The Twenty Mile Club got to catch up with one half of Double Dutch– a UK-based tonic & mixer company that creates a range of innovative and award-winning products, using 100% natural ingredients. The twins Raissa and Joyce’s products combine different flavours to be pair perfectly with high-quality spirits. Since launching in 2015 they have supplied tonic waters for the royal wedding, met Richard Branson and even chatted to the Dutch King and Queen about their business (the twins are originally from the Netherlands!). For those looking to get stellar advice on seeking investment and a route into the market if you’re a drinks brand, read Double Dutch’s 20MC interview as you see them dominate 2019…
Name: Raissa de Haas
Age at time of interview: 28
Where’s home? The Netherlands-but we actually grew up in Antwerp, Belgium where all our friends are and our parents still live there..
Profession: Co-founder of Double Dutch
Company Name: Double Dutch ltd
If you went to university was it a clear-cut path what you were going to do?
I did a three years bachelor degree followed by a masters in Finance at the University of Antwerp in Belgium. During this time I was very convinced I’d work in finance. When I graduated, I started working for a smaller wealth management firm but quite quickly decided that this wasn’t really for me.
I then decided to do a second masters in Technology Entrepreneurship at UCL in London which was very much focussed around starting your own company.
We always grew up with loads of different spirits and built a passion for high-quality drinks from an early age. During our years at university in Antwerp we actually always used to make different mixers for our friends as we thought the ‘exciting’ tonic waters were quite boring. It was really primitive at first, we made syrups with fresh fruits by heating them up with sugar and mixing them with sparkling water.
Then when we started at University College London (UCL), our course focused a lot on starting a startup and we used the syrups we had made during our undergraduate course as the starting point for our thesis.
We devoted our year to researching the spirit and mixer market. Whilst spirits were becoming more experimental with a big trend in premiumisation and craft movement, the choice of mixers were still really limited. When we graduated in September 2014, we received the prize for the most promising startup and we received an initial UCL cash investment to put forward in our first production batch.
What is Double Dutch and when did you launch?
Double Dutch is a UK-based tonic & mixer company that creates a range of innovative and award-winning products, using 100% natural ingredients. Our products combine different flavours to be pair perfectly with high-quality spirits. There to be enjoyed along with your favourite spirit or on their own for the perfect adult soft drink with a twist. We produced our first batch at the beginning of 2015 and properly launched in 2016
How did the idea for Double Dutch come about?
Being Dutch, our country has such a great history of gin and other spirits and we’ve always been quite frustrated by the fact that the mixer market wasn’t as experimental.
What were the initial challenges in getting the ball rolling for Double Dutch?
Our initial challenges were definitely to get the route to market in place. We got interest from bars and restaurants relatively quickly but we could not supply them with Double Dutch because they only buy via wholesalers and distributors and we were not listed with any of them. This was quite frustrating because the wholesalers and distributors don’t buy products if they dont have effective demand for products – they wont list a problem. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg problem. Once we got our first wholesaler on board, the ball really started rolling more quickly.
You both did masters. Can you tell us about this decision and how it helped you in the thinking behind Double Dutch…
The financial background definitely helps in the daily operations of Double Dutch. As for Tech Entrepreneuship this really pushsed us to set up the brand
How did you go about getting the taste right for Double Dutch and what was the process involved in that?
We try bring more excitement into the category by flavour innovation. We offer a range of different flavours that can make a standard G&T into something very different very easy.
Our recipes are inspired by flavour pairing techniques, which offers a technique to find the chemical components that specific spirits have in common with certain ingredients. The process starts with an analysis of a certain type of food when the aroma compounds are then determined and quantified. The essence is to combine different foods that share the same intrinsic properties to create unique and counter-intuitive flavour combinations. The idea behind this is that it is easier to pair certain more uncommon ingredients together, but it is also easier to pair them with other ingredietns (the spirit in our case).
Did you raise investment for Double Dutch? Any tips you can share for anyone looking to secure investment?
We raised two investments rounds so far, one in 2015 when we just started and a larger round in 2017.
We have raised investment privately through HNWI only so far, because we definteily wanted help from mentors and industry experts to help on general strategy, business plan, advice and distribution/industry contacts. We have tried to work with a wide range of investors, coming from retail and on-trade background but also PR&Advertisement and financial backgrounds.
We did doubt for some time to raise a part of this round via Crowdfunding because it does give a lot of free marketing, an instant group of customers and brand ambassadors that will cheerlead the brand. However we decided we wanted to work with a limited amount of investors who we can actually work together with to develop the brand.
Any fundraising tips?
Definitely always take in to account at least 4-5 months extra for the fundraising. Even if you have a range of investors already lined up, what we’ve learned from our two fundraising is that it always takes longer than expected to fully close with all the paperwork
Start raising investment when you still have sufficient cash in the bank account to run another 6 months at least. Firstly because it will always take longer to actually get the investment in the bank account but also you will have some kind of leverage towards the investors. You don’t “need” the cash right now, you are willing to raise investment with the right investors and you have time to wait for the perfect partners. If investors know that you are in urgent need of cash, it will be a whole different conversation and you will “need” to accept their terms rather than your own terms.
Have you got a mentor?
Most of our investors
How are you marketing Double Dutch?
Our marketing strategy so far has been heavily focused on the on trade and building brand awareness within in bars, pubs and restaurants helping to drive distribution points and sales. We are looking to drive more consumer awareness throughout 2019 with the support of a national retail listing so we can target key cities and track how different activations work to drive sales. This will also be reflected in our digital marketing campaign where we can track click through to the website and social media based on campaign’s planned for 2019.
We did over 100 smaller consumer events last year (local G&T shows, flower shows, etc). Social media and digital is becoming more and more important and will need extra focus next year.
How do you think Double Dutch differs from the competition out there?
We focus on creating flavour combinations that are innovative and unique within the category. What makes us very different from other mixers in the market is our method of production; all our flavours are made using food-pairing techniques and molecular gastronomy. This allows us to find unique and well-balanced flavour combinations that bring the best out of the spirits that they are mixed with.
We are leading the way in the market with producing flavours designed to work with a wide range of both spirits and consumers palates. We are also challenging the market by removing quinine from our Cucumber & Watermelon and Pomegranate & Basil tonics, which has opened up a new range of tonics possibilities for consumers.
Starting in 2015 by me and my twin sister, Double Dutch was born out of own frustrations within the market and the limited scope of premium tonics and mixers. With the rise of craft gin and the emergence of wonderful flavour profiles, our young female founders realised that they would need a wider range of tonics to compliment the different flavour profiles on the market.
Perfectly paired flavours allowing consumers to create amazing drinks anywhere, using a range of spirits. Double Dutch allows you to add a full range of flavours to your drink out of one bottle. A gin and tonic is nice, however a Cucumber & Watermelon Gin and Tonic is divine.
What’s a typical day for you working on Double Dutch?
7am; Wake up, breakfast
8am – 11am: Emailing and catching up on administration
11am – 5pm : Meetings and phone calls — seeing customers, spirit partners, investors, etc. It´s important to be at the accounts and understand how things are happening on the ground.
5pm- 10pm or 11pm depending on work load: Emailing & Catching up. We usually have an evening event or customer dinner at least twice a week.
How do you and your co-founder compliment each others skillset?
Joyce looks after everything that has to do with operations and finances: logistics, warehousing, production, invoicing, payments. I am responsible for the rest, mainly sales, marketing, employment and communications. As we expand the business to other countries, we also get to travel very often to have meetings with distributors and check new markets.
For us it came really naturally to work together. The best bit about it is that we trust each other 100% which makes decisions-making a lot easier. We’re most of the time on the same page but if we are not, we can say what we think without having to be over-careful or cause an awkward situation. Because we know each other inside out, there is no competitiveness between us – it’s just always business first. Internally there is always a very solid foundation to the business and we’re 100% sure there will never be a fall out between us two co-founders.
Any personality traits you have discovered about yourself along the way?
Because of the fast growth of Double Dutch, I discovered that I had to put a lot more effort in being structured and organised than it is actually natural to me. And I get stressed out from little (not such important things) way more than the actual big stuff
Any fuck ups along the way?
Our first labels and branding were actually so ugly that we eventually had a bar telling us that they loved the product inside but the branding was so horrible that they had to find a way to hide the product before serving it to customers.
What has been your best moment so far as a result of setting up Double Dutch?
Being in a random bar in Croatia and suddenly seeing someone on the table next to us drinking Double Dutch!
We have met so many incredible people because of Double Dutch, we’ve been to Buckingham palace, have supplied tonic waters to the royal wedding, have met Richard Branson, met the Dutch King and Queen to tell them about Double Dutch and so many more!
What advice would you give other twenty-something’s who are thinking of pursuing a career in the same industry as you?
Just launch as soon as possible once you have something, even if it is not perfect yet. It’s a lot more efficient to get feedback while testing on the market as you will learn a lot faster what your customers actually want.
I also think opportunity cost is a lot lower when you start when you are younger and you have less to loose, so definitely
What do you think is next for Double Dutch in the next year?
Growing distribution both in the UK and abroad, putting a lot more effort into brand awareness and marketing and we’re going to invest a lot more in our team and doubling the sales team.
What’s the dream?
Become a globally recognised brand leading the way in flavour innovation, while developing a range of tonics/mixers designed to pair perfectly with every type of spirit. We are aiming to be the first brand you think of when looking for flavour fun, innovation and more excitement in the mixer category. Along with leading in innovation we are looking to leave a positive impact on the environment through ensure our brand is carbon neutral and we are giving back to those in need
Just for fun…
In your twenties the three things I tend to think about are… work, food & drinks, friends & family
One startup U30 we love is JKS restaurants
The Twenty Mile Club is amazing! And inspirational
Find Double Dutch on Instagram here @doubledutchdrinks
Find Double Dutch on Facebook here
Finally head to their website here