Table of contents
- Bae Juice
- Founders - Tim O’Sullivan, Sumin Do & Liam Gostencnik
- Based in Ascot Vale, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
- Started in 2018
- 3 founder, 3 employees
We caught up with Tim, the founder of Bae Juice. You won't get a much more honest, authentic and bloody brilliant story than this. Think Korea, pear juice, hangovers, pandemic and throw in a lovable Aussie larrikin, and you've got a blazing story.
Tim, what's your backstory?
I was brought up in Melbourne and have lived there my whole life. I had a great childhood, was naughty at school and never even considered studying after high school, to be honest.
For year I just went with the flow, had fun, partied lots, did some travel, and it wasn't until 2015 I found my calling, which was in hospitality.
I went in with my family, and we now own a cafe called Benny & Me in Essendon. We started with 30 seats and now have a capacity for over 120. It’s been a fun and exciting journey and gave me confidence in my business journey and myself as an adult.
Tell us what your company does?
I guess our company exists to rid the world of nasty hangovers. Our product Bae Juice is 100% Korean pear juice. Bae Juice has an enzyme inside that speeds up your alcohol metabolism, resulting in less of a hangover when consumed before alcohol.
In my eyes, everyone loves to drink, socialise and have fun; however, we hate suffering the consequences of overindulging. We’re confident waking up a bit fresher can open the door to a whole new day!
How did you come up with the idea?
I was travelling in South Korea with my business partner Sumin visiting her family and friends. We had weeks of drinking and partying, and now and then, one of Sumin’s friends would hand me a Korean pear juice saying, duhhhh, didn’t you know Korean pear helps your hangover???
I was fascinated. I was waking up with a less cloudy head and was sold on the concept of repackaging and offering it to the Australian market.
How did you go about launching and building the business?
This part was pretty crazy looking back on it. We did some sampling with Korean packaged Korean pear juice to different demographics in Australia.
Everyone loved the product and had great feedback when it came to reducing hangovers. Sumin and I took a massive leap of faith and went to South Korea to find a supplier. We had no plan and no meetings.
In the first few days, with Sumin’s dad hustling some meetings, we met outside of Seoul with the largest supplier of Korean pears in South Korea. We rolled in, we both have lots of tattoos, wearing shorts and t-shirts (very unprofessional). We were 24 years old.
We told the supplier we want to bring this to Australia; saying it’s the perfect concept for Aussie's.
We gave the supplier some stats on the drinking culture and the retail opportunities in Australia, and they said, “Cool, sounds interesting, let’s tour the facility and show you how it’s made.” And that was it, the start of something amazing.
We went back to Australia, worked with an amazing graphic designer Maddi Sheehan and built a brand and a website. We set up the company and launched the product in Jan 2019.
How have you grown the business?
The journey has been a roller coaster. The first 12 months we gave out around 10,000 samples. We were exploring ideas; we had no marketing strategy or anything. We got into a few cafes and independent grocers. It wasn’t until 2020 we got into about 50 stores. That then grew to 100. We scored a trial with 15 Dan Murphys and started to gain some real momentum.
We had massive PR in the Daily Mail, News.com, Broadsheet and Urbanlist, and we started getting our brand on people's radar.
The real life-changer hit in October 2020 when we landed a full range at 987 Woolworths stores in Australia. We celebrated pretty damn hard for this one.
We were officially no longer a concept or an idea; we were now in 1000 stores nationwide. So we went from 100 stores in October last year, fast forward to today and we’re in just about 2000 stores.
Marketing wise we've always been a busy brand. We throw the kitchen sink at everything! We sponsor podcasts, events, F3 drivers, fashion shows and even small gigs to support local Australian bands and artists.
I believe our brand is really out there, and we're taking risks, but not crazy ones. Getting Bae Juice out there has really opened up lots of opportunities for us.
What’s your biggest selling product?
We have one product! And a few ideas on the way, watch this space!
What have been some of your biggest failures along the way?
Geez we've had a few. We ran out of stock in October last year, when we were really starting to take off. We couldn’t get any stock into the country. We hadn’t forecasted or prepared well enough. To be fair, it was peak COVID; however, we couldn’t fulfil online orders.
Cafe’s and bottle shops were asking for more stock, and we just couldn’t supply it. It was insanely stressful and something we'd never allow to happen again. We now have backup stock, some being manufactured currently and some on the way!
So a big learning curve, and it was extremely frustrating losing sales and new opportunities. It’s not an easy fix as cash flow comes into play, turnaround times and other issues. Owning a product and importing it is no easy task.
What day to day digital tools do you use?
Always on Zoom.
We use Klaviyo for our email marketing.
I live on Instagram (I guess Facebook goes with this too)
Am just about to utilise YouTube with some more behind the scenes content of our company.
Plenty of Excel, which is not my department, I can barely change the colour of the cells, but my fellow founder Liams a jet.
What book has been a great inspiration to you as a founder?
I don’t read, ever! I scroll Linkedin and read business-related content online, but that's about it. I get lots of great information online.
I don’t love people complaining about screen time. I gather so many ideas and information from Instagram, like new menu ideas for the cafe, new content for Bae Juice and finding cool places to go out with my friends.
I don’t listen to podcasts, occasionally Funny Business, as the boys are good friends and the most authentic people on the planet. But I can’t sit still, so I struggle with all the above!
What quotes do you live by?
“Could Be Worse”
I have this tattooed on me.
It helps during those high-stress moments when you think the world is ending, but you just exited an email you were writing.
What do you do to look after your mental health as a founder?
Have fun, blow off steam. Everyone is different. I understand people run 10km. I’d rather have ten beers with my closest friends and tune out from the business world I’m in.
In a few words what does it mean to be the founder of a business?
" It’s rewarding. Not many people are cut out for it. Let’s be honest, wearing ten different hats, the stress and the seven days a week. It’s tough shit, but it makes me more pumped that I can do this, and I’m born for it."
What are the biggest pieces of advice you’d give to other founders?
My theory of our rapid growth over 12 months comes down to this: An amazing opportunity comes up for the brand. It’s going to cost us $4,000, and we only have $1,200. Most would say sorry we can’t do it, but for the last three years, we have reached into our pockets and taken more shifts to fund the businesses growth.
We get the $2,800. We do the campaign, see sales spike and the brand awareness was huge. All worth it! I’ve borrowed $10,000 from my dad because we needed to market the business as our sales weren’t increasing and we were behind on bills.
So I question some founders I speak to. Most of them, are they really all in? Or are they just waiting for the company to blow up and reach goals on its own? This is what it takes to build a brand and a company, making shit happen.
"This is what it takes to build a brand and a company, making shit happen."