How I did it #1
When Robyn Simms launched Square Root Soda, she had an inkling it could become something big. What would it take to get it there?
Square Root Soda
In 2012, when Robyn Simms was pulling pints at the Euston Tap in London, she never imagined that in seven years she’d be in charge of her own craft drinks business, employing 20 staff and selling sodas across the world.
Yet she always knew that Square Root Soda, her soft drink brand, could be onto something big. ‘We were looking to craft beer for inspiration,’ she explains. ‘Then gin started happening, then artisan bakeries and coffee. This was the same thing.’
Square Root Soda sold the first of its small batch fizzy drinks at a market stall in 2012, manned by Simms and her partner Ed Taylor, who was working for east London brewery Howling Hops at the time. Within six months, Square Root had secured a spot with street-food market operator Kerb and Simms had packed in her bar job.
The founders were also trying to figure out where else they could sell their drinks in winter, when market footfall tends to dwindle. The solution was one only a scrappy startup could get away with. They asked around their contact book of Hackney breweries for help bottling up their sodas. In the end, Five Points Brewing Company lent them their kit for a weekend, while nearby Pressure Drop offered to store their first run of 2,000 bottles.
Square Root’s original mission feels modest for a brand that is now known up and down the UK, but its early goal of becoming ‘the craft soft drink of choice for London independent businesses’, as Simms puts it, was by no means easy.
From scoring its first ever indie stockist (east London’s E5 Bakehouse) to getting in with the Tate galleries in 2014, order numbers kept rising. But Simms and Taylor barely had time to take stock of their progress, working hand-to-mouth while running the business as a two-man operation and manufacturing by hand.
‘We were still doing markets and events to bring money in immediately,’ Simms says, explaining that any proceeds went straight into making drinks for wholesale customers, who don’t make upfront payments. ‘It was a seven-day-a-
By 2015, the pair were beginning to feel increasingly burnt out and decided to bring on board their first member of staff. It was a significant moment: not only did it take the pressure off, Simms says it also lets them see how far Square Root had come.
‘We’d achieved [our mission of being in all of London’s independents] a while ago,’ she reflects, and now it was time for their goal to stretch beyond the capital. Today, Square Root aims to be available on every street in the UK and beyond
Simms says even the smallest businesses will benefit from ambitious growth goals. ‘Having a clear mission you can refer back to is really helpful – that’s what’s really helped us [with all our decisions] this year.’
It’s been a whirlwind year. In the space of six months, Square Root has rebranded, built a new warehouse facility from scratch, allowing it to produce 17 times as much soda, and opened a bar at Kerb’s indoor market in Covent Garden. What’s next? ‘A very long nap,’ Simms says.