Jules Quinn Interview With Popaball & TeaShed Founder

jules quinn interview popaball tea shed founder entrepreneur owner bootstrap business blog

1. What Is The Business, When Was It Started And What Were You Doing Beforehand? 

Popaball is a ‘pimp your drinks’ company where we create unique drink additions such as ‘shimmers', which add sparkle and flavour to your drinks, as well as 'bursting bubbles' that burst in your mouth with fruit juice upon biting. Before Popaball launched in 2015, I was focusing on my first business endeavor - The TeaShed, a tea company, selling delicious whole leaf tea in silky pyramid teabags, wrapped up in a range of beautiful gifts. 

I had always wanted to start my own business. My first ‘business’ experience was selling my unwanted toys to my 2-year-old sister - don’t worry, I gave her a good deal! I have always enjoyed selling and creating something out of nothing. I had tried a few jobs before I started my business, but working for someone else wasn’t really for me, the same way running your own business isn’t for other people. 

2. How Did You Get The Idea, And What Opportunity Did You See When You Started The Business? What Are Your Sales And What Do You Expect The Turnover Potential To Be? 

I started The TeaShed whilst on a rubbish work placement where I was made to make all the cups of tea in the office! I fell in love with tea and came up with the concept for The TeaShed. As I got older, I began to enjoy more refined alcohol and cocktails and noticed a complete lack of accessories on the market for DIY drink upgrades, and so Popaball was born. Through innovating and constantly pushing the business forward, we have managed to grow year on year and we are confident this will continue. 

Coming from a design background, my focus has always been on making both delicious and visually appealing products. We spend a lot of time coming up with new ideas and recipes, some of which make it to retailed products and others sit in our office looking longingly at us to be released. I think it’s important to use your understanding of the market to time new product launches for when they will get most traction. 

3. How Did You Finance It? 

I own 100% of the business and it is completely debt free. It started with a loan from my parents and then growing steadily and organically and always keeping a very close eye on finances. 

Not having a loan with strict repayment dates and interest has hugely helped the business. There were months where we wouldn’t have been able to pay back any of the loan and paying interest would mean less money to reinvest in the business. 

There are other avenues to explore if you can’t get financial help - business angels, crowd funding etc. but above all else, keep an eye on your finances, reinvest and don’t pay yourself anything for as long as possible! 

4. What Were Your Key Marketing Strategies? 

Initially, the main form of marketing was through trade shows and pop-up events. Whilst this was a great way to get product feedback, it didn’t maximize brand awareness. Now, our products are mainly promoted online. We used to use Facebook ads, but have found this method to be increasingly costly and less effective. We find connecting with influencers and using Instagram is a good way to boost our sales, as the products are very visual. 

5. What Is / Are The Revenue Stream(s)? 

We sell mainly to other retail businesses and directly to our customers at www.popaball.co.uk. We obtained a lot of retail businesses through trade shows and direct contact - you can find a lot of information out online on who you should be speaking to. Through advertising and marketing, we also attracted other businesses who came direct to us - your website is such an important part of your business as it is the window to your brand. 

Our first tea retailer was Fenwick and that was an amazing start! It was like ‘wow, this could actually work!’. I got the listing with Fenwick by going into the store, finding out who I needed to speak to and then waited a few months for a meeting, which went very well. 

6. What Are The Main Challenges You See? 

Every week brings new challenges! The main one is to ensure that we remain the market leader and that we are always five steps ahead of everyone else who tries to copy us. We do this through innovating new products and keeping an eye on the market and trends. 

7. What Advice Would You Give To Early-Stage High Street Retail Businesses? 

Listen to customer feedback and be prepared to change elements of your concept. It is really important to understand who will buy your product, why they will buy it and how much they will pay, among other things! 

I think the best piece of feedback I received was at a market where an old lady told me that she wouldn’t buy our tea when she could buy a box of 50 from Tesco for 25p! That told me a few things - 1) not all markets have the right demographic for your products 2) we will struggle to replace people’s every day cuppa due to price point. This was very valuable feedback for sure.

I hope you enjoyed this interview from Jules Quinn, founder of the privately owned company Popaball.

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