Startup – one month in. How’s it going?

I’ve had discussions about things I never thought I’d discuss and lent a lot of thought to things I never thought I’d have to think about.

For those that don’t know yet, the startup is a subscription coffee service. We source the finest ‘single-estate’ coffees from around the world and deliver them to our subscribers each month. It’s for people that, when confronted by the rows of coffee on the supermarket shelves, always go for the same old stuff but want to branch out and don’t know where to go or what to look for.

We’ve got an initial sign up page capturing email addresses of interested parties to alert them when we go live. Using our joint networks, which has worked work out really well for us – thanks everyone, we’ve managed multiple hundreds of expressions of interest. The hard thing is to convert those people into paying subscribers.

The biggest headache in this first month has been packaging. There are certain things that we just cannot get way from but also things that we want to do to ensure we give our customers as ‘Gucci’ an experience as possible.

The things that are fixed:

  • We’re selling 250g of coffee
  • Coffee really does have to be packaged in foil. No getting away from it, it’s the only way to deliver it fresh.
  • The foil bag has to have a valve to let the carbon dioxide – that the beans give off after roasting – escape.
  • Because of our low volumes (hopefully only in the short term) we have to have a standard bag. Producing our own bespoke bag would be prohibitively expensive at this stage.
  • We need to be able to get this bag through a letterbox. We don’t want people having to trot off down their local Royal Mail sorting office to pick up coffee each month. Where’s the convenience in that?

The things that are variable:

  • What do we put this bag in to deliver it to the customer? Personally I hate jiffy bags. They’re perfectly functional and all that but they’re not very premium. Cardboard box? Yes, but can we get it thin enough to hold the coffee and go through a letter box?

This last point has been the most difficult thing to work out. I haven’t quite done a James ‘5000 prototypes’ Dyson job but I have been ordering all sorts of boxes from suppliers across the country. I even broke out the metal rule and scalpel yesterday to fashion, what I believe, is the right answer to the question. At least for now.

Other things on my mind?

  • Leaflet insert design
  • Label design
  • Copy writing
  • Designing the site
  • Launching an extreme beta version of the site to start gathering credit card details for our first delivery.

There’s probably more stuff, but that’ll do for now.

It has been, and continues to be, an incredible ride. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

Oh yeah, one last thing. Did you know coffee is zero-rated for VAT? That’s going to make it a little cheaper for you all.

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2 Responses to Startup – one month in. How’s it going?

  1. So good to read that you’re busy, excited and challenged. I figure the more questions you can pin down – regardless of whether you’ve got answers for them just yet – the more likely it is that you are headed in the right direction. Sounds like you certainly are. Also, must be nice to see a little bit of art direction lurking further down that path!

    • Thanks Sara.

      The thing is, as an interaction designer at heart this ‘job’ expands the definition of that term in all directions. It’s not just an online process. It’s designing the fulfilment system, logistics, customer service touchpoints, it goes on.We’re designing a business. From scratch. But yes, the pure art direction bits are nice too.

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