spent a year as general manager at the first YO! Sushi restaurant in the city. I learnt a lot about man-management and the business fundamentals of operating a restaurant; for example cash-flow, stock management and systems.
How did you raise the start-up funding?
I spent £9000 and maxed out a Mastercard to do it, but I managed to pay it back in the same month.
What was your biggest break?
Every successful business benefits from a good dose of luck. Luck is a case of right time, right place. Aberdeen is a city of great opportunity so I think it's the right place. The ongoing cocktail trend means it's the right time.
I have also been very fortunate to meet some key individuals over the last few years who have had a huge impact on the business. My parents helped me by welcoming me back home when I rented out my flat and quit my job to start the business.
My good friend and business partner Andrew Samways did a lot of pro bono accounting work before he came on board as an official business partner.
Our business associate Chris Tonner of Beetroot Restaurants has been an immense help with The Tippling House and beyond. My girlfriend Jen has also been a support, putting up with the highs and lows of starting a business.
What was your worst moment?
There have been a few. Running over budget on The Tippling House refurbishment and asking for loans from family was a low point. A great deal of pride was swallowed.
What do you most enjoy about running the business?
I like the freedom of ideas and the creative elements that come with owning your own business.
I loved fine-tuning the cocktail menu for The Tippling House. It is very satisfying to come up with combinations that work. One of my own drinks on the menu is the "Dopo Cena" – the recipe led to an appearance in the Disaronno Mixing Star European final and a trip to the Rome International Film Festival.
I also have a great team. Staff training and developing people are important to me and I make sure we regularly get together for workshops. Our training includes a mixture of brand education, experiential trips, for example to whisky distilleries, and fine-tuning in house skills.
What do you least enjoy?
The mundane aspects. My inbox stresses me out as I get so many e-mails.
What are your ambitions for
I think there is scope for us to plug a few gaps in the market, both in Aberdeen and further afield. Venue number two is on my mind right now. Preliminary investment options have been explored but the strategy of the business is to self-invest and reduce reliability on bank loans and outside investors.
The company also plans to franchise the event arm of the business working with, and supporting, passionate individuals in provincial markets such as Inverness and Dundee.
What are your top priorities?
To maintain a service of the highest quality; to retain and develop the team; to manage time effectively; to continue delivering a unique concept; to progress as an individual and a company.
What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?
Viable small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are essential for supporting growth and should be a core priority for both Westminster and the Scottish Government. In the UK 2013 budget announcement, the changes to National Insurance Contributions for employers seemed to be good news and hopefully will boost confidence and encourage young businesses to take on staff. However, I am not sure it goes far enough and would like to see more incentives and tax breaks for start-up companies. Scotland is full of well-formed, well-run SMEs and they need support.
What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?
It is important not to let pride get in the way of good advice.
How do you relax?
I like to travel and most
recently visited India. I am also
a big fan of eating out. I always manage to find time for that, despite my often-heard complaints of no time