Meet the co-founders of SEKFORDE
Hi, Tom and Talula, it’s nice to meet you, can you tell us more about the husband and wife team behind the brand Sekforde drinks?
Hi, nice to meet you too. We certainly can, Tom is a lawyer, originally hailing from Scotland who has always been really interested in food and drink. For years he was creating cocktails at home and experimenting with different flavours and techniques. I spent 10 years working in advertising before leaving to focus on Sekforde full time. We’ve been married 8 years this April!
What is the inspiration behind this brand-new concept of natural botanicals mixers for Whiskey, Rum and Gin?
We have always been big whiskey and rum fans and we frequently found ourselves at the pub with friends who would order their gin and tonics and there was all this fanfare around what mixer they had and what garnish, whereas with dark spirits we were only given a choice of neat, ginger beer or cola. We often found that these mixers (which were originally designed as stand-alone soft drinks, not mixers) were in themselves strongly flavoured and tended to mask the flavour of the spirits completely. We were also aware of how sugary they were, so we decided to experiment and see if we could create mixers specifically designed to work with the spirits, delicately balanced and focused on complementing their flavours.
The whiskey mixer’s main botanicals are Sicilian orange, rosemary, gentian and mint. When mixed with a bourbon people have likened it to a refreshing old fashioned cocktail. It also pairs really well with blended whiskies letting their fruitier notes come through.
The rum mixer is centred around lime, mint, sage, rose and cacao bitters. With a lighter rum, it is grassy and fresh, perfect for a hot day. With heavy or aged rums, you get more of the caramel flavours coming through.
A few months after we launched the whiskey and rum mixers we started getting questions about doing a gin mixer. I’ve never been a tonic fan due to the bitter quinine flavor and we also felt there were already enough great tonics on offer. So, if we were going to look at gin we wanted to do something different that acted as a counter point to tonic. Our gin mixer is much fruitier and floral based around rose, raspberry, rosemary and gentian. It pairs particularly well with lighter gins, often more towards floral, herbal and citrus flavour profiles, but we designed it to work across the spectrum, so any of your favourite London Dry gins will work perfectly.
Can you tell us more about your decision to reduce the amount of sugar in your mixers in comparison to other brands?
It wasn't a conscious decision, when we were creating the mixers we just found that we didn’t really need very much sugar and we thought if it didn’t need it from a taste perspective there was no reason to put it in. It was a bit of a surprise when we compared the final products to standard mixers and saw how much lower it was. Sekforde contains around 4g sugar per 100mls and is under 40 calories per bottle. In comparison ginger beer has up to 16g per 100mls, colas around 10g and tonics 8gs. Sekforde is also 100% natural and doesn’t contain any artificial sweeteners which we’re really proud of.
How did you come up with the name for Sekforde?
Sekforde is the name of the street we lived on in East London when we came up with the idea. We were struggling for a name for the business and it was getting to crunch point when someone suggested we name it after the street. The street has a lot of history and quirks, Charles’ Dickens old bank is on Sekforde St at number 18 and a half! It’s very Harry Potter.
What has been the greatest moment for you since launching the natural botanicals mixers?
There have been lots of exciting moments! The first time we ever ordered one in a bar was amazing. Dom, our first employee joining the team was great. Seeing what some of the amazing bars are doing with Sekforde is really exciting. We originally intended them as mixers but lots of bars have been using them to lengthen cocktails as well.
What has been the feedback on the mixers subtler taste to add to Whiskey, Rum and Gin?
It’s been really positive. People enjoy the fact that you are able to taste the spirit alongside the mixer. They are often surprised and impressed that it does live up to this promise. We also have a lot of people who enjoy them as soft drinks. They comment that they are much more delicate and sophisticated vs. standard soft drinks.
When creating your mixers, what trials and errors have you experienced in the process when testing various flavours of mixers?
It was a process of constant refinement and experimentation. Tom had a clear idea of what combinations might work and he started here, we’d invite our friends over and test the recipes on them. We only had one or two clangers but without the experimentation we wouldn't be where we are so it was all part of the process.
Can you share tips on how entrepreneurs like yourselves can get stocked in retails stores as you have done?
You have to be tenacious and not take rejection personally. It’s always worth sending emails but there is no substitute for getting yourself and the product out there. We did door to door cold calling, popping in and chatting to people and asking if they’d like to try the mixers. Trade shows can help too as a way of meeting lots of people at once and getting a good quantity of feedback at once.
What are your top marketing tips, to grow a business that is so niche?
Have a clear idea of who you are speaking to and which channels are most suited to your product. You can save a lot of time by being really focused in the beginning. Also find your advocates and find out who the influencers are in your category. If they like your product it can be a huge boost.
What question do you think every entrepreneur should be asking themselves?
What do I not know and who do I know that may have the answer. There are some things you can’t anticipate but the last 12 months have taught me to ask every question and to think through every aspect. It’s also worth asking yourself why you are doing this. If you are genuinely passionate about what you are doing it makes it easier to keep going and to deal with harder days.
What plans do you have for Sekforde over the next 12 months?
We are focusing on getting Sekforde out there as much as possible, it’s such a new concept, the best way to raise awareness and get people on board is to do tastings and events.
In many ways, what we are ultimately working towards is allowing more and more people to get a greater level of enjoyment out of their drinking experience, making good quality spirits accessible, allowing the craftsmanship that goes into them to be preserved in a high-quality drink that is easy to enjoy anywhere and to make at home.