ARTICLE / THE MAKING OF... SERIES
The making of...
Some of the best ideas appear when we’re simply living our lives and experiencing the world around us. In this ‘The making of…’ Tim O’Sullivan shares the story of how meeting his girlfriend’s parents for the first time cultivated a love for Korea and the concept for BAE Juice.
The making of... Series
With BAE Juice popping up all over the place, we’re itching to know how you came up with the idea?
I was travelling in Korea meeting my girlfriend Sumin’s family for the first time. As you can imagine, there was a lot of socialising and drinking. It was an awesome experience and I fell in love with Korea instantly.
Whilst enjoying shots of Soju [a locally distilled spirit], one of Sumin's friends handed me a can of Korean pear juice and told me that Korean pears are a good cure for hangovers. Not thinking too much of it, I took the advice and drank the juice while we were out. The next day, I woke up with the edge completely taken off my hangover.
Blown away, I started looking into the ‘how’ and ‘why?’ During the course of my research, I came across a CSIRO report explaining how pears actually help tackle hangover symptoms ... and the idea was born.
So, with the idea down-packed, what additional research did you do to arrive at what you've got now, and how did you test your product-market fit?
Initially, we conducted anecdotal research, asking local Koreans what they knew about the pear’s ability to help stave off hangovers. Responses were positive and there was genuine understanding around the fruit’s health benefits. These responses also backed up the CSIRO report.
Returning to Australia, I brought heaps of pear juice sachets with me. Testing the concept further, I handed out all the sachets to my family at our Christmas gathering. I have over 50 cousins and we typically have 80 people around for the day... it's a big event. The next day, I asked everyone how they felt and the feedback was amazing.
Sachets of Korean pear juice, huge family Christmas gatherings with no hangover… does sound amazing. So from there, how did you go with product formulation?
BAE Juice is made from 100% Korean pear juice and nothing else. So it’s just straight-up, natural juice which means no formulation, flavour profiling, or your typical taste testing!
That’s perfect, as there’s still real consumer demand for all-natural products. Can you tell us about your first retail orders?
Looking back, we had a pretty bold strategy. Going all in, we ordered 50,000 units with the idea of giving away 20,000 units for free - to grow awareness and to also get people experiencing first-hand how good the juice was. No one likes hangovers, so when you find something that really does take the edge off, you use it again and again whilst telling your friends.
Funding? How did you fund everything?
We bootstrapped with our weekly paychecks. There are three co-founders (myself, Sumin Do, and Liam Gostencnik), and we would all put in cash weekly to fund getting things off the ground. That continued for the first 6-12 months. Then as word got out and sales lifted, the business started funding itself.
Like all good start-ups, we have had some random cash injections from friends and family to help us get over the line when there were shortfalls in cash flow! But the journey has been extremely rewarding, seeing our idea turn into what's been recently valued as a million-dollar company.
As we know, branding is everything. Can you tell us more about how BAE Juice’s identity developed?
Our branding was originally green, brown, and gold… colours that represented the more wholesome, natural side of the product. But then someone pointed out that a pear juice hangover cure called BAE should be loud, colourful, and exciting. It should be part of our audience’s world, so we started to imagine the brand on a festival stage. This pivot helped us visualise our logo and current direction. Over the past 9 months, it’s been amazing to see the brand grow in-store from initially 60 stores to well over 1800. That’s some really rapid growth, so it's beyond exciting for us at the moment.
Awareness? How are you getting the word out there? How are you scaling the brand?
We’ve been using influencers over the past 3 months, pushing audiences in-store. Conversion is working really well in that environment. In addition to that, we’ve had some great press over the past 6-12 months, with exposure in the Broadsheet, Daily Mail and news.com.au. This has really helped our brand get that recognition. Our main focus has been retail and that's how we're really building our business and scaling, there are 25,000 stores that sell beverages in Australia alone, so we haven't even scratched the surface yet.
What's the biggest challenge you think you'll face moving forward?
We want to launch a few new products in the health space. It’s exciting but also uncharted waters as until now, we have just been able to focus on growing BAE Juice. Having another product alongside will test us but it’s something we can't wait to start doing, putting the great experience we’ve garnered over the past 3 years launching and growing BAE Juice to good use.