Meet Kerstin Robinson, Co-founder of Nix&Kix as we talk about the business, pandemic and how to look at the future. Coming from Finance 10 years ago, she did not know much about consumer products, even less about juice. But hard work and resourcefulness were the skills she needed. And Nix&Kix is here to banish boredom and put some healthy excitement back into soft drinks.
The start of a venture
When Kerstin first thought of leaving corporate life, she did not necessarily have a grand idea. And as she found out Julie was also after a change, they decided to investigate further. As they did, they found a gap in the market for soft drinks, and a lack of healthy and interesting alternatives, especially when compared to the US market. They had their target so they started making juice. They started in their kitchen and went to farmers’ markets to find out what flavours people wanted. As they nailed a few flavours, they wanted to try how a product would do on a shelf so they approached a few café owners and convince them to put it on the shelf. Sometimes, they stayed behind and went up to customers who were choosing to ask them about it. Whilst some customers were scared with their approach, it gave them huge information.
Growing step by step
From a kitchen in the back of a salad shop in London, they were then ready to expand. They were present in coffee shops and lunchtime places and were a hit. And then the Fall came. That is when they were hit by the surprise that, in the Winter, coffee shops did not see a point in stocking them – who would want cold drinks? They then tried pubs to find out the bartender would never spend any time explaining a non-alcoholic drink to the buyer – soda was always going to be the quick recommendation. They realised they had to go to retail and get known first so that the customers would actually ask for them. That is when they got into the large retail chains and, till today, is their biggest channel.
Hit by a pandemic
Thanks to the multi-channel strategy, the shutdown of the restaurants and pubs was compensated by the retail strength, especially online. They added their own online channel and did a rebrand throughout the year. They also managed to continue launches – like Nandos – even if in the beginning they did not get the most out of it. The pandemic also brought a new dynamic they had not considered – the importance of convenience stores, which they had not ventured into before. So they went into it and now hired someone fully dedicated to it.
To add to all the changes, they also shut down their office. Whilst that seems an obvious one (Adriana did that too!), that allowed the team to move out of London and, more importantly, to access resources outside London or even the UK.
Breaking through the pandemic
In one of the last episodes, I talked to Amy about how difficult it was to fundraise as i) an entrepreneur, ii) a woman entrepreneur, iii) a woman entrepreneur through the pandemic. Kerstin did all that with Nix and Kix and just closed an over-subscribed round of crowdfunding. They decided to go this route (as did Emily) because it felt a great way to also invest in their network expansion post their rebrand. It was “easy” to make a video and put it on the platform to tell their story to more people who could become ambassadors to the business. Let’s face it, if you invest in a drinks brand, what else are you going to drink?
Nix&Kix Looking forward
The opportunity for Nix&Kix is now to spread the word. In fact, one of Kirsten’s frustrations is to get people to hear about them and try the product. In fact, many people when they react:
“Amazing, why have I not heard about this before”.
When 99% of the population has probably not heard about you, it gives you a chance to really grow with a quality product.
Still learning how to manage
Kirsten shared some very difficult moments from the pandemic and her life. One of the strategies she found to deal with the mental strain was her dog. She welcomed a new dog into the family in October. That has ensured there are regular biological breaks happening, which really force you out of your workspace.
I was definitely not taking my daily allowance of “hygiene walks” on the first lockdown, but, by the Fall, I was definitely seeing mood changes in the weeks that I worked fully from home and did not set my foot out of the house. Recognising the need to get space, even if on a small street, has been one of my learnings
Before we go…
- 2020 Advice: Would have gotten a flat outside London
- 2020 Lesson: Even in the worst times, there are still opportunities
- 2020 Challenge: Understand “what are we going to do”
- Word for 2021: Looking forward