Jim Cregan – Founder, Jimmy’s Iced Coffee – was inspired to bring iced coffee to supermarket shelves in the UK after a love affair with the drink while living in Australia. I’d never had it before picking up a carton of Farmer’s Union Iced Coffee in a petrol station, but soon after cracking it open, he had a revelation.
When he discovered Farmer’s Union wasn’t available in the UK, he decided to sell his own. After experimenting with recipes in her café in Bournemouth, Jimmy’s Iced Coffee was born and the rest is history.
We spoke with Jim to hear more about what has made his brand a success, and what we can expect from Jimmy’s Iced Coffee in the near future.
Give us a quick rundown of Jimmy’s Ice Coffee: what’s it all about?
We sell different varieties of Iced Coffee in single serve cartons which you can pick up in supermarket fridges and drink on the go or at home.
What do you think makes it different to any other coffee brands?
Our drink is unique because we use very few ingredients. Our stuff is made in England using British milk, we use real coffee and we love what we do. In the iced coffee world, we’re the only major company that is produced in the UK. We don’t take no for an answer and we don’t accept any bullshit. We’re not part of a portfolio; all we do is make quality coffee. Our line is “Keep Your Chin Up” (KYCU) and it’s not a gimmick, we really mean it.
What about you; what’s your background?
My sister and I were born in Dubai where our parents worked at the time. Dubai, when I was growing up, was nothing like it is today, no sprawling skyscrapers just lots of unspoilt desert. I left when I was 18 and came to the UK to study and I’ve only been back a couple of times since.
My dad was in the army in Oman and met my mum in Spain, they’re not massively entrepreneurial but I always wanted to do my own thing. I realised this in Bournemouth, around the time of the beer delivery service, I always had my eye out for any little thing I could do or sell.
How big is the company now and how did it grow?
It was me and my sister Suzie from the concept stage, and we then became a team of three. In the past two years we’ve grown to a crew of 11. Our turnover has gone from £45,000 in year one to an estimated £3 million by the end of this year.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far in building your company?
The toughest day for the business so far was when I received a call from our production company saying that they’d put a stop on production until we started paying back the £250,000 we were in debt. So we were summoned to an emergency meeting and we negotiated new terms. My thinking at the time was ‘just stay positive. At least it isn’t £500,000’ and I knew I would graft to make things work. Sleep became and myth and my dedication was tested, but deep down I always had unwavering faith.
That was the hardest day, but one month on we secured a contract with BP to stock our coffee in their service stations. Three years later, we broke even.
What milestone are you the most proud of?
When we were making our first rap video there was a hive of people in a room all working furiously to set up the next shot. I tapped Suze on the shoulder and said, ‘there are 20 people running around like lunatics so we can make something really stupid and cool’ that was the realisation moment and possibly the most fun we’ve had during the whole process.
Also becoming debt free and hence profitable has been our biggest achievement. Gaining listings with some of the best supermarkets in the U.K. has made this happen.
What’s the next step for growth for the firm? Any long term goals?
In three years’ time, Jimmy’s will be for sale in two territories outside the U.K. and we will have distribution in all the major supermarkets in the U.K. We hope to have expanded the range by then too, watch this space!
In five years’ time I’ll still be smiling, I’ll have all the rust work sorted on my Mercedes estate and we’ll be selling Jimmy’s in at least five other countries globally.
Do you think you’ll look for more funding?
It depends on how much you’re looking for and how long you’ve been trading, but if you need money, I’d go crowd funding, 100%. If you are well under the table with trading, I’d take a look at funding circle. The banks have been completely useless.