Seems like a lofty question for a fledgling business, maybe even a bit pompous. After all, isn't our purpose to sell tasty cocktails?
What more should ̶w̶e̶ I expect out of this business? It isn't like I can change the world selling cocktails. Who even cares? "
This is the current running monologue playing through my head. Spinning me around and around about the current problem I have.
The bio-pouches I am using to pack the cocktails in are failing. Over the first three months I had less than a handful of leaking pouches. In the past two weeks this number had tripled. And I can't figure out why.
When I initially tested the pouches it included things like leaving 60%abv spirit in them for months, standing on the pouches, jumping on them. Putting them in the freezer for days and letting them thaw. All of our tests seemed to prove they were robust enough.
- They didn't leak or decompose with the 60% spirit in them.
- We could put 90kg of weight on a single pouch before it broke.
- The cold didn't seem to make them more susceptible to tearing.
Yet I've had far too many people recently emailing that pouches are arriving half full or empty.
And I simply can't figure out why.
At first I thought it was them being under the weight of other Royal Mail parcels. So we started adding reinforcement to the boxes to keep them from crushing. Didn't work.
Then I thought it was the sub-zero temperatures and too much movement in the boxes causing the bags to become brittle and get holes. So I purchased cardboard sleeves to protect the cocktails. Didn't work.
Then I got smaller sturdier boxes to help with movement and any weight/pressure issues.
STILL DIDN'T F*CKING WORK
I don't get it...I mean is Royal Mail running over parcels? How rough do they handle parcels?
There's no consistency amongst what type of box leaks, which cocktail leaks, nothing to even give me a slight little hint as what's happening.
I called 10 different bio-plastic manufacturers today to see if there is another type of material I could use. Nobody has a solution but "have you tried plastic pouches? I wouldn't recommend using bio-pouches for your cocktails".
So here I am at a crossroad...do I move back to plastic pouches or do I push on using bio-pouches and risk having cocktails showed up damaged?
I recently re-watched Simon Sinek's TED talk "How great leaders inspire action"
If you haven't watched this talk, I highly recommend it; there's a reason it's one of the most watched TED talks of all time.
One of my biggest takeaways from the talk is his Golden Circle.
He frames businesses as having three main questions. What? How? Why?
He asserts that while most companies know what they do and how they do it, few know why they do it.
If I answer these questions for Cocktails by Mail it's where my crossroad really starts to show shape.
We sell cocktails which are delivered to your house
At the very basic level, this is what Cocktails By Mail does. This isn't special. There's a huge number of companies doing this. Not much to change here or even delve into.
It's the next level that things start to take shape a bit more.
We send fresh-made cocktails in biodegradable pouches in no plastic packaging that fits through your letterbox.
This is where Cocktails By Mail starts to diverge. We have two main pillars
1) Our cocktails are fresh made using the best quality ingredients, while keeping sustainability an important factor
2) Our packaging is plastic-free and eco-friendly
But one of the pillars is starting to crumble...the bio-pouches are failing.
Which road do I choose?
I have to answer the why before I can decide.
I want people to enjoy truly delicious cocktails in their own home (or wherever they choose) without feeling like they are hurting the environment and without greenwashing my own practices.
Simon Sinek says few companies know their why. Why isn't about making a profit. It's about a belief or a cause.
It's when I answer this honestly that I know which road I have to take.
I could very easily use plastic pouches and this would 99% solve my problems. But then I would have no why. I would have Cocktails By Mail simply as a money maker.
Money has never motivated me. Making people happy does.
I want to find a solution to my problem without taking the easy route. I am committed to staying plastic free.
I have realised I need to come back to my WHY? when I hit hurdles like this. Because if I can't have the answer align with WHY? then it's the wrong answer.
GET TO THE POINT!
I've decided to push forward with the bio-pouches. It means that I am going to have some cocktails damaged in transit. Probably about 1 in 50 if the current rates hold. But I want to be fully transparent. I will let all of my guests know prior to their order there is chance of a broken cocktail.
That I will of course replace any damages immediately, but it is their choice.
If they don't want to join us on this journey to find a sustainable solution for our drinks there are many other cocktail delivery companies out there for them to choose from and I respect that choice. Using different pouches just isn't the option for me. I have started the process of custom boxes which are much more rigid and hopefully will solve any crushed/punctured cocktails. I've been in contact with several companies about a different type of compostable pouch or bottle that we could possibly use. I am fully committed to finding a solution.
I thank all of understanding customers from the bottom of my heart for being so understanding. Once I have explained the situation, not a single customer has made me feel guilty for my choice.
I hope you will continue to purchase cocktails from Cocktails By Mail and join us on this journey to find a truly eco-friendly solution for getting quality cocktails to your door.