Tim O’Sullivan is a Melbourne-based entrepreneur and the founder of Bae Juice, the hangover remedy founded by millennials for millennials that has taken the FMCG beverage market by storm. We spoke to the creator of the 100 per cent Korean pear juice who saw sales increased by 282 per cent between August and December, without spending a cent on traditional advertising.
- Name: Tim O’Sullivan
- Business name: Bae Juice
- Industry: FMCG – beverages
- Number of employees: 3
- Operating since: 2019
- Location: Melbourne, Victoria
What was your first paid job?
I made burgers at the Royal Children’s Hospital McDonald’s.
What made you get into your current business?
I have always wanted to launch a venue or a product. To be able to trial and error different names and ideas, I find this really enjoyable. Bae Juice really did just pop up for me, but it was something I found relevant to what I was doing, and to some of my behavioural patterns, which included drinking but also caring for my health.
How did you get your very first customer/client?
Luckily for us, and for the launch of our product, I own a café in Essendon, Melbourne. We had heaps of people take an interest in the product, which was visible on the counter, and it began selling reasonably fast. We got to see its potential first-hand and even ask questions or reply to questions from consumers. This really helped in our early stage of building a target audience.
What has been your biggest triumph in business?
Recently, we have hit 50 stores and that was a goal for us. We feel if the product wasn’t attractive or it didn’t help with what we claimed it would, we wouldn’t have gotten to 50 stores. But I think it also proves we’re an up-and-coming start-up.
Conversely, what has been your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?
Our biggest mistake to date was outsourcing things we had the ability to do ourselves. We wasted over $20,000 on marketing companies to deliver our socials and build strategies. Once we took those tasks in-house, we realised that we know what we value and can promote and educate people about our product more effectively than anyone else. Some tasks internally felt too difficult, but we then applied 100 per cent of ourselves to what it was we were capable of doing and learnt along the way also.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
While it’s good to be proactive and excited, a level head is still required to make good decisions for both the business and sometimes yourself. It taught me to take a step back and really think about the business, the paths it’s on, scaling up etc. I’m glad I’ve had my parents making sure I don’t jump into making big calls, and I constantly learn from other business owners. I know it’s not all going to happen overnight, and that to be successful is a crawl, not a sprint.
If you could change one thing to make life easier as a business owner, what would it be and why?
I think time is always tricky. I would love to have more time in a day to help achieve that life balance for me. I own a café, am in a long-term relationship, and I am really driven to give Bae Juice the best possible chance at success, while making sure to spend time with my friends and family. It’s difficult and it’s something I constantly work on, but more time in a day would really help.
Who do you look up to in business and why?
My dad Peter is someone I have always looked up to. He started low in a company and ended up selling it as an owner, so he’s a great example of the value of hard work and especially honesty. I run all things by him and we run the café together, which started as a 30-seat venue and now numbers over 150. I feel lucky to see first-hand that hard work really does pay off.
I also do follow some great business owners and I tend to just take bits and pieces from each person.
What do you do to get away from work?
I honestly play some FIFA in my down time, which allows me to not think about coffee or Bae Juice, and to unwind. My girlfriend and I love movies, so we’re usually up late after the day’s done watching the latest ones.
What is the best thing you have ever spent money on in your business (and why)?
LOTS OF STOCK. It’s been 12 months since we have had to re-order another shipment, but it goes unnoticed sometimes that having that stock has enabled us to sponsor events, do giveaways, online sales, retail sales etc, and that has driven our business and given us the opportunity to grow.
We were originally going to order 5,000–10,000, but we went for 50,000, so we gave ourselves every opportunity to get this into people’s hands to try and sell as many as we could, and to invest back into the business and our next order (which we have placed!).
Name a little-known fact about yourself.
I was actually expelled from school. Life is all about experiences and that sure was a challenging one.
What is the funniest experience or encounter you have had in business?
There were a lot of funny/stressful moments in South Korea when we were preparing the licences to export the pear juice back to Melbourne. At one point, we realised we spent two weeks trying to arrange a last-minute export licence for our local supplier, only to realise they had one the whole time — the language barrier meant they didn’t realise that’s what we were asking for.
We still sometimes look at each other and laugh that we managed to bring 7,500 kg of Korean pear juice from South Korea all the way to Melbourne. It was one of the most challenging and stressful moments ever and we still can’t believe that we pulled it off as prior to that we hadn’t even posted a letter!!!
Maja Garaca Djurdjevic is the editor of My Business.
Maja has an extensive career as a journalist across finance, business and market intelligence. Prior to joining Momentum Media, Maja spent several years unravelling social, political and economic intricacies in Eastern Europe.