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Know your principles

  • By Gideon Botha, Founder of BlankBox Coffee
  • 01 Aug 2013

In a saturated market, you need to stand out. Being like everyone else will mean you simply get lost in the crowd. Rather than build a conventional brand that’s just like all the others in the same space, you need think differently. One option you have is to build a brand based on your principles – something that sets you apart.

Take BlankBox for example - there are a hundred and one subscription based coffee vendors out there – but that doesn’t mean there isn’t space for someone new. The main concept behind BlankBox was for it to be a coffee subscription service that was not bound to a single roastery, but rather showcased the best of British coffee: a kind of ‘open-source’ version of other businesses in the market.

Here are some tips we learned on our journey, for creating your own set of unique business principles – the things that will always be important to your business:

Focus on inspiration
For BlankBox, there is a story behind each cup. Customers want to feel that they are supporting someone making an effort and through this effort producing a great quality product. By telling the stories behind your product or service, you give your customers a glimpse into those individuals behind the business – and that’s a great way to build up loyalty and affection.

Don’t worry about the competition
People often ask what happens if subscribers discover their favourite roaster via BlankBox and want to cancel their subscription. For us, the answer is always “go ahead” – we’re happy for people to keep drinking good coffee (and to tell customers will tell the roasters how they found them).

Outsource the expertise 
I am a coffee enthusiast, not an expert – and I suspect the same might be true for a lot of passionate entrepreneurs. Lacking expertise, I decided to have the roasters guide me in which of their coffees would be suitable for my subscriber base. To pretend that I knew better than them would lead to people subscribing to my taste, as opposed to a broad cross section of the coffees on offer in the UK. And, we were 100% open and honest about this with our subscribers too.

Trust your crowd
I rely on word of mouth referrals and online research as much as I do on taste buds. Thankfully the coffee community in the UK is a friendly one – it’s been really easy to ask each roaster during their interview “which other roaster would you be proud of to be featured next to you in BlankBox?” And whoever they mention is next on my list of roasters to meet and (of course!) taste their coffee. So be open, honest, do your research and listen to what the community around you has to say – it works!

Gideon Botha is the founder of BlankBox Coffee.

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