Although a large portion of student enterprise is about looking forward, and helping our students and graduates plan their next steps, we thought we would take a moment to highlight one of the success stories Student Enterprise. We spoke to Charlie Cheyette, co-founder of Festico Drinks, about his entrepreneurial journey so far.
Introduce yourself and your business:
I’m Charlie, one of the Co-founders of Festico! Festico was a crazy idea I had in my final year at the University of Lincoln.
Tommy Atkins joined me on the project a couple of weeks after I had the idea. He runs the Identity Agency, a growing creative agency based in the Enterprise Building on the University’s campus. Tommy helps with the branding, marketing and sales, and I handle the day-to-day aspects of running the business.
How did you come up with your business idea?
After three years of explorative drinking at university, I’d tried almost every combination of spirits and mixers. I’m not mature enough to enjoy wine yet and can never drink a lot of beer at once. I needed a drink that tasted nice by itself but was also easy to drink.
After hearing about hard seltzers from an American YouTuber they seemed like the perfect solution to my problem. They had many different exciting flavours and came in a convenient can. However, after trying them I was utterly disappointed.
The seltzers had this strong Soda water taste that lingered in your mouth and barely any flavour. It’s safe to say I was very disappointed. This is when we had the idea to create a hard seltzer that tasted as good as it looks and dropped the sparkling water flavour.
We polled over 1,000 people and ultimately gathered around 3,000 individual pieces of individual feedback from people inside and outside of our core demographic, and built a drink that met people’s taste preferences and not just American tradition.
There genuinely isn’t another hard seltzer like ours.
Have you accessed any funding through a scheme, and how has it helped you?
Grants have played a crucial role in our business; we used the growing graduate (GGE) grant that was available at the time to cover the majority of our start-up costs. Without this grant and the support that comes with it, we would still be drinking horrible-tasting hard seltzers! The funding helped pay for the Trademarks of our name and logo as well as funding part of the first production.
What was your first breakthrough?
As I am sure you can imagine, having a breakthrough as a small start-up business is hard. However, our first breakthrough is definitely selling Festico to a local bar in Lincoln. Akedo Bar welcomed Festico with open arms. I am sure you can envision the excitement we all had. This breakthrough led to an increase in confidence when approaching other local bars, pubs, and restaurants.
What is the best aspect of your job?
The best aspect of my job is having the privilege of being able to go look at new bars and speaking to new people who are interested in helping a local brand grow and reach new heights. As I am going to the prospective new venues, it allows me to see where my product will be and helps me to create a good relationship with people who will potentially be selling it. Making it all the more personable and very very real.
What has been your best moment so far?
Without a doubt, the best moment has to be watching the drink get canned for the first time. We took a long drive up to the distillery to watch this momentous moment. The feeling of pride completely overwhelmed us. It was a ‘OMG; we have actually done this” kind of moment. We watched the can get labelled, and then we watched them get filled up and lidded. We even helped to pack the first few boxes! To this day, we still look back at that and feel a huge amount of pride.
What challenges have you faced, and how did you overcome them?
As a small business, there will always be challenges, but the key to survival is overcoming them. We have had our fair share of struggles, such as lack of money and competing against bigger and more established brands.
Overcoming the lack of money at times has been hard. This is partly due to the small margins we are experiencing at the beginning of our journey. As production is a large cost but we are selling our drinks for a price suitable for students the margin then becomes very small, unlike well-established brands in the same market. However, we have overcome this by entering processes to get grants which will help with the maintenance and the next batch of Festico we are planning on producing. This will then allow for there to be bigger margins allowing for money to be used in other areas of the business, such as marketing and media.
In addition, as we are a small business, it has been hard on occasion to get people to try an unfamiliar drink. We have two reasons for this; one being the alcohol hard seltzer is still relatively new to the UK, and people are not familiar with the brand therefore, the trust is not yet fully there. Unlike it is for our competitors, such as VK and WKD. To combat this, we have attended freshers’ fayres giving out free samples, and we have hosted events at bars that stock Festico in order to give out a free sample. Once people have tried it, they are increasingly likely to buy it on their own accord.
Where do you want your business to be in five years?
For five years’ time, we are aiming to be stocked in a top retailer, allowing us to sell nationwide, and we want to be holding our own events and sponsoring festivals. Hopefully, this will lead us to be the lead UK hard seltzer. We have created a long-term plan as to how we would aim for this to happen, but we are well aware we need to be open to change in order to get the best outcome and achieve our goals.
If you could give any students or graduates thinking about starting their own business a piece of advice, what would it be?
The advice I would give to a student is to not overthink starting their business. If you want to do it, just do it. Don’t waste time. Once this step is done, I would recommend surrounding yourself with people who know about the industry you want to go in. Gaining knowledge of them is only going to help you grow. Take their advice, take them up on their offer for help and even ask them questions if you need help. People are always happy to help you!
If you are a student looking to start up a business, our Student Enterprise facility is the place to start. You can book a consultation with a business expert on our website here: https://student-enterprise.co.uk/get-in-touch/