“Dropbox is central to our business. I don’t know how businesses operated effectively before cloud-based software like it,” Tom Baker, Managing Director, Mr Black Spirits.
For many, there are two major milestones when trying to grow a small business; the first is identifying a gap in the local market and exploiting it, while the second is how you then scale that opportunity – and your business model – to continue that growth overseas.
Tom Baker, co-founder and managing director of Mr Black Spirits certainly made the path to growing a small business look easy!
In 2012, he identified a gap in the Australian drinks market, one that combined the Aussie love of coffee, with the Aussie love of alcohol. It seemed others believed in his vision too, and in 2013, Mr Black Spirits raised 250% of funding making it one of the world’s first spirit brands to launch through crowdfunding.
Today you’ll find them with a distillery on the NSW Central Coast, offices in Sydney, sales staff and distributors across Australia, and more recently, an office in the UK.
Having grown so quickly the thought of coordinating operations, in opposite time zones, could have been daunting – but Tom has taken it all in his stride. We caught up with him to find out his advice for growing a small business, and to hear about the role of Dropbox in helping him co-ordinate the launch of Mr Black Spirit in London, a city 10,500 miles away.
“Our business is constantly fluid,” Tom explains. “We made an early decision that the best way to accommodate our mobile operations was via the cloud. I travel seven months of the year, so really we are a company of nomads. We needed a holistic solution, one that was as fluid as we are which helped us manage the spread of our operation. We chose Dropbox Business because it’s cloud-based, affordable and easy to use.”
For Tom though, it wasn’t just about ensuring anywhere, anytime access for his team. He wanted Mr Black Spirits’ suppliers, stockists and business partners to have real time access to documents, regardless of their location too.
“By utilising the cloud, we can allow access, at various levels, to working documents we want to share with our business partners. This saves a lot of time as they can work directly with us without emailing files back and forward. Dropbox provides a range of permissions controls and we never have to worry about someone seeing something they shouldn’t”.
Whether working with local suppliers, or new contractors in the UK, Tom says: “Part of scaling is ensuring all files, information, references and collateral are centralised. We know where everything is. We don’t run around finding out who has the latest version or whose laptop it might be on.”
While many companies still believe on premise IT is the most secure, efficient or cost-effective method,Tom would disagree. “Dropbox Business works not only in improving collaboration and saving time, but also cost efficiency. We save resources and money and we don’t have to worry about servers or databases.”.
For him, the days of conventional computing are over. “All start-ups are cloud-based, or should be,” he says. His advice for other business owners with the same ambitious goals of Mr Black Spirits is to invest in an agile cloud-based software that can grow with you. “When I think back to when I was starting a business, I wish someone had told me how accessible all of this software is.”
To read more about Mr Black Spirit’s journey from Australian distillery to global coffee liqueur leader, visit their website here.