It was just another stressful day at the office for Claire Hall back in 2004, until she had an idea that changed her life. That day her company Drink It Ltd was born and Percy’s Iced Tea was introduced to the world. Well, a few close friends anyway. After being demoted from her PR role to a job on reception during a company merger, Claire had taken to drinking fruit tea and had a Eureka! moment. ‘One day at work I suddenly had a thought – alcoholic iced tea.’From that point she worked tirelessly to bring her dream to a reality, with many sacrifices made along the way. She left her job in London and moved back home with her parents to save money, and admits that the process has been ‘a huge learning curve’.But she’s come a long way from the days of giving out free samples in Chinatown. Now 28-year-old Claire is serving her clients on the lawns of Windsor Racecourse, and with summer here alcoholic iced tea could be the drink of 2010. Percy’s, anyone?
Where did the name Percy’s Iced Tea come from?
The name ‘Percy’s’ is my Dad’s middle name. I thought it was quirky, traditional and old… like tea!
Did you ever imagine the business would take off in the way it has, or was it just a bit of fun at first?
I never imagined I would be doing what I am doing – it started purely as an idea that I believed in. I’ve always thought it would work so whilst it’s been a fun and a frustrating journey I would never say it started as a bit of fun. From the moment the idea came into my mind I was so serious and set on making it work. Even when I did my first tester and it didn’t taste nice at all.
What obstacles have you faced along the way?
So many obstacles… the production side has taken a lot of time, trying to produce small runs cost-effectively!
Every time I solve a problem another one comes along. Like financing. To date I have used any spare cash of my own, I’ve had two grants and I have had to ask relatives for money which isn’t ideal.
You auditioned for Peter Jones’ programme Tycoon and more recently were on High Street Brands with Jo Malone. Do you think that reality shows such as these are the way forward?
Not necessarily, and it seems not for me. I will have to continue on my own which I believe is ultimately the best way. I keep control of my business and no one can distort my vision either. I think these programmes are only the way forward for the right people and good promotion for businesses. But still it may have made things happen quicker I guess.
You left London and moved back home to Lincolnshire to live with your parents. Was that a difficult decision to make?
No, I knew if I wanted to pursue my dream London was only holding me back – living costs are crazy.
You started out working in PR, Have you always wanted to run your own business?
No, I studied Media at Uni. When I left, my cousin who worked in London, asked if I wanted a job in PR. At the time I had to double check with her what PR meant. I grabbed the opportunity. I didn’t mind working in PR – it was a job and I was just enjoying London. I never dreamt of having my own business.
In what way does Percy’s Iced Tea differ from other alcoholic drinks?
There is no other drink like it in the market. It’s a blend of iced tea, natural fruits and Icelandic vodka. I wanted to create a premium innovative drink that wasn’t too sweet and sickly like a lot of other drinks.
You recently took your drinks to Windsor races. What sort of reaction did you receive?
The reaction was great. The races are perfect for Percy’s. I’m going back for Ladies Day’ at the end of July which I’m looking forward to.
Are you planning to branch out into any other areas?
Just iced tea for now. I would like more flavours of course, and I would like to take Percy’s to Europe, America and a few other places. I have lots of other ideas too but think it’s best I just keep with this one at the moment!
What’s your favourite flavour?
Mine is the Lemon and Lime. It’s pretty zesty but very refreshing. I often find you’re either one or the other: Lemon and Lime or Mango.
What advice would you give to any young aspiring entrepreneurs out there?
It’s not easy but it is possible. Talk to as many people as you can, get as much advice as you can and use what you feel is right. Stay positive and give yourself a break every now and again – it actually helps!
For more information visit www.percys-t.c
Interview by Antoinette Powell