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Inspirational Female Founder Spotlight: Raissa de Haas

Raissa de Haas is the co-founder of Double Dutch, an award-winning premium tonic and mixer brand, which she launched with her twin sister, Joyce, in 2015.

Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?

Double Dutch was born from a joint dissertation with my twin, Joyce, as part of our masters at University College London.

Upon submitting our thesis, we were lucky enough to win the UCL Bright Ideas award with which we won some initial prize money to fund the creation of our first production lines and a year of free London office space. Soon after Richard Branson awarded us most Innovative Food & Beverage brand under the Foodpreneur award, which helped launch the brand.

Double Dutch is now a multi-award-winning brand with 13 flavours stocked in 45+ countries.

How did the idea come to you for the company?

The inspiration for Double Dutch was ingrained in us from an early age, with our Dutch heritage being the source of our knowledge and eye for good flavour. The Netherlands is home of gin!

Being exposed to high-quality spirits throughout our formative professional years meant we understood mixers and tonics – it also made us notice the room for opportunity within the market.

We decided to make it a reality with a mission to create mixers that were more exciting than what was available on the market, using unexpected flavour pairings without compromising on the overall sugar content and calorie count. Full of flavour without compromise.

How did you achieve awareness?

We started our business by focussing on sales first and honing in on a niche segment, targeting 5* hotels, bars and restaurants in just Mayfair. After we had built a base of distribution and availability, we invested in our first tradeshows and began to grow our consumer market, using a social-first strategy to increase brand awareness and keep the brand front of mind.

Entering a sector we had no prior experience in meant we needed to build up our network from scratch. We achieved awareness through approaching people on LinkedIn and networking, which ultimately helped us secure key investment, including the attention of Ewan Venters, former CEO of Fortnum & Mason, and current CEO of Hauser & Wirth and Artfarm.

How have you been able to gain funding and grow?

We’ve always raised investment through private strategic individuals and family offices. At the beginning, through LinkedIn outreach and lots of face-to-face networking.

We’ve raised from customers and prospects in hospitality as well as cross-category industry experts. Three years ago we managed to secure funding from our top tier target – the Heineken family. Through a lot of determination, we have worked hard to get the attention of these key investors and now have more than 15 F&B and hospitality industry experts on-board.

Every one of our investors have been instrumental to our journey so far through strategic input. Their support has also led to further investment and played a big role in securing listings within top tier targets. 

What are the key successes?

One of the real pinch-me moments was getting the backing of the Heineken family. As well as providing the financial support to help us realise our ambitions, it also cemented the real potential of our business and was proof point for others.

The growth of Double Dutch has been great and we are now a staple brand in some of the best hospitality venues globally, including securing the coveted position as tonic partner for Soho House UK & Europe.

What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?

One of the biggest challenges initially was having limited industry contacts, and going up against the large beverage brands meant we really needed to make sure our brand stood out. By focusing on growing our network and nurturing relationships, this eventually led to securing the backing of key players to propel our growth further.

There have also been product launches that haven’t gone as planned, but there is always that risk in business. I strongly believe the failures are just as important as the wins in business.

What are your plans now/for the future?

After securing £4m investment over the last few years, we will be using this to reach our target of tripling revenue growth by 2026!

Our main focus is on strengthening the Double Dutch name in the UK, to then drive deeper distribution in other key markets, like Benelux (already our secondary home market). We have also made a strategic hire to help us enter the UAE market due its all-year-round no/low opportunities, plus partnerships to support with entry into the APAC region.

Innovation will continue to remain key for us. We have lots of exciting new flavours in development and we’re exploring the wider adult soft drink category to unlock all day social occasions.

What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?

Create your business around something that you love – this way, it won’t feel like work! If you are passionate, driven, enthusiastic, and have self belief in your own ability, then the entrepreneurship journey is both an exciting and rewarding one. There will be challenges to overcome, but there will also be some brilliant highs to be gained from it.

Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?

Don’t do it alone. Having a co-founder, mentor or someone close by who you can pick their brains on. Sharing the highs is much more fun, but sharing the lows is also a lot easier to get through when there are two of you.

Having a sound knowledge of financial skills is really helpful in the beginning when you might not be able to afford to hire yet. Negotiation skills are also important in unlocking those key people.

Who are the 5 people who inspired you the most and why?

1. Indra Nooyi, former CEO of Pepsico, who turned the brand into something inspirational through her incentives to acquire new brands, achieve greater sustainability and actualise Pepsico’s ultimate potential.

2. Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken, who took over a business with no previous experience, but through lots of determination and smart decisions has driven the company to exceptional growth and success.

3. Sahar Hashemi OBE, who started the ‘Buy Women Built’ initiative, aimed at highlighting inequalities faced by female owned organisations and reducing these disparities.

4. Our entire board of directors, who have been instrumental in our growth and always been incredibly supportive which we’re super lucky with.

5. Both our parents, who provided us with a passion for quality drinks and the wider upbringing which ultimately helped us to form Double Dutch!

What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” Haruki Murakami – Kafka on the Shore

 “Choose a job that you like, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”- Confucius.

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