Guy Hobson, his brother Matt and good friend Luke McBride have developed a very special drinks brand with a focus on conservation – Native Hard Sparkling.
As they were creating the brand, they noticed alcoholic seltzers were taking off in America, which aligned nicely with their mission – natural, locally sourced ingredients, low in sugar, which had the side benefit of reducing hangovers. They brought the idea to New Zealand, creating Native Hard Sparkling, while adding a Kiwi twist with flavours like Feijoa and Kiwifruit.
Native by name, native by nature – the company partners with conservation groups, so their customers are protecting native species and trees with every can purchased.
The Native team are also ‘digital natives', so Guy says “Getting software to do the heavy lifting came naturally.”
What surprised him, however, was just how quickly Upstock transformed their workflow.
“When our A-tier clients started coming on to Upstock, their orders arrived directly in the app, ready to fulfill. Straight away that eliminated 20-30% of the time we were spending on orders. With Upstock there’s less communication about orders, more time building relationships.”
Guy says within three weeks of using Upstock they realised they were able to cut back the equivalent of one full-time worker. That gave them the capacity to shift their efforts from order admin to sales, providing the opportunity to start their expansion into Asia-Pacific much sooner than planned.
“Exporting is a big avenue for us at the moment. Using Upstock has given me the capacity to focus on taking our brand into Asia-Pacific."
Customer acquisition and brand recognition have also grown, thanks to having their product available in the Upstock sample store. Every month, Guy reports, this leads to significant new customer growth.
“It gives us a steady stream of warm leads. We don’t have to go looking for them, instead they come looking for us!”
More from our chat with Guy Hobson:
You’re a young team made up of a friend and your siblings, where do you get your entrepreneurial spirit?
When it comes to my family, I think growing up on a farm in the Manawatu gave us the space to think more clearly and be creative. There aren't too many things to entertain yourself with besides what's in front of you and in your own mind. Seeing Mum & Dad run the farm and having no real push to get going every single day, other than themselves, was quite empowering. No matter if it was Monday, or Sunday, or Saturday, they were always doing something and just had that love and passion for what they were doing – being your own boss and essentially creating your own destiny.
What do you love most about your business?
Short term and long term impact Native will have as we continue to grow in size and presence. Our vision is to have an umbrella of products sitting under Native that are made with ethics and sustainability at the front of mind and that go further than just driving for pure profitability. We see business as the fastest vehicle to support positive change for the environment and making it as simple as possible is key with human behaviour change a slow process. Asking people to make better choices around their habits can support habitats if they are choosing the right brands.
How would you describe your operation?
Startup transitioning to high-growth. We cover a broad range of tasks, from procurement of fruit ingredients and packaging to manufacturing with contracting partners’ and wholesale B2B and direct sales B2C.
How would you describe your Native Hard Sparkling drinkers?
Conscious consumers looking to be able to enjoy themselves with friends, yet still make better choices when it comes to alcohol and brands.
How has Upstock improved life for your team?
It’s saved so much time. It also lessens error rates and order disputes, because the client is the one who placed the order, not the internal team.
How has your team taken to using Upstock?
As a team, we’ve talked a lot about how Upstock takes on feedback and implements it so quickly. As an early adopter of Upstock, we’ve really liked that we’ve been able to interact with the technical team to be able to improve the interface. We’ve met with them; chatted about different things to implement and within two or three weeks they’ve implemented those changes and that’s been really fascinating to see a company take on so much feedback to improve the service for everyone.
How stressful are things? How do you manage stress?
Personally, once I realised it's not just myself experiencing the ups and downs of business and the feelings of isolation, you realise it's more about how you respond to changes, rather than trying to avoid them in the first place.
Any advice for your younger self?
Build and keep good habits. Consistency is key through both good and bad times.