Reflecting as we approach our 1st birthday trading as a Limited company through what I can only describe as a rollercoaster of a year. Starting and running a business during a pandemic is most definitely up there as one of the most stressful things to undertake. If we can get through this, we can get through anything!
From having a full calendar of events from March – December, to cancellation after cancellation during lockdowns, plans had to change and quickly. So much has been learnt and still learning, constantly evolving, changing to meet the needs and wants of customers who are now, well most of us, doing the right thing and staying home.
Never would I have thought, the past year of my life would be spent on so many Zoom meetings, finding new ways to communicate, doing videos and lives, managing social media and building an e-commerce website. On a personal journey, I have learnt so much including becoming a cardboard box ninja, mastered the art of adult Tetris unloading and loading a van - numerous times, at night became the Health & Safety officer with policies, licenses and risk assessments all to be actioned, the IT Manager maintaining and updating the website, operations and logistics, ordering and managing stock. Every announcement from Boris changed the direction of travel, but hey that’s why we have a business plan, it’s merely a road map that I have had to re-route due to road closures countless times.
Although not everything went according to plan, so much has been achieved because the best thing ever happened in 2020, a team of talented and lovely people have collaborated, the Sweet Drinks team formed and relationships developing with many West Country Drinks Makers.
Communicating and working with several artisan small batch drinks makers of spirits, ciders, wines and soft drinks, we know the struggle has been real. With pubs, hotels, restaurants and cafes closing, events cancelling, the ways to promote and sell have changed. Consumers have and are bulk buying in the supermarkets, making it harder for independent makers to be heard and seen. Farm Shops, licensed community stores and outdoor markets have been a great financial relief and contribution to keeping some of these Makers’ businesses going.
Our plan last year was to do what we could to help promote and sell West Country drinks online, through virtual tastings and at events when we were allowed. Even if it was just a few hundred pounds per Maker, some business is better than none. The team did an awesome job, some weekends we were at 3 markets at once – the competitive banter, creativity, support and encouragement between the team at events and on our group chat kept us going, along with laughs at the occasional online videos and images to keep us sane and motivated. We had totally lost the plot by December, we were away with the fairies, we dusted our wings off to deliver drinks locally for Christmas.
We thanked our lucky 2 tier stars we could trade at several outdoor markets in the last quarter of 2020. With Dry January now over, we start 2021 with an awesome team, amazing makers, delicious drinks made right on your doorstep and invite you on a journey to discover the trendiest drinks produced in the West Country – we have only just begun our adventures!