Founder Focus: Ellie Webb of Caleño
We sat down with Ellie Webb the founder and creator of non-alcoholic drink, Caleño to find out what made her want to try her hand at creating a sophisticated alcohol alternative.
What was your eureka moment?
In 2017, I took part in Dry January for the first time. I remember going on a night out with my friends and quickly becoming bored of sugary and fizzy options like cola! I wanted something more sophisticated, that tasted a little more like my usual choice of a gin & tonic.
I worked in the drinks industry already, so I had an understanding of the spirit making process. I decided to try and create my own non-alcoholic spirit that I could drink in the evenings and mix with tonic. I started tinkering with botanical ingredients and distillations, working on my recipe for almost 18 months. A trip back to Colombia then gave me all the tropical inspiration I needed for the final flavours. It cemented what I wanted my drink to be about – making “not drinking” fun for everyone, by infusing Caleño with the Latin free-spirit I had grown up with.
What is your elevator pitch?
Caleño is a distilled tropical non-alcoholic ‘free-spirit’, that ditches the idea that “not drinking” has to be dull! Inspired by the colour and vibrancy of South America, Caleño features botanicals such as Inca berry, pineapple, and papaya, as well as other citrus and spice botanicals. Simply serve with tonic, over ice and garnish with an Inca berry.
How did you test your idea?
Every time I worked on the recipe, I would go out and speak to bartenders and bar managers to get honest feedback. I think I spoke to over 100 bars across the time I was developing Caleño. I had a few friendly pubs and bars that were willing to let me come in and trial the product with their customers. This gave me the confidence that the demand was there and reassurance about the quality of the product I had created.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start a business on their own?
Make sure your idea is something that people actually want and that there’s a need for it. It’s so easy to just get carried away and do a load of work, to find that there’s no real demand for your ‘great idea’. Secondly, I’d say it helps if you’re super passionate and excited about your idea. If you’re not, you simply won’t cut through the long nights and the hard work that’s required to get your idea to that next stage. Thirdly; do your research and talk to other people in the industry that you’re looking to start a business in, particularly if it’s an industry that’s new to you. This can help you avoid costly mistakes and put you on the right path.
Do you have a mentor or are you one?
I have a mentor that I speak to weekly. Caleño is my first business, so having a mentor that has run multiple businesses themselves is hugely valuable. They know what mistakes can be made and what to watch out for. I also find, having a mentor, and committing to things, keeps you accountable, focused and on track. I’d love to mentor more in the future and help other young businesses with advice whenever I can.
What’s your plan B?
If at once you don’t succeed, try try, again!
What is the most worthwhile investment that you have made?
Time is the most precious bit of resource you have, but if you invest it wisely it can really pay off. In the beginning, time was all I had, so I made and set aside time to work on my business. Working on it got me excited and made me want to spend more time on it. Now I have to ensure that I use my time carefully and focus on the right things.
What one failure are you glad you experienced?
I think failures can provide huge learning opportunities, so they shouldn’t always be viewed as a negative. My first batch of bottles was a bit of a failure. The labels weren’t perfect, and I was devastated as I’d spent so long getting to that stage. I soon realised that this would be one of many hiccups and you’ve just got to roll with it. At the time it felt like a huge deal, but you just have to find the learning, and know it won’t all work perfectly the first time around.
What is coming up for Caleño?
We’ve got some exciting summer plans in the pipeline. Our mission is very much to make ‘not drinking more joyful’ so all of our activities will centre around this idea. We’ve also got some exciting NPD to launch later this year, and you’ll start to see Caleño popping up in loads more pubs and bars across the UK.
What book would you recommend that everyone reads and why?
Not so much a book, but I’d recommend everyone listens to business podcasts or read books about how other people have built their business. In the beginning, I listened daily to people who built their business from seemingly nothing and made a great success of it. I personally found this really inspiring and it gave me the confidence to pursue my own dreams.
How do you find balance in your daily life?
No matter how busy I am, I always find time to do the stuff that keeps me grounded. Things like getting outside, taking my dog for a walk and cooking/experimenting in the kitchen, are all great at helping me take some time away from the business and giving me a fresh perspective.