​The Entrepreneur-spiration Series: Talking Double Dutch

As the first in our Entrepreneur-spiration series, we are excited to share the inspiring story of entrepreneur duo, Joyce & Raissa de Haas; Co-Founders of award winning new premium mixer brand Double Dutch.

Meet Joyce & Raissa. 

No you are not seeing double, they are indeed twins, and these two are taking the premium mixer market by storm with the launch of their delicious, low calorie drinks and unique brand philosophy. 

Joyce & Raissa de Haas

Premium mixers with a twist

Using food pairing techniques, Double Dutch mixers bring natural ingredients and innovative flavour combinations together in a way that compliments and enhances premium spirits. They are light, refreshing and the original flavour combinations such as Cucumber and Watermelon, and Pomegranate and Basil are mouth-wateringly good. 

To be enjoyed either on their own as a soft drink, or to enhance the high quality of gins or vodkas, the Double Dutch range makes an innovative alternative to the majority of soft drinks available on a night out. Which is one of the reasons why Double Dutch is stocked in staggering array of top end bars and restaurants across London and the UK - the Novikov, The Dorchester & Galvin at Windows - to name but a few. 

So what is their secret? I went to meet Joyce & Raissa to find out more about the Double Dutch brand and to see if they would share their recipe for entrepreneur success.

Let’s start at the beginning

Originally from the Netherlands, Joyce and Raissa moved to London at the end of 2013 to do a masters in Technology Entrepreneurship at UCL. Having finishing their studies the twins originally chose a career in banking, but they quickly realised that the path that everyone else was taking was not the right path for them.

“We used to make our own soft drinks back in the Netherlands when we were at university, and had a deal with our uni mates that they would buy the spirits and we would bring the soft drinks. We used to make them in our kitchen using different flavours and ingredients and bottle them using soda stream. It was then we realised there was a gap in the market…”

At UCL, the course enabled them to develop a startup idea they were passionate about, and it was during this time the Double Dutch drinks concept was born. Joyce & Raissa won the UCL Bright Ideas award for Start-Up with the Most Potential, giving them the initial investment and network of contacts to to start turn their idea into to reality.

Graduating from UCL at the end of 2014, and with the support of the award and grant, the Double Dutch team moved straight into product development, production and fearlessly going after the customers they wanted for the brand. 

“We made a list of 50 high end restaurants and bars that we wanted to target to get Double Dutch sold in. We found people on LinkedIn and Facebook, called, emailed and chased them until we could get a meeting to go and see them. Our first customer was the Novikov, and once we had one, then we started getting introduced to other bar managers and restaurant managers through their networks, and that’s really how it started.” 

Not only is the brand growing in the UK, but they are exporting across Europe, and beyond; 2015 has been a huge year for the brand. After winning the Virgin 2015 Foodpreneur Festival award and having the opportunity to pitch to US retail giant Target where they won the listing; they are now poised to crack the US and Australia markets in 2016. A phenomenal amount of success for a brand that is only just over a year old.

Richard Branson

But the twins are only just getting started. When asked what the future hold for Double Dutch, they turn and look at each other with a wry smile.

“World domination - just kidding!”

“We are focused on the mixer market as we know there is a big gap in the here in the UK and across the world and so this is our main priority for 2016. We are working to develop new flavours for 2016 and also a brand new premium mixer specifically for the darker spirits market - such as Rum and Whiskey, using our unique food pairing techniques. We will also focus on growing our international markets as we start to ship to Target and sell in the US & Australia.”

In a whirlwind year, Joyce and Raissa are definitely taking their success in their stride. The twins are the face of the brand and are tirelessly working to realise their vision for it. Their marketing plans largely centre on events where they can get the product into the hands of their bar & restaurant customers, and partnering with premium Gin brands has been a successful way to gain traction as a relatively new brand on the market. 

Double Dutch

As well as events, they use social media and have a great approach to connecting with their fans - sharing elements of their day to day business, customer successes, and the odd selfie now and then. Joyce & Riassa represent so much of the story behind the Double Dutch brand, that they are a perfect paring alongside the high quality product to really cut through with the brand and stand out in the quite dated and male dominated drinks industry.

What has their journey so far taught them?

They laugh….

“Loads! That everything takes so much longer than you think it does. When we first got the Bright Ideas Award grant through it was September and we thought we would be able to launch in the November, which became February the following year once we realised everything we needed to do and how long it would take.”
“That you can never be prepared enough. When we were first selling into our very first customers we were in informal situations with bar managers, just trying drinks. Target was such a different experience and we asked loads of advice from everyone we knew - retailers, people already with products listed in Target, the Virgin Team, other entrepreneurs, our investors - the whole experience means that now we are more prepared and more focused.”
“That standing out is a good thing. Being women in quite often a male dominated environment means we stand out as different and represent new change in the industry. This is a big advantage and makes our brand memorable.”
Double Dutch
“Finally, you need to have a very honest relationship if you are going to go into business with someone. You need to be able to say anything! That's why working with family is good - we have disagreements, but we can say anything.”

As their entrepreneur journey to date has been stellar and the inspiring pair have the makings of another fantastic year of growth ahead in 2016, I asked Joyce and Raissa to share their advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs and start ups, by asking what they would say to their 10 year old self if they met them today.

“Firstly, don’t take the path that you think you should, take the path you want - do what ever you want, don’t do what everyone else is doing or what you think is expected of you.”
“Starting a business after uni is a really good time as you don’t have the commitments you have later in life. When you have been working in a career for a number of years, it seems a much more daunting thing to do to quit your job and start anew. After uni, you have nothing to lose so its a great time to give it a go.” 
“Recognise what you are not good in, and where you need to ask for help from others.”

And finally, with a smile …

“Go to London earlier and enjoy it!”

A huge thanks to Joyce & Raissa for being the first in our Entrepreneur-spiration series, and for sharing their amazing story, which was also featured in The Times this week. We look forwards to seeing lots more Double Dutch success in 2016 and beyond.

To learn more about the Double Dutch brand visit doubledutchdrinks.com . 

Welcome to the Entrepreneur-spiration Series: We love a real life entrepreneur story, so each month we will be sharing stories, tips and advice from real life entrepreneurs, who are working hard to grow their business; to inspire you, and show you - you are not alone!

Written by Lesley Stonier, Founder & Director of We Mean Business, London | Marketing Consultancy . We support entrepreneurial individuals and women in business with their marketing needs. If you need help with marketing or you know someone who does, come and say hello.