Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Joshua Cohen, Co-Founder of Saxon Bru Ltd, located in Toronto, ON, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
We produce a lower calorie, naturally flavoured, European-style frappe powder that allows our customers to make Cafe quality beverages in their kitchens at home. With cold coffee being entrenched in North American culture, yet many shunning frappes because they're perceived to be dessert-like and over-indulgent, Freezo offers a truly everyday blended iced coffee. Our customer base ranges from students to on-the-go moms and millennials.
Tell us about yourself
Having grown up in South Africa, where every cafe, restaurant, and coffee shop sells this kind of blended iced coffee, and they usually outsell its hot counterpart, I was surprised to see the lack of options in North America when immigrating to Canada over 4 years ago. There were only overly sweet, watered-down, calorie-packed versions on offer, and certainly, no blended iced coffees could be considered a substitute for hot coffee. Jason and I set out to bring this product to North America, utilizing inspiration from South Africa, from this specific beverage that has a cult-like following in many markets in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. We are always motivated by the response we get when new people taste our product, as they anticipate an extremely sweet beverage yet are blown away by the authentic coffee experience and unique creaminess and texture that freezo offers. We are highly motivated to see our beverage become ubiquitous across the continent, just like it is in South Africa, and draw in an untapped market of consumers who usually would not consume these beverages.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
We were initially skeptical of whether our product would gain traction in this market as a make-at-home product. Having initially been developed for B2B customers as it requires some basic preparation, we elected to try it as a direct-to-consumer product during the pandemic in the hope it would catch on. Also, given that pallets are different in North America, and in general, consumers tend to prefer sweeter types of beverages, it was really make or break. We initially began producing very small batches and worked with some up-and-coming social media influencers. We were astounded to find that we were selling out in a few days every time.
Within the last 18 months, we have built a solid and loyal following and continue to receive amazing responses and reviews on a daily basis. We regularly get B2B customers contacting us, stating that they tried our product and would like to purchase it for their sports club, restaurant, or catering business.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Undoubtedly, convincing your customer that your product is better than what they used to and getting them to share the same passion you do about your product is incredibly hard. Admittedly, in Canada, the market can sometimes be set in its ways, and justifiably so. People like what they're used to, and if it's not broken, don't fix it. The big impediment to faster growth has been our ability to get in front of our customers, given our small team and modest resources, yet we have made enormous progress and continue to grow at a fast rate. It's about focusing on key segments of the market and not relenting until you have broken in and got them to taste your product. We're always surprised by the power of referrals and word of mouth.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- While it sounds cliche, take an idea, stick with it, and don't give up until it's a success. We went through some dark days early on, where our efforts seemed futile, and it appeared almost inevitable that it would fail. We stuck with it, continued to push, and interest began to grow. The product we have now has evolved enormously, both in offering and the way it's marketed, yet that was only as a result of the trials and tribulations we went through.
- Get a good mentor - we have been lucky enough to be mentored by experienced business professionals and entrepreneurs who have been there and done it. This type of support is priceless.
- Speak to your customers as much as possible - the types of insights you get from people who actually buy your products cannot be found anywhere else. This is absolutely key.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
Turn your craft into recurring revenue with Subkit. Start your subscription offering in minutes and supercharge it with growth levers. Get early access here.