Childhood best friends start business and hit six figure revenue in first eight months

Entrepreneur Holly Tucker recalls ‘risking it all’

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Despite not having finished a single financial year yet, Odd Coffee Company had a six figure revenue within the first eight months of selling their eco-friendly coffee pods. The Greenwich-based coffee-loving founders discovered that thousands of tonnes of great coffee goes unused every year in the UK, and sought to create a solution that could fuel the coffee revolution.  

Odd Coffee Company paired with premium coffee roasters all over the UK and repackaged their surplus coffee so customers can enjoy the same quality beans at a cheaper price with eco-friendly pods.

To date the founding pair have reached their original milestone, saving over one million unused coffee pods from going into landfills, but they don’t intend to stop now. By 2025 they aim to rescue 50 times this amount.

The founding pair have known each other since they were nine and have been drawn to the entrepreneurial sector since childhood: “When we were just 14 years old, we used to sell bits and bobs to our friends in the local area, but in more recent years we set up a successful street food business called Salt Shed.”

Mr Stevens shared how he and Mr Dark turned a mutual coffee addiction and entrepreneurial spirit into a profitable business.

He exclusively told “During the first lockdown, when the queues for supermarkets were unbearable, Harrison and I found ourselves separately trying to conceal how many household commodities we used from each other – including coffee pods! We both need around four coffees every morning to function, so coffee pods quickly became a top shelf commodity and held the same value as toilet roll and toothpaste in our flat.”

Lockdown saw many everyday items becoming a scarce novelty, with consumers turning to unique and strange alternatives in order to get by, and Mr Dark and Mr Stevens found themselves falling down the internet rabbit hole searching for a suitable substitute for their caffeine deficiency.

They soon stumbled upon the large amount of waste coming from the coffee industry, noting: “Premium coffee is wasted in the coffee industry every day due to strict cosmetic retail requirements – despite the imperfections being so negligible that they don’t affect the taste or quality of the brew. We both come from families with a strong ‘waste not, want not ethos’. Yet we sadly live in a world today where perfection is everything.

“Slightly dented coffee pods still pour the perfect espresso, surplus roasted coffee beans still make the greatest flat white. They are not waste: they are a treasure, and just need to be rescued before they head to the bin. This is when the Odd Coffee Co was born.”

Mr Stevens added: “We now work with some of the most premium and prestigious coffee producers in the country to help them reduce their waste and have rescued over a million coffee pods and tonnes of premium whole bean and ground coffee.”

He explained the environmental impact of this beloved caffeine drink, saying that coffee pods need to be recycled properly: “It takes two seconds to clean and recycle a coffee pod, less time than it takes to pour a coffee. With millions of coffee pods being consumed and discarded every week, people need to be educated on how to recycle them properly.”

Despite their unbelievable success, there is still an incredible stigma around joining business and personal life by working with friends and family, but Mr Stevens added that this makes working life far easier: “Knowing each other’s strengths and weaknesses and knowing what each other are like inside out.

“We nearly made some potentially expensive mistakes at the start of the journey that would have stopped the project before it even started, but as with growing any business, there are going to be risks along the way.”

Mr Stevens revealed that making the business a success was heavily routed in their social media strategy as the pair managed to grow their following to a strong 16,000. He said Instagram should be the first place entrepreneurs turn to.

“Instagram is a great way to connect to your target customers and find new customers from all over the UK.  With so many people using Instagram on a daily basis, it’s important for us to be as present and active on the platform as possible. 

“If you have an Instagram business page, you can tag your products or services in your content to make for an easy check out at the tap of a finger. It’s such a convenient way for people to buy your product.”

He continued: “Instagram is also great when it comes to communicating with customers via DMs, the ‘email’ button, or in the comment section. It enables us to provide the best customer service possible.

“For us, sponsored ads have been particularly useful. It took us some time to work out our strategy with Ads Manager (Instagram and Facebook’s paid ad service) but we think we are getting somewhere now as we are sometimes seeing upwards of a x 10 return on our Instagram ads spend.

“We have found Instagram particularly lucrative for the business and it continues to help us reach new customers through their tools for businesses.”

Mr Stevens also advised other founders to build and learn on Instagram, including all the business tools that ordinary users don’t have access to.

“My advice to budding entrepreneurs would be to start small and start lean. Try to be savvy with what you are spending money on. When we first set up the business, we were operating from my sister’s garage and at the time managed to save lots of money that we pumped into marketing.”

Alongside this, he added: “Just do it. Break the goal down into loads of little stages and get a partner whose strengths replace your weaknesses, you never know where that wacky idea or belief can take you.”
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