In today’s blog post we interview London-based twin sisters Raissa and Joyce De Haas from Doubledutchdrinks.
What kind of business do you run? When did you start it and where is it based?
We run a drinks company called Double Dutch which offers a range of innovative premium mixers and tonic waters. The first batch was produced in February 2015 and we’re based in London.
Tell us a little bit about yourselves and your background.
We are twin sisters born in the Netherlands. We moved to Belgium when we were kids and the house where we grew up had a small wholesale wine & spirit shop. It was just a hobby for our parents — they kept the store for themselves and friends. As a result, we grew up with loads of different spirits and built a passion for high-quality drinks from an early age. We subsequently developed a curiosity and a good taste for wines and spirits!
When we were 18 we studied Finance and Business Administration at the University of Antwerp. During our years at university we used to drink mainly gin or vodka but found the tonics which were available quite boring and often very overpowering in the drink. We decided to make a deal with our friends and every Sunday they used to bring different gins, vodkas or tequilas to our flat and we’d make the different and interesting mixers. That was very primitive at first! We made syrups with fresh fruits by heating them up with sugar and mixed with good quality sparkling water.
After our Masters in Finance in Antwerp, we both started working in banking – Joyce at a large corporation and Raissa at a smaller wealth management bank but soon realised that this wasn’t really for us! We wanted to be able to apply our talents to something more creative.
We decided to do a second master’s that was more practical. We always felt like moving to London and as University College London (UCL) is known for its entrepreneurship program, we applied and were both accepted there. Our course focused on starting a startup in the tech space and we used the syrups we had made during our undergraduate course as the starting point for our thesis.
We researched the market for the entire year and looked at the discrepancy in the beverage market. Whereas spirits are becoming more experimental with a big trend in premiumization and the craft movement, the choice of mixers are still limited. We conducted market research with bartenders, mixologists and consumers and at the end of this Double Dutch Drinks were born.
This was in September 2014 we received the prize for most promising startup (the first non-tech startup that was awarded this) and we received an initial UCL cash investment.
We used that money to produce our first batch and build a network of our first customers. Feedback was positive from the beginning and within 3 months we had clients like Harvey Nichols, The Dorchester and Novikov.
What inspired you to start this business?
Being Dutch we’ve always enjoyed a good qualitative drink! The country has such a great history of gin and other spirits and we’ve always been quite frustrated by the fact that the mixer market wasn’t as experimental.
This is why we decided to start experimenting and making our syrups and sodas, testing them on friends and family at house parties. Over time making our own mixers became a passion and we became more reluctant to use any low-quality mixers with the premium craft spirits we were drinking!
When we began to develop Double Dutch, we came across a technique of flavour pairing which was really the turning point in the process. We found that we wanted to experiment with different flavours and ingredients but didn’t want to be limited to what the industry had already done. We felt we needed to come up with innovative mixers and flavours and that’s how we created our first products: Cucumber & Watermelon and Pomegranate & Basil.
What is your daily routine of running your business?
7am: Wake up, breakfast
8am – 11am: Emailing and catching up on admin
11am – 5pm: Meetings and calls. This can be anything from meeting customers, spirit partners to seeing our investors. It’s important to be at the accounts and understand how things are happening on the ground.
5pm-10pm or 11pm depending on work load: Emailing & Catching up. We usually have events or dinners at least once a week.
Joyce looks after everything that has to do with operations and finances: logistics, warehousing, production, invoicing, payments and Raissa is responsible for the rest; mainly sales, marketing, employment and communications. As we expand the business to other countries, we travel often to have meetings with distributors and check new markets.
What are the best and worst parts of running your business?
Best part of running your own business is the excitement to see it grow every day. It gives us great satisfaction to work on something that we can call our own. It’s also amazing to have the chance to innovate and create your own mark in a market.
Worst part of running your own business is that you can’t really let it go and you end up taking every little problem to bed! In the first 18 months we had no time for any social life or whatsoever
Are there any blogs, podcasts or Facebook Groups about entrepreneurship you follow closely?
We like watching TED Talks and we keep an eye at Fast Company and Inc. Magazine.
Which resources to run your business do you use most?
I love XERO for accounting, receipt bank is great as you don’t need to keep receipts any more. And we used LinkedIn a lot in the beginning to get all our investors.
What keeps you motivated to keep working on your business?
The prospect of growing our ‘baby’ and the harder you work the faster it grows 🙂
What would you recommend new entrepreneurs? How to get started?
We think it is important to launch your product as soon as you have something, even if it is not perfect yet. It’s a lot better to get feedback while testing products in the market as you will learn a lot faster what your customers actually want.
Who do you think is the most accomplished entrepreneur you’ve met?
To learn more about Double Dutch please visit Doubledutchdrinks.com