A few weeks ago we celebrated First Press’ 5th birthday. It is safe to say it has been a wild ride so far! One thing we love here at First Press - almost more than a fresh batch of our concentrate - is parties. So we decided to throw a birthday bash to celebrate our 5th year in the business-sphere, and invite our friends, family, mentors and supporters to celebrate with us.
The result was a night to remember complete with espresso martinis on tap, delicious food from Goldilocks lunch box, an epic playlist and heartfelt speeches in the company of an amazing group of people.
The highlight was thanking our community personally and sharing some of the (exhilarating) highs and (terrifying) lows of starting and growing First Press.
In this post we’ll share some of the highlights from our speech, including the major milestones experienced, some of our biggest learnings to date and a few behind-the-scenes challenges that we haven’t shared publicly before. Keep scrolling for this, plus pics from our birthday party! If you’re a creative, entrepreneur, business owner or someone with a passion project you want to launch, we hope that our insights will help you along your way.
It’s all in the numbers
When we started First Press back in 2013, we knew we were in for a big ride. What we didn’t know - or expect - was just how big this journey was going to be.
One of our steepest learning curves has definitely been in sales. In the early days we brewed and bottled First Press out of our apartments to sell at single digit temperature farmer’s markets, eventually moving on to approaching stores and cafés directly. With cold drip still pretty much unheard of in Australia at the time, we faced a lot of reluctance and rejection - with Jimmy even being laughed out of a cafe once!
Eventually after much walking around explaining the benefits of cold drip and encouraging basically anyone we met to try our coffee, a few stores and cafés took First Press on board, the word spread and our sales started to grow. Today First Press is sold in independent retailers, health food stores and cafés around Australia, as well as through our online store, and we have become the leading cold drip brand in the market.
Sales is often one of the biggest challenges for any new founder; hearing no over and over can really take its toll on even the most resilient founder, and it was no different for us. But we learnt that sometimes sales is just a numbers game; the more you put yourself out there, the more experience and confidence you’ll gain and eventually you’ll find ‘your people’ - the ones who say a resounding yes to your product and are willing to bet on you and your business. A key learning was reframing our sales process. Rather than focusing on the yes, we used it as a practicing tool to eloquently express our pitch, and learnt through every rejection. This took away the pressure of results we didn’t have control over at that stage.
Life is like a box of chocolates...
Or in this case, Little Kickers. A huge learning for us has been to always be ready and willing to respond quickly to change. Most startup journeys are like a rollercoaster ride where at first everything’s humming along well, you’re on a steady ascent and excited as you keep reaching higher… only to all of a sudden be surprised by an unexpected, daunting drop.
We definitely had a few roadblocks that tested our dedication to the business. We had some serious challenges in meeting demand for our product while trying to build our own production facility to make First Press on scale. We’ve also run dangerously close to running out of money if it wasn’t for our alternative (short-lived) careers as Uber drivers, learning how to make cash-flow forecasts and most importantly, being proactive. You might not always know what’s coming in startup life, but the more you are willing to be flexible, the easier you’ll get past any hurdles.
You are your business
The most surprising thing on our business journey has been the level of personal growth that comes with running a business. Starting a business really puts every insecurity at the forefront and brings up emotions and sides of ourselves that we hadn’t seen. Our fears, any self-doubt and how we react to stress are inevitably bound to be tested at some point, usually in very challenging moments.
The best way out is through. This meant that we had to face those feelings directly instead of distracting ourselves from the problem. Speaking for ourselves, our biggest areas of exponential growth has come from facing our fears and supporting the other to do the same. Knowing that there is an ebb and flow to things and that the challenging moments will pass, is another. Failure, success and growth all go together and if you can learn to embrace all sides of running a business, both the positive and the difficult moments, you’ll be able to withstand any challenge coming your way. And you will inevitably grow immensely as a person during the journey.
To wrap up, we also shared a few of the very exciting things that we have in the pipeline for First Press. We have a new product launch planned for summer and more initiatives to grow brand awareness and give back to our community. We are also laying down the foundations for expansion into Asia, larger distribution across Australia and establishing direct relationships with our coffee farmers to ensure greater sustainability from farm to cold drip.
We hope you enjoyed this post and sharing in the learnings we have had from our five years in business! If you’d like to stay updated on news, product launches, events and all the exciting things happening at First Press, sign up for our newsletter below.
Jimmy & Hamish
Co-founders, First Press Coffee