Down To Business: Drinks By Post

Jenessa Williams

With much of the festive season taking place at home this year, we spoke to Sam Fitch, who co-owns the postal cocktails company Drinks By Post with his wife, Jo

Reader's Digest: How did your business get started, and how would you best summarise what you offer? 

Sam Fitch: Like so many of the exciting businesses around at the moment, we set up Drinks By Post under lockdown, though it was more a rebirth of our existing business to fit the current climate. As a result of lockdown there is a growing movement away from consumer capitalism towards an experience economy—we crave the idea of learning new skills, having fun and doing something different. This is what we wanted to bring to Drinks By Post.  

It would have been easy to pre-mix cocktails in bulk, bottle them and ship them out, but that's not what we're about, and that's not what cocktails are about. Cocktails should be savoured and a big part of the enjoyment is in the making.  

Our cocktail kits contain all of the ingredients needed for you to create freshly prepared cocktails at home, with all the recipes, techniques and cocktail history to have you shaking things up like a pro. We want to demystify the intimidating art of mixology and inspire everyone to fall in love with cocktails, just like we have. 

 

RD: What career route led you to Drinks By Post? How did you manage to adapt the business given the restraints of COVID? 

SF: Before Drinks By Post we created The Buffalo Bars—a fleet of super-luxe travelling bars offering a full bar service and specialising in craft cocktails served from our beautiful converted Airstreams. We would travel the country offering liquid catering at weddings, private parties and corporate events. At the start of March we were gearing up for our busiest season yet, and then practically overnight the rug was pulled out from under us and we ended up with not a single booking for the whole year. 
 
We’ve stuck to our ethos of, “wherever you are and whatever your surroundings, there is no excuse for mediocre drinks”, and created Drinks By Post to offer a range of products to keep the thirsty folk of the world watered. Cocktails are our passion, and sharing that passion with customers is the part of our job that we love the most. 

 

RD: How does your work compliment your personality?  

SF: Working together as a husband and wife team suits us perfectly. To some people it seems strange and they assume it must be a nightmare, but to us it's the other way round—to spend the majority of your day away from your partner seems crazy! 

Sure there are occasional tensions, and switching off “after work” just doesn't happen, but arguments are few and far between. We have run various businesses together for more than ten years now and have worked out our own roles. We are both creative which is so important, and means we can share the vision, but I'm a details and numbers man whereas Jo is the aesthete, so our branding and visuals are always on point.  

Without really formalising our different roles in our businesses, we have evolved into them organically and our different skill sets complement each other perfectly. 

 

RD: At a time where being mindful about alcohol consumption is more topical than ever, how does a message of responsible drinking influence your business and promotional approach?  

SF: This is something we are constantly mindful of, particularly with regard to our own children. The business is such a big part of our lives that we made a conscious decision to include the girls as much as possible and to keep the conversation open. Our girls have always shaken up “cocktails” in the bath and just love creating mocktails with ingredients from the garden, but by starting the dialogue about alcohol early, and by discussing the potentially damaging effects of excess, we believe we can instil a balanced knowledge and a responsible attitude in our children.  

Within the wider community the message is far harder to spread. For our part we are always conscious that we aren't glorifying consumption, and our advertising is highly targeted. We are well aware that Christmas can be a difficult time for those trying to avoid alcohol or to limit their consumption, and with this in mind we have launched a non-alcoholic cocktail collection so anyone can join in with the fun of creating and enjoying great drinks over the festive period. Our Cocktail Crackers have some great non-alcoholic options, including Belgian hot chocolate stirring sticks for the children, and Basil & Blueberry Smash for the non-drinkers. 

We like to be responsible in a more ecological sense too. As a business we have certain lines that we won't cross, and needlessly polluting the planet for our own financial gain is right up there at the top of the list. It would have been cheaper and easier to package our ingredients in plastic bottles and bury them in mountains of bubble wrap, but when there is a better way, there is no excuse not to take it. All of our packaging is recyclable, completely plastic free, and can either be re-used (as the glass bottles) or composted.  

The customer's experience starts from the moment they open their box, and we want them to feel good about their purchase from that first reveal. Our carbon footprint is always part of our decision-making process, and we take part in tree planting programs to offset what we can. Where we can, we buy direct from the incredible local suppliers around us and do what we can to showcase the best Cornish producers. 

 

RD: What does a typical workday look like for you? 

SF: Ha! Working from home under lockdown with a two-year-old, a four-year-old and a seven-year-old meant there was nothing even close to a typical workday, and in all seriousness, this is something we really struggled with.  

I'm sure it’s a very common story but trying to spread ourselves between childcare, home schooling and creating a new business from scratch would often leave us feeling both guilty and frustrated.  

Since schools have reopened our routines have improved with more time to spend on the business without distraction and as a result, we are starting to see real and consistent growth. 

 

RD: What are your favourite and least favourite parts of the job?  

SF: We just love all of the creative bits, so coming up with new cocktails, curating new boxes, working on our branding and planning photoshoots are always a lot of fun. 

Managing our team doesn't come naturally to me and I find holding our supply chain to account hard.  

We initially had some trouble with distribution partners, and when our customers were let down by failed deliveries, I couldn't help but take it personally. We have recently changed our service and things have improved.  

No matter how carefully you plan every detail of a business you always need to be appraising each element and be ready to adapt when things aren't going right. 

 

RD: You mentioned switching off being difficult, but when you do make the time, how do you like to relax?  

SF: We are very strict in setting aside a day a week as a family day. We ditch the devices and spend time with the kids—being really present in a way that is hard whilst also working.  

We are so lucky living in Cornwall to be surrounded by the most beautiful countryside and coastline that we are never stuck for places to go and things to do. Visiting gardens, throwing stones in the sea and going for coastal walks are the perfect antidotes to a busy week of work. 

What has been the most valuable business lesson you’ve learnt so far? And what has been your most tangible achievement?  

We were once told a very long anecdote by a business mentor about 16th Century lumberjack competitions that I won't attempt to re-tell, but the moral was about keeping your axe sharp.  

We all need to stop from time to time, taking a break to sit behind the tree and sharpen our axe. “Sharpening our axe” has become a part of the vernacular both at home and at work, and is an important part of many of our business processes. 

As for achievements, keeping a roof over our heads and food on the table for the family is about as tangible as it gets! Suddenly to find ourselves without any income and to take a new business from zero to profit in just a couple of months is something we are pretty proud of. 

  

RD: In five years’ time, where would you like to see the business? 

SF: We can't wait to get back to the parties with The Buffalo Bars, but Drinks By Post is definitely here to stay. We were originally slower than some in coming to market because we were looking to establish a sustainable and scalable business model. 

We are planning to continue growing the business with a greater emphasis on a subscription based model, but the cocktail knowledge and education is a really exciting area for us—I would love to go more in depth, perhaps with boxes offering differing levels of complexity. 

 

RD: If you weren’t involved in liquid catering, what career do you think you’d be in?  

SF: Having only had one (brief) “real job” in the last 20 years I certainly couldn't see myself working for someone else!  As creative thinkers, business ideas come all too easily to us, what we lack is the time to bring them to fruition. 

The common theme to our ideas and our previous businesses is providing an experience that delights—going over and above to make something extraordinary. We'd love to put on spectacular events in the future and already have a little black book full of ideas! 

 

RD: Lastly, an important question—what number one cocktail will you be enjoying at home this Christmas?  

SF: Great question! Christmas morning will start with stockings and a Spice 75 (a blend of rum, lime, allspice syrup and prosecco), an Espresso Martini after Christmas dinner to keep the armchair snooze at bay, then sit back and relax in the evening with a Maple Spiced Cognac Old Fashioned, one of my favourite festive tipples. Delicious!  

Read more: The mulling spices you need in your kitchen

Read more: The best chocolate booze


Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter