Interview With Stuart Forsyth Founder of Minor Figures – Behind the Biz

I hope you’ve all had a fab week and are looking forward to the weekend.

I’m here to share my latest Behind the Biz interview.

Today we’re diving into the world of cold brew coffee with Stuart Forsyth, the founder of Minor Figures.

How did you decide upon the name of your business?

The name has a bunch of meanings actually – we tell all sorts of fibs depending on who we talk to.

One of the decisions was that in some of our initial business ideas we were going to use Minor Figures as a network platform/vehicle to showcase other companies, predominantly other roasters from all over the world – and as a result would become the minor name perhaps.

This was completely unfeasible. Even the most modest amount of research into this would have told us that this was impossible. However, when you go from deciding to start the business to having first products on the shelf at Selfridges – including packaging design, production costings, naming, designing the brewing method for 10,000L of coffee, building the brewer and organising transport and logistics – all in about 12 weeks. Some things get more attention than others.

The name has gone through many feelings – but right now I’m loving it. It feels right.

I guess the other option for naming which I quite like, is that it comes from a lyric from a song off Biggie’s first album.

What did you do before starting Minor Figures?

I have been many things – I worked in cafes, I worked in construction, and I worked on a pearl farm, and even had a novel published. All the while I was in and out of the coffee industry. Previous to Minor Figures – I was one of the founders of KeepCup, along with my brother and sister – and was in charge of the European hub for 7 years. So all at once, I got very good insight into the growth of the speciality coffee industry, and how to operate a challenger brand, a disruptive brand, and a company with a purpose.

Did you always plan to set up your own business?

No. When I was young I always disliked business. I found the concept of money very, I don’t know – common. But then again, not working was not an option either, so I devised a cunning plan. Fool proof actually. Little by little, I cultivated ways to make myself to be completely unemployable! After many years, I found that I was so utterly un-hireable – so impossibly suited to going to work every day from 9 to 5 – that in the end, I had no choice but to set up my own thing.  

What has been the highlight of your business journey to date?

As I’ve gotten older I have really enjoyed the abstract complexity of it all. From the world perspective and the sustainability perspective – we don’t need another iced coffee necessarily – we don’t need to create any more products – but also abstractly to see if you can do it is very fun.

The strange combination of creativity, people, and structure allows ideas to come to life.

Minor Figures has changed a lot since we began, but the overall mission is the same – get great iced coffee to more people in more places than ever before. It hasn’t been the perfect ride – far from it – and the founders have taken on more pain than we would ever care to admit. That said, we are extremely ambitious with the projects we do and are very bullish in all things. This makes it very fun – but you need to be able to hold your nerve. And your lunch down.

What has been one of the biggest challenges you have faced?

The challenges are daily. The most unforeseen challenge – was that the buyer for iced coffee – is the same buyer who purchases the fresh milk. So the problem with cold brew is twofold: first, there isn’t any milk in it – so we had many early arguments – if it is even same buyer/category. And second, milk is the most important thing in the grocery store – so focus is 99.99% on this – and iced coffee ranging is practically an afterthought. This is a challenge. We still find this an interesting issue – as we need to energise and bring life to the category for a buyer who has a head justifiably elsewhere.

What role does social media play for your business and do you have a favourite social platform?

We are terrible at this. Instagram is the only social media platform we use. We have begun to use it more effectively now – but we have a long way to go. It’s difficult though. Personally, I find the non-curated pages messy, but the curated pages very inauthentic. Also, image after image of products is boring.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

Early on get your cash flow in order. Know that it’s going to take twice as long and be twice as expensive than you are predicting. If you can still make it work – then go for it!!

Where do you hope to take your business in 2018?

We are very blessed to be able to do this in 2018, and after a few tough years of doubt, to be able to see some light at end of the tunnel. We are surrounded by great staff and happy customers in a great industry, with a business starting to make money. We’ll just try not to crash the car.

Find out more about Minor Figures over on their site, support them on Instagram and check out my review.

Thank you to Stuart Forsyth for taking the time to be a part of Behind the Biz. I really enjoyed hearing about his business journey with Minor Figures and look forward to see the business grow in the year ahead.