Get To Know: Solo Coffee
Soho Works Shoreditch members Theo Garcia and Alex Foss Sims, the founders of Solo Coffee, share their journey of establishing their direct to consumer company
Theo Garcia and Alex Foss Sims of Solo Coffee are committed to opening up the exclusionary, jargon-filled world of speciality coffee. With two products offered directly to their customers – cold brew black coffee and concentrated black espresso – Solo Coffee keep things as simple as possible. They sell expertly brewed coffee ready to drink straight out of the carton, or mixed into americanos, iced lattes, and Espresso Martinis.
We talk to the founders to find out how they met, and how they settled on their business model, products, and branding.
Please introduce yourselves and tell us about your business.
‘We are Theo Garcia and Alex Foss Sims, cofounders of Solo Coffee. Solo was born out of a frustration with the speciality coffee industry: we loved great coffee, but hated the snobbery and exclusivity surrounding it. We made it our mission to make great coffee much easier, and did so by brewing the finished product: cold brew, black, ready-to-drink coffee. Beyond the product, we like to emphasise that we’re not interested in coffee alone; we’re interested in what it allows us to do. Coffee is drunk to facilitate productivity and creativity, and our brand is built to do the same.’
Sum up Solo Coffee’s aim in three words.
‘Fuel productivity (and) creativity.’
How did you become business partners?
‘We met working as baristas. After winning a coffee brewing competition, we became increasingly frustrated by the growing gap between the customer and coffee companies. A few drunken conversations birthed an obsession of offering the finished product. And our mutual cultural interests and tastes made building a brand together that much easier.’
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to a new business?
‘Test the waters early on. As a founder, it’s very easy to keep things secret and delay any launch until everything’s perfect. We’ve rebranded, changed our product format, and pivoted the whole business model a number of times. And we’ve only done all of this as a response to our first iterations. It sounds cheesy, but you’ll only ever know what direction the wind is blowing once you start moving. Start by telling your friends and family about your ideas and you’ll quickly know if it’s worth pursuing. People are scared to tell their million pound idea before it’s been created, but honestly, imitators will never be able to execute your idea the same way as you can. It takes thousands of decisions to get something off the ground; your business will always be unique to you, so you may as well gain traction as early on as possible.’
What are your tips for a new business trying to break into FMCG?
‘Start small. Focus on the end consumer before the big listings. Obsessing over a wholesale listing won’t guarantee recurring orders. It’s much cheaper and more efficient to start small. Sell online and win some loyal customers. They’ll be more inclined to give feedback on how to improve. And if they like it, they’ll help spread the word.’
Where did the inspiration come from for your packaging?
‘The name Solo came from the Spanish “cafe solo", meaning black coffee, or more directly translated as “just coffee”. The name also touches on our focus of doing one thing well. With this in mind, we made the packaging reflect the same bold and purist ethos. It’s in black and white, and there’s nothing more added where nothing more is needed.’
Do you have a recommended recipe that includes Solo Coffee?
‘Our cold brew concentrate is a great all-rounder. It makes the perfect Espresso Martini and an amazing iced latte. You can find a few recipes on our website and Instagram. There are so many ways you can use our concentrate, but we prefer simple recipes – solo concentrate and hot water is a go-to.’
What are you reading or watching at the moment?
‘We’re both waiting for Succession Season 3.’
Who was the last person you texted?
Garcia: ‘Most often Alex or my girlfriend.’
Foss Simms: ‘Probably the Solo group chat.’
Which emoji do you use the most?
Garcia: ‘The black and white heart emojis.’
Foss Simms: ‘Got to be the crying laughing face.’
What’s the future for Solo Coffee?
‘We have a new product coming soon that’ll bring us closer to the end consumer, open up more retail opportunities, and position us as a competitor to the old-fashioned energy drinks. We’ll only ever make black coffee. We want to make great coffee as easy as possible, but our future lies in growing our brand to be synonymous with productivity and creativity.’
Which Soho Works is your favourite?
‘Shoreditch. We love the area and the building itself, but also the community is strong in Soho Works there. Lots of like-minded people, and a supportive and laid-back space. We’re looking forward to the revamp.’