This weekend marked the official 2nd birthday of UpCircle. We spent the weekend returning for the third time to The London Coffee Festival. The Coffee Festival is a special one for us as it is the first show we ever did. Two years ago we pitched up at the Innovation Zone with a few hundred units of our scrubs, nervous to see if there would be any interest in our vision for our brand new brand. We sold out on the first day and have never looked back…
What brings us such pride is looking back to see how far we have come between the three experiences at the show, from day zero, to year one to year two. We thought it would be fun to take a look back at our growth through our snapshots from each year!
It feels crazy to think that this was only two years ago. We had our pricing printed on A4 sheets of paper (!) and just a few hundred of each scrub which William had mixed, labelled and filled during the couple of days prior to the show.
I (Anna) was still working my previous job at this point, based on the south coast, I distinctly remember leaving work on the Friday and driving straight to the late night session at the coffee festival!
Things certainly aren't any less frantic these days however!
Our original branding under 'Optiat' was based on a couple of sketches that William and I did. To say that it was simple is an understatement... It was a coffee bean with arrows encircling it! To be fair, it represented the product that it described pretty well, but is definitely a long way from where the brand has now journeyed to - We like to think we are a little more refined nowadays! That said, we still keep some of the motifs now that we were exploring at the very start. For example, the line breaks in the "O" of Optiat in our brand logo still alludes to the two halves of a coffee bean, it's just not quite so... obvious!
After that first crazy weekend, we made further amendments to our initial branding, deciding to call this range the "Almost Edible" collection. This was based entirely on the feedback that we got at the London Coffee Festival, with many show-goers saying "That smells good enough to eat" - a comment that we still get frequently with our current range!
Soon after we became more and more convinced that the tin format was not what we wanted to move forward with, and by the time we returned to the London Coffee Festival the following year, the tins were nowhere to be seen! The user experience with a tin was not much better than the user experience of a scrub in a paper bag, which is the format that most coffee scrubs on the market come in. We found that you still have the same issue of the water from the shower running into the tin and making it too wet. Using your hands also means that you end up using much more scrub than you need and therefore the product runs out much faster.
By the time we got around to exhibiting again, our "For The Love Of Scrub" range was born! This was a real break away from what we had been doing previously, a total change of image - not just the scrubs themselves - we smartened up our act and are even wearing branded T-Shirts!!
We separated out the scents of the scrubs to have one essential oil per flavour and added an additional variant to the range as well as offering two sizes. We transformed the texture of our scrubs to be more mousse-like, allowing it to be squeezed from a tube - far more suitable for purpose!
We were still located at a tiny pitch in the Innovation Zone of the festival, cramming as many boxes of scrub as we could fit under our wooden pitch! Again, we were overwhelmed by the response and sold out before we even got to the weekend days of the festival. I suppose having something to offer other than drinking coffee works in our favour at The London Coffee Festival as we remain relevant to the coffee theme but take it in a different direction. Our poor Dad, who we jokingly refer to as UpCircle's "Head Of Logistics", had to act fast and drive a load more stock over to us!
We were keen to not be known simply as a coffee scrub company and so new product development has always been something that we try to push forward with. In July 2018, we were extremely excited to debut our new facial serum. This was one of the first products launching with our new UpCircle 'Small Batch' concept. From this point forward, whenever we plan to release a new product we will be releasing just a few hundred units to start. The idea is that we sell the initial small batch products to get feedback, if they are popular we will release them in full a little further down the line.
The facial serum was a huge success and has now been released to be purchased from our stockists or from our online shop. Having four completely different sets of products to show was a massive advancement from last April when we just had our scrubs. Thank goodness we were out of the Innovation Zone and housed in a much bigger stand! Next year we will most certainly have our long-awaited chai soap blocks to speak about too, but not even we can say for sure quite what London Coffee Festival 2019 will look like for UpCircle.
What I will say is that we are making even more changes to our scrub range which we can't wait to show you. The changes are not quite as dramatic as the previous steps, but we are definitely moving the "For The Love of Scrub" range forward from where it is now.
As always, we want to say a huge thank you to everyone who came to see us this year at the festival, we had such a great time! Our next show is Balance Festival from the 11th - 13th May so we look forward to hopefully seeing you there!