Hello! Who are you and what food business did you start?
Jan and I are the founders of the German Startup “BitterLiebe”. We started our business in our hometown Mannheim in February 2018. Meanwhile we have a team of eight employees. Our three products are full of bitter substances which every human body needs to feel better in their everyday life.
The product range includes drops, a powder and a tea. The drops are infused with alcohol, so not everyone is supposed to use them. The other two products can also be consumed by kids. You need to know that our German health claims are very strict. So we are not allowed to say, that “BitterLiebe” will help you “feel better” or that it’s “healthy”.
That is because our products are only supplements to a healthy diet. Everyone should know about the effects of bitter substances.
Between May and December 2018 we made revenues around 200,000 Euro. For 2019 we have increased sales from around three million Euro. In 2020 we are already planning a possible expansion of our product range.
What’s your backstory?
We love this question. Jan and I got to know each other because our girlfriends are sisters. Their mom has the tradition of always giving us a bottle of bitter substances after lunch that tastes very intense and looks pretty old-fashioned. Still, we have noticed the great effect after using it immediately.
Well, our challenge is: Most of us do not like the taste of bitter. Our tongues are not accustomed to bitter because the industry selects it out of food.
So our idea was born: Make bitter great again! We brainstormed a lot and created a product, which tastes fresh and smooth. Our design is young and hip and the product range enables everyone to use it whenever wherever.
You can use the drops or tea as a take-away and use our powder easily as an ingredient for your dinner. For our business it was very helpful to have a background of doctors and alternative practitioners in our family and inner circle of friends.
Take us through the process of developing, testing, and producing your first product.
Over nine months we have developed the formula Jans cellar. Good to have a family and friends who work as doctors or alternative practitioners, they helped us a lot to create our products.
We have mixed alcohol and water and add some herbs. After three weeks we have squeeze them out. This was the beginning. After that we have worked with a producer who helped us to finalize our formula.
Describe the process of launching the bitter business.
We have started to coding our website with WooCommerce by ourselves. After that we have worked together with an agency that is located in Kosovo. They have helped us to optimize our website.
To build our own business we have started with $5,000 Euro from our own capital. We have used every bit of money we made and reinvested it back into the business. Only after three months, we increased our sales to around to $100,000 Euro.
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Simultaneous our first investor the Good Brands AG started to invest in our company. The effect of having a first investor was an advantage right from the start.
We met our investor for a cup of coffee and pitched our start-up. It was a short way because we convinced him very fast. It takes only three month from our first meeting till the appointment with the notary.
Our biggest learning was the basics have to be good – the rest will follow step by step.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
We can highly recommend Shopify! Lower costs, more stability and good plugins. The program e.g. sends retargeting mails to your best customers. If you want to increase your traffic and sales you should use Facebook ads.
When talking about Facebook ads, there is a three-stage funnel (prospecting look alikes, retargeting website customers, dynamic ads with product mention).
We have increased sales by $100,000 Euro in the first three months due to Facebook ads.
We get in touch with our customers via mail and social media ads. Amazon also is a very interesting marketplace for our brand. Many customers are looking for new products or insights there.
Also, the margin compared to the cost per order for Facebook etc. is way better. It is a perfect channel to scale. For us it works perfectly. We can list monthly sales from more than 100.000 Euro on Amazon.
For one year we made the Facebook ads ourselves. Andre has worked in online marketing before and has managed seven-figure sum for Spotted and other companies.
We have a graphic designer and also an Facebook Ad Manager, both work as freelancer. Our costumers are always impressed from the BitterLiebe products. On every comment on Facebook etc. we ask the costumers politely if they want to support us. In many cases this works perfectly.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We have increased our sales and are on a very good way to be established all over Germany. Our vision is to bring bitter back into our everyday life.
We are very thankful for what we do. We will expand our product range during 2020. There is so much more we can do with bitter substances: Maybe producing capsules or use this substances for skin care products.
Related Reading: How to Turn a Home-Brew Kombucha Hobby into a 6-Figure Business
However, these are only vague plans of the future. First of all we focus on our current products and to make “BitterLiebe” well established. Today you can find our products on bitterliebe.de, in drugstores called DM and on HSE24, a teleshopping-channel on German TV.
What lessons have you learned about starting a business?
Products need to be developed constantly. You also have to educate yourself in legal bases. What is about the admissions? Daily doses for our ingredients? How does the ingredients work with each other? And so on.
What tools do you use to run BitterLiebe?
Our daily tool is Trello, a project management tool for working in a very efficient way.
Additionally, we communicate with Slack and work with a cash flow Excel spreadsheet for our finances.
And for sure: We cannot live without our Thermomix!
What has inspired your business?
Advice for other food entrepreneurs?
Here are our tips for Start-up founders:
- Always focus on only one thing and work on your vision with 100% of your passion.
- Look for a co-founder with strengths that you don’t have yourself.
- It does not matter how hopeless your situation seems to be: There is always a way to fix it up.