It’s pretty clear that here at Balance we love independent British drinks. So we sat down with our friends at Wildsip to discuss how their innovative online marketplace is helping independent producers around the country (like us!)
Could you introduce Wildsip and explain what your mission is?
Wildsip is an online marketplace for independent craft drinks producers. What that means is rather than buying and selling stock like a traditional retailer, we provide a platform for producers to sell their products directly to customers. It’s a similar concept to the likes of Etsy or Not On The High Street, although we’re a lot more curated. We only work with smaller, independent British producers, who have a real focus on quality. Essentially we want to be a place where people can come to discover new brands and support small businesses, but most importantly where they know they’re going to get amazing drinks every time they order!
We love how you’re championing independent British brands on Wildsip! Why do you think it’s important to support smaller British brands? Do you think that the pandemic has made this even more important?
I think it’s so important, especially when it comes to food & drink, because the people making the products are driven by their passion for what they’re doing. Their number 1 goal is to make the best product they possibly can, which means doing things the right way, using the right ingredients and processes – and honestly, they taste that much better for it! This last year has been incredibly tough for so many people and I think small businesses have been hit especially hard. So many of the brands we work with have had to completely change their business models just to survive, so I think it puts a lot more of the responsibility on the average consumer to support as much as they can.
Wildsip started during the Covid-19 pandemic, just like us! Can you tell us what it’s been like to start a company during a pandemic? Have there been any particular highs or lows?
It’s been interesting, that’s for sure! The whole idea of Wildsip was actually born out of the first lockdown, so in a way it’s been kind of a blessing in disguise. I think one of the few positives that have come out of this period is it’s given people a chance to slow down a bit and focus their energy and creativity on other passion projects, which is exactly what Wildsip has been for us!
Highs & lows? I think when you’re first starting out it’s really about celebrating the small wins. For us, getting our first few sellers on board was really exciting – especially when we didn’t even have a live site! Then going live in November last year and seeing our first few orders come through – even now, every order or new seller we get on board is a little victory and really helps validate what we’re doing.
The only low (although we don’t like to see it as a low, more of an inconvenience) was having to completely change our brand name just a few months after launching – but we’re much happier with our new name, so it turned out OK in the end!
You’ve mainly started with alcoholic drinks and coffee. Why did you choose these two particular products? (Other than the fact that they’re great when combined, of course!)
To be honest, we just started out with the products and brands that we love! One of the things we really missed when we first went into lockdown was going and finding new coffee shops, taprooms, cocktail bars, all those things – so we wanted to build somewhere that people could come and discover new brands and still drink really well without leaving their home.
The craft beer scene has been thriving for a while now and I think that’s opened peoples eyes a bit to drinking well at home, rather than just at the pub or in a coffee shop. There’s also so many amazing drinks producers in the UK that people don’t know about – we’ve even been blown away by how many new brands we’ve discovered since we started Wildsip!
On your website you emphasise the fact that your customers are buying directly from the producers. Why is this important to you, and how does this benefit small brands?
Good question! There’s quite a few reasons actually – I think most importantly from a customer’s perspective is it gives them peace of mind that the products they’re buying are fresh and of the highest quality. Most of the products you find on Wildsip are made using natural ingredients or in some cases are even prepared to order, so you don’t want them sitting around in a warehouse or on a shelf for months before they reach you as they simply won’t taste as good. It benefits small brands as well because it puts the control in their hands – everything that’s listed on Wildsip is listed by the producers, so they choose the products they want to list and how much they want to sell them for, without having to worry about additional markups or extra supply chain costs or anything like that.
Discovery is also a huge part of what you do at Wildsip. Do you think that sites like yours are going to be the next way for people to discover lots of new products, as opposed to supermarkets or farm shops?
Hopefully! I think customers are becoming a lot more savvy nowadays, both in terms of what they’re buying, but also where it’s coming from. People don’t just want great products, they want to know how it’s been made, what’s the story behind the brand and everything in between. That’s what we’re trying to do at Wildsip – helping all these amazing producers tell their story and share their products with people in a way that supermarkets can’t really do. As you said, a huge part of what we do is about discovery and that’s not just about discovering new products, but also discovering who the people are behind the products.
What do you have planned next? Do you have any plans to include other types of food and drink products?
I think the first challenge for marketplaces is always about getting great sellers on board and having a really strong product selection, so that’s really what we’re focused on at the moment. We’ve been lucky enough to get some amazing producers on board so far, but there’s so many more brands out there that we’d love to work with. Beyond that, who knows! I think drinks will be the main focus for a while – we’re really keen to expand some of our smaller ranges outside of alcoholic drinks, such as coffee, kombucha, soft drinks. Our aim is to become people’s go-to place for every kind of drink. We haven’t got any plans to add food yet, but never say never!
If you want to read more interviews with other independent British drinks producers, head here!
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