Read the interview with Aurimas Vainauskas, the co-founder and CEO of Coffee Friend, about how the company copes with the pandemic in front and why the business is skyrocketing now. According to Aurimas the pandemic and the following quarantine periods did not slow things down for the business, but on the contrary, it became the perfect opportunity to increase sales massively.
Can you shortly tell us how the “Coffee Friend” was born?
The “Coffee Friend” was born in 2010, Lithuania, when me and my friend Vytautas Alekna decided to try ourselves in trading right after we finished our studies. I was always surrounded by the coffee world: my grandfather and dad worked in the coffee industry, so we decided to choose this field. We went to one coffee exhibition to find an exclusive product – Japanese coffee filters, and we ordered a huge number of them.
It took a long time to manufacture and supply those filters, and we were so eager to start our own business, so we found one pad coffee machine and launched our first online store with a single product overnight. This is how the Coffee Friend has started – from Japanese coffee filters and one pad coffee machine.
How does the company keep going?
Now, according to a “Business research centre” study, Coffee Friend is one of the leading retailers in the coffee and coffee machines market in Baltic states. We became an international multichannel retailer operating in Europe. We are proud to be located in 8 markets: Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Finland, United Kingdom, Germany and Austria. There are 15 stores and 8 e-shops, where you can buy everything you need for the best coffee experiences at home or at work: starting with all types of coffee and most popular brewing tools to all kinds of coffee machines.
Clients can reach us in shopping malls, old town stores, e-shops, via phone or email, and on social networks. Our close partnership and joint activities with the well-known manufacturers from all over the world ensure exclusive deals for our clients, with only the best offers and new assortment in our shops.
What are the most important factors that allow a company to survive during the pandemic?
Two main factors: a well-developed e-commerce platform and great team flexibility. E-commerce has always been one of our main business directions, but since quarantine we changed the tactics and the focus to e-commerce is higher than ever. During the quarantine period when some shops were closed we made every effort to direct customers to shop online – we changed our communication strategies, made special promotions to encourage shopping online, and emphasized that it is possible to consult qualified salesmen via phone, e-mail or live chat. It was not a challenge to do this because our e-shops and all our departments were ready for that.
I am most proud of my team that adjusted to the situation and tried to be helpful during the changes. A quick response to the daily changing situation was the reason for our success. Today we can say that we have benefited from this pandemic period: not only did our sales not suffer, they have increased, massively.
Are there any challenges the “Coffee Friend” is dealing with during the world lockdown?
The main challenge facing most traders in the world today is the shortage of goods. Some factories were forced to stop their work because of the quarantine. Also, no one knew how the market itself would hold up, which made it difficult for the factories and suppliers to estimate the quantities of goods needed in advance.
As for the coffee machine market in particular, people have started working more from home and the need for great coffee at home has increased. The demand for home coffee machines has increased! It was really difficult to predict that even at the beginning of the year, before the pandemic began. Here again, I am very grateful to my team because people at the Coffee Friend’s Commerce Department, with great insights for the future and extremely good relationships with suppliers, planned and ensured the supply of goods on time. Therefore, we welcome the holidays calmly and happily.
What business advice could you share with the other business owners in this difficult time?
There is no single recipe or formula to success. Also, there are many questions related to HR to consider. Our success journey was not made just overnight, it is a result of hard and consistent work of 10 years. Most of the businesses are moving online, finding new ways to reorient is not easy, but as we can see there is just no other way.