Growing businesses is tough work. We know, because we’re still at it. And we’re curious about what it means to start your own thing and make it grow. The Founders Files series talks to founders, entrepreneurs, doers, and makers about scaling up & pressing on.
Brews to the rescue
In the early days of the pandemic when I was feeling anxious about being sequestered overseas and feeling all the feels one has about living through a possible extinction event, there was one ritual that kept me centered - my morning coffee. I went so far as to do something I’d always considered a little snobby - I signed up for a coffee subscription.
It was one of the best gifts I’d ever given myself (and I was absolutely wrong about it making me a snob.) Twice a month, two bags of coffee from local roasters were deposited on my doorstep. And cup by cup I became an evangelist for using the power of my dollar to support small, independent businesses. But of course, this was the US.
Across the pond in Brixton, Miles Bailey and his co-founder Tim Silberman were figuring out how to weather the pandemic closing the doors of their B2B prospects - the coffee shops that use the RWRD app to get discovered and build loyalty with their customers. The two built RWRD in 2019 to help connect coffee drinkers with local independent coffee shops.
In this first post for our Founder Files series, Miles talks to us about the early days of their business, adapting to shifting circumstances during the pandemic, and how platforms can help businesses reach across industries.
Tell me a bit about your business. Why did you start it and what do you do?
RWRD is on a mission to help customers discover better coffee, while levelling the playing field along the high street for independent shops.
What did your daily work routine look like in those initial days of your business? What do your days look like now?
When we launched in October 2019 myself & co-founder Tim spent our days, come rain or shine, stomping the streets of London speaking to independent coffee shops & getting our first venues on the map, while seeing our early users join. Now, we have an awesome team focusing on onboarding venues but we're still very involved in the day to day partnerships, as well as ensuring the RWRD experience is leading for both our B2B partners & app users.
Where do you see your industry in the next 5 years?
RWRD is cross-industry both in terms of our market (B2B & B2B2C) as well as our sectors (technology, SaaS & hospitality). Over the next 5 years, there will continue to be a blend of businesses crossing industries as platforms become the norm due to the ability for them to add value for all stakeholders.
What was getting your first customer like?
Exciting, surreal & in hindsight a little chaotic! Our first B2B sign up was a spot in South London, with more venues joining every day after that. We saw uptake from app users from day one too, and have continued to do since, even on Christmas Day!
In your business’ initial years, what was the biggest thing hindering your growth and how did you fix it?
A global pandemic closing all of our B2B prospects 5 months after launch! In a sense though, we were fortunate that this gave us the time to take a step back & implement learnings from our early traction to ensure we were well placed to hit the ground running in the 'new world' post lockdown 1.
At what point did you realize your business was ‘taking off’ and that you could really make money from it? What did you decide to do at that point?
We saw our growth increase post lockdown 1, and from then have continued to do so throughout restrictions. We've grown the team & increased resources to continue this since, and are excited to keep seeing our trajectory ramp up.
Why do you think so many people fail to grow their business and what advice would you give to keep pushing despite all the setbacks?
In our short time so far, we've faced an ever changing landscape in terms of Covid restrictions. This has meant we've needed to constantly adapt to not only avoid negatively impacted, but actually to make the most of the situation.
What do you attribute your success to?
In terms of getting to where we are today, this would be down to ensuring our product is good (being a platform business, this is absolutely key), as well as having the right people involved & ensuring we're making the most of opportunities that arise.
What’s the book (or books) you’d give to everyone you know if you had enough copies?
Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
What’s the best thing you’ve spent $100 or less on in the last year?
Shoe Dog by Phil Knight!!
RWRD was launched in 2019 by school-friends turned co-founders Miles Bailey & Tim Silbermann. The hospitality-tech start-up is on a mission to connect independent coffee shops with customers, creating a value chain that works both ways. The platform gives small businesses a big reach & enables customers to discover better coffee while being rewarded for their loyalty and spend.