That moment your product finally gets a coveted spot on supermarket shelves is a massive thrill. For a small but growing company it comes with the daunting expectation you’ll be just as slick as the big operations on the next shelf.
When Wellington’s Waitoa Beer started expanding beyond its local bar in Hataitai and inner-city Victoria Street and onto the shelves of Foodstuffs supermarkets, they knew they needed a tool to make things run smoothly, and importantly make the right impression. Waitoa’s Head of Sales and Distribution James Mobbs says they want to be ‘a beer for everyone' and Upstock’s Foodstuffs integration has given its operation the gravitas and confidence to work with the big players.
“It's truly changed the game for us with supermarkets. We're trying to gain shelf space, we don't want to seem like just another ‘homebrew'. We're trying to become a bigger brewery up and down both islands and we don't want to look like we don’t know what we're doing.”
Before Upstock James and the distribution team were living out of a cumbersome and precarious spreadsheet. But as he takes their friendly local brand to a wider audience of beer lovers, the last thing he and the team needs is to be let down by embarrassing, time-wasting ordering errors.
“Upstock allows us a seat at the table with the supermarkets with ease and confidence, knowing we’re not going to miss an order or invoice, which when you’re starting out can be quite daunting”
Wanting to avoid errors, James had been looking to bring on a new orders and distribution staff member.
“Now with Upstock I haven't needed to. With Upstock I'd say I’ve saved about 10 hours a week”.
James says he couldn't be happier to have repurposed those 10 hours spent driving a spreadsheet into driving sales.
As a former IT specialist James could see Upstock would be beneficial – but when he started using it ‘beneficial’ quickly became ‘transformational’.
“It's one of those things that when it's being sold to you it sounds cool, but when you actually start using it and saving time, money, effort, that's when you realise, 'Oh, Upstock is actually amazing'.”
More from our chat with James:
How would you describe your customers?
Our customers at the moment are locals. So we started with our first site, Waitoa Social Club in Hataitai, where we established 'for the locals by the locals'. And then we're also finding that very much with our new Victoria Street site in the CBD where we are now. So, at the moment, we're bars for locals in the local area, and we're looking for ways to expand to provide to all of New Zealand.
How would you describe your operation?
My operation at the moment is very dynamic. Where you'll get bigger breweries, they'll have a set team for sales, a set team for marketing, a set team for distribution – at the moment, we're still in the early stages where we jump in, when and where needed. It's actually, genuinely, really fun. You get to see all the different aspects as we grow larger, put bigger processes in place and streamline it. And you don't really have a boring day, which is quite nice.
Before Upstock how did you manage wholesale orders?
Before Upstock. It was literally an Excel spreadsheet. So an order would come through to my email inbox, I'd receive it, put it into an Excel spreadsheet, then have a tab that would either say ‘ordered’, ‘fulfilled’, ‘actioned’, ‘invoiced’. So it was very manual, very granular. And as we started getting increased orders, it became very hard to manage, ...like very, very hard to manage. Because it's wholesale and distribution, doing that full performance process is actually quite difficult as you grow. So living out of an Excel spreadsheet wasn't ideal.
In what ways have you seen your business grow thanks to Upstock?
We've had a few organic customers that have come through Upstock, just by being listed in the directory. People who might not have heard of us before have actually ordered cold, after seeing our products there. We haven't reached out to them in any way, shape, or form. We’ve got about half a dozen new customers that way and it’s helped us break into a new market, selling directly to restaurants, which is awesome.
What do you love most about your job?
Coming from an IT background, it was always in an office, always very corporate; you wore a suit, you wore a tie, you had to talk a certain way. Whereas now, moving into the hospo world of sales and distribution, the people I get to meet are amazing. You can actually be yourself, like I'm wearing shorts and a T-shirt at the moment, and I'm at work. And then there's that social aspect, with it still being new to me and being a challenge. Especially as a growing company, we have all the teething issues, like when we first started supplying beer to supermarkets, I never even knew you had to have a packing slip! It's just the small things like that, where you get the daily challenges which are small, but once you overcome them, you can actually see what you're doing each day, which is nice.