Jimmy Cregan was travelling through Australia when he needed a quick fix to give him a boost. Not wanting the high caffeine content of an energy drink, he turned to the next best thing – a pre-packaged iced coffee. He so enjoyed it that when he returned home to the UK he decided to create his own brand of iced coffee, asking his sister Suzie Owen’s to help him perfect the recipe, and sell it on in her café. The rest as they say is history – and we spoke to him to find out his story.

Firstly let’s start with the product – tell us more about your iced coffee and what makes it different from other similar offerings?

We are a family owned Iced Coffee brand based in Dorset. We’re a super passionate bunch and our Iced Coffee is unique because we use very few ingredients, our stuff is made in England using British milk, we use real coffee and we love what we do! It’s available for purchase from Waitrose, Tesco Express, Ocado, Sainsbury’s, BP Connect, Morrisons and many independents. RRP is £1.59 for a 330ml carton. We also recently launched a 1 litre version, priced at £2.50.

Tell us how the journey into iced coffee started.

My love of iced coffee started in Australia. I’d never had it before but when I stopped at a petrol station and found Farmer’s Union Iced Coffee I fell in love. We were on a long journey so I wanted something to keep me going but I didn’t want an energy drink. I cracked it open and it was a revelation for me! I drank two or three a day for the rest of my time in Oz.

I knew Farmer’s Union wasn’t available in the UK and my first thought was how to get the product back. I wanted to either bring this brand home with me or make and sell my own.

How long have you been working on it? At what stage has it reached to date?

We started experimenting with our iced coffee in 2010 in my sister’s café in Bournemouth. We now sell one carton every seven seconds in the UK. The team has grown too – we now have a crew of 8 in Bournemouth!

What about the funding, how did you support the business from the start? And what about now – have you raised funds from other investors, or are you self-sufficient?

At first we begged our parents for money. They had some savings and agreed to lend us £140,000. Three years after that initial loan we had paid back every penny and they are now shareholders in the company.

Is this your first startup venture or did you start other businesses before this? If so please tell us more about them?

I started a couple of little projects with friends when I was younger, such as a beer delivery service on Bournemouth beach and selling fake surf backpacks to mates at school, but Jimmy’s Iced Coffee is my first start-up venture.

Let’s chat about you’re yourself a bit more. What was your typical childhood/family background like? Do you have any entrepreneurial family member or partners who inspired you?

My sister and I were born in Dubai where our parents worked at the time. Dubai, when I was growing up, was nothing like it is today – no sprawling skyscrapers – just lots of unspoilt desert. I left when I was 18 and came to the UK to study and I’ve only been back a couple of times since.

My dad was in the army in Oman and he met my mum in Spain – they’re not massively entrepreneurial but I always wanted to do my own thing. I realised this in Bournemouth, around the time of the beer delivery service, I always had my eye out for any little thing I could do or sell.

Let’s talk about your personal hobby, which is my favourite part about the Jimmy – we’ve all seen your music videos on YouTube! Obviously you are into rapping and making music videos, having a growing YouTube channel with close to 2m views to date. Walk us through this and how it all came about.

It started out as a boring day in Dubai as a kid. A few friends and I made a music video in the style of Snoop Dogg; I love his music and hip hop in general. We filmed it and put it on YouTube and it always stuck in my head that I would like to make a proper rap video with a video crew.

A few years down the line I said to Fearlessly Frank, an Innovation consultancy we now work with, that I wanted to make a rap video. They were completely behind the idea, so we made an awesome video that became an advert for us!

Do you have a role model who you look up to?

My role model is our chairman Simon Henderson. He’s a darn good worker, he’s super sharp and has a crazy good memory. He has an awesome family and he manages to make it look like there’s a thousand hours in each day with the amount of work he puts into his work and family life. He’s a top top dude.

Do you have a business partner? What is his or her background? Any interesting stories to share?

I started the brand with my sister Suze. We’ve always been very different but this has proved a huge success for us as business partners. Before this we had done a lot of different jobs separately and at the time I came to her with the iced coffee idea she was running a coffee shop in Bournemouth.

I sold her this mad-hat idea that we can use her café as a late-night lab to perfect the recipe. Once we had something we were happy with we never looked back.

Tell us about the most exciting or inspirational moment to date since starting this project.

When we were making our first rap video there was a hive of people in a room all working furiously to set up the next shot. I tapped Suze on the shoulder and said ‘there are 20 people running around like lunatics so we can make something really stupid and cool’. That was the realisation moment and possibly the most fun we’ve had during the whole process.

What about the toughest moment? What happened, and what kept you going?

The darkest day for the business was receiving a phone call from our production company when we were nearly £500,000 in debt. They weren’t prepared to produce for us again until payment for all their earlier work had been made.

That was the hardest day we ever had, but one month from that we secured a contract with BP to stock our coffee at their service stations and then three years later we broke even.

Was there ever a strange moment where you felt that you were destined to do this?

 Having a chance encounter with the category director of Soft Drinks for Tesco dressed in a giant Jimmy’s Iced Coffee outfit was pretty handy. It seems we were destined to meet and that was the best possible place. It won us the listing and we’ve got a great relationship with those dudes.

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Tell us about your plans for Jimmy’s Iced Coffee? Do you have any specific goal that you have set for the next 3 years?

In three years, Jimmy’s will be for sale in 2 territories outside the U.K. and we will have distribution in all the major supermarkets in the U.K. We hope to have expanded the range by then too, watch this space!

And finally, what advice would you share to someone considering starting their own business?

You must feel totally convinced and totally pumped that it’s going to work. If you think it’s going to fail for one minute, it’s going to lose, because that’s one minute you haven’t spent thinking it will succeed.

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