Elevator Pitch: Pod & Parcel

Elevator Pitch is a regular feature on Lifehacker where we profile startups and new companies and pick their brains for entrepreneurial advice. This week, we’re talking with Ben Goodman, co-founder of Pod & Parcel.

In 128 words or less, explain your business idea

Launched in 2016, Pod & Parcel’s concept is simple: combine beautiful, small-batch specialty coffee with biodegradable, compostable coffee pods. It’s café-quality coffee in your Nespresso machine minus the guilt.

Back then, pods tasted like burnt, bitter instant coffee and were having a huge environmental impact – more than 3 million of them go to landfill daily in Australia. We felt they were two obvious pain points waiting to be solved!

Being from Melbourne and spoilt for amazing coffee, we decided to partner with one of the best specialty roasters in the city to handle our sourcing and roasting. For the pod, we import one that breaks down in just 90 days in commercial compost, unlike the hundreds of years it takes our aluminium counterparts.

What strategies are you using to grow and finance your idea?

Financially, we were completely bootstrapped for the first two years. Credit cards and PayPal loans were our friends! It may sound risky but we always ensured profitability and consistent growth to manage the debt.

Our strategy was to explore every available marketing angle from influencer outreach, Facebook ads, trade shows, even Nespresso martini nights, to see what stuck and then go hard once we knew what worked. Whilst now strong online, our next step is to increase our distribution through physical retailers like supermarkets and expand more internationally.

What’s the biggest challenge facing your business?

Managing cash flow and getting our team right for sure. We recently sold out of our entire inventory due to demand, leaving thousands of our regular customers caffeine deprived and rightfully unhappy. This is what happens when grow too quick and don’t have the funds to back it up.

Also, finding the right people with the right expertise is key. One of the best decisions we made was to shift our office to a co-working space, ours being at Inspire9 in Melbourne. Being around others in the same position, tapping into their networks, brainstorming ideas has been invaluable to our growth.

How do you differentiate your business from your competitors?

We have three areas that we focus on – Ease, Beauty, and Sustainability – which drive our product differentiation strategy.

Ease referring to the user experience from our website’s functionality to level of customer service. We aim to create a frictionless experience. Beauty in our product design, branding, and quality of coffee. It’s the little details that make an experience truly special, for example, the aroma you get when you first open one of our packets. Finally, being sustainable as we’re always looking at ways to reduce our waste and create less of an environmental impact.

What one phone, tablet or PC application could you not live without?

Microsoft Powerpoint – yes, seriously. I use it to create mockups from website design, packaging, branding, to our logo as my photoshop/illustrator skills are non-existent. It’s my hidden shame.

What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?

Maybe not received in person but I love the advice from the guy who founded Quest Bars, that is, instead of having to be right, be the person who finds the right answer faster than anyone. Keeping that in mind always helps me think outside the box and seek advice, rather than figure everything out myself.

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