SOAK Shakes & Co. is a London-based start-up that produces delicious, dairy-free cashew shakes, handmade in small batches using fresh, high-quality ingredients. Like with many new products these days, we first got a taste of it on social media. The SOAK Girls, Roxy Vickerman and Emma Knock, have done a wonderful job sharing their journey on Instagram. Roxy and Emma are both kick-ass entrepreneurs, both under 30 years old and both infectiously passionate about running their own business. We had a million of questions to ask, but we narrowed them down, so if you’re thinking of starting a new business, this is the best place to get inspired!
Hey both, can you introduce yourselves?
EK: Hey, I’m Emma and I’m one of the co-founders of SOAK Shakes & Co., a social enterprise based in London that produces fresh, dairy-free cashew shakes. During the week, I’m a copywriter for Viator, a TripAdvisor company, and, in the evenings and on weekends, you’ll find me tinkering in the kitchen, making shakes, tweaking recipes and dreaming up new flavours.
RV: Hi, I’m Roxy, the other half of SOAK. I look after the commercial and business development side of things, and I’m Emma’s right-hand woman in the kitchen. Also still juggling employment, however, I’m currently transitioning from a 10-year career in advertising/marketing to being in SOAK full time.
Can you tell us about the process you took in setting up SOAK Shakes & Co.?
The idea for SOAK stemmed from a trip to Thailand, where we were taught how to make coconut milk by a local called Mina. When we returned to London, we couldn’t find fresh coconut milk anywhere — or nut milk with a percentage higher than a couple of percent — so we started making our own.
We then began experimenting with cashew milk, which we now use as the base for our shakes. Once we had the idea to start producing our shakes commercially, we set to work on our business plan and model. Companies like TOMS, Rubies in the Rubble and FEED hugely influenced us and helped us forge Shake for Life®, the social purpose that underpins our business: Every shake sold contributes to the conservation of elephant and rhino in Kenya. We chose to work with Lewa Wildlife Conservancy to realise this, after discovering them through National Geographic photographer Ami Vitale’s Instagram. We were in awe of the work they were already doing and instantly knew we wanted to be a part of it.
After roughly 14 months of recipe development and speaking to as many people as we could — from our business consultant David Franks to the awesome people at Virgin StartUp — we officially launched SOAK in September of this year.
How did you go about getting to know your customers?
We first introduced our shakes to the good people of London at Cabbages and Frocks market in Marylebone. We must have sampled hundreds of people and we were really thrilled with the feedback we got.
Since then, we’ve been in and out of London delis and workspaces, introducing SOAK and sampling our shakes. This is how we landed our first stockist, Ben’s House in Fitzrovia. Some of our other stockists actually found us through our social media channels and got in touch directly.
How do you make SOAK Shakes & Co. different from other drink and alternative milk brands?
We’re offering a complete range of fresh cashew milk–based shakes. Beyond our handmade cashew milk, we produce a range of unique flavours (Strawberry + Mint, Peanut Butter + Banana, Cacao + Chilli and Cold Brew Coffee) that aim to give consumers a better option.
We believe our collective food choices have the power to change the world, and by giving people a delicious alternative to the usual dairy and sugar-loaded drinks on the market, we aim to offer the most sustainable drink choice possible. Beyond the actual product, the values that define our company are what make us different.
Then we can look back and say “hey, sometimes we didn’t take the easiest route, but it’s one we’re proud of”. It’s also our responsibility as independent producers to challenge packaging suppliers for ethical and recyclable options for products like ours. If the demand is there from other food producers, too, the supply will come.
Have you tested street food festivals and markets? What are you experiences and can you share a piece of advice?
If at all possible, check out the market or venue in advance. That way you can get a feel for how much product you need. We had no idea how many shakes we should produce for our market debut and we ended up wasting hours making three times the amount of shakes we actually needed.
As entrepreneurs and as young women, do you find it difficult to balance personal and professional lives?
EK: Between SOAK, working full time, my personal life and being a mother to my 9-year-old staffy, it’s safe to say I’m juggling quite a lot right now. I’ve also recently started an online nutrition course, because I’m not quite busy enough. Haha! In all seriousness though, it is tough, but I do my best to manage my time so I know when I’m in business mode and when it’s time for me to chill out.
RV: Yes, it’s never a clear balance. More akin to finding a life- blend that you’re comfortable and happy with. I’ve found that I’ve needed to really prioritise my time this past year or so. You need to be a bit ruthless, otherwise things can be overwhelming when you start the week and every day and night is full. Now, Monday nights and Saturdays are generally kept free for selfish reasons, and gives me the option to make those days as busy or as chilled as I would like them to be.