June 17, 2021 11 minutes to read
This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors can occur due to this process.
The opinions of entrepreneurs’ contributors are their own.
Andrés Valverde and Miguel Cervantes have been friends since high school. They were a couple of foreigners who lived alone in Mexico City when they were only 18. Today they have a joint project called Simple, a craft brewery. Miguel says that Andrés experimented with making beer while they were studying together; He invited the group of friends to his apartment to try the “chela” he had created in his kitchen. After high school, they went their separate ways, but kept the relationship. Andrés created his Harmonic project, a gin brand that was very well received while Miguel was studying economics at ITAM (while also selling chelas).
A few years later, Andrés Miguel suggested they set up a brewery together. He tells her that he was inspired by an episode in the Easy series called Brew Brothers, in which the protagonists start selling beer from their garage. Miguel agrees to the proposal. This is how Simple is born.
“Friends tend to have an affinity outside of their job; they think alike and have very similar morals and work ethics. You meet people who have values similar to yours and if you can pass these values on in the company, that’s something incredible for me. “, Says Miguel in an interview with Entrepreneur en Español.
Originally, Simple was just a taproom, a place where people could try different beers and have fun with their friends. They found a place in the Juarez district where they could make and serve their own product, which also had a good consumer center. They opened on February 3, 2020 and in the first month all sales forecasts were met. his project was a success. But the unpredictable came: a pandemic that forced everyone to stay at home and close all in-house consumption points.
According to a report in El Financiero newspaper, 15% of restaurants in Mexico were closed during the pandemic, that’s around 90,000. At the beginning of the health crisis, all restaurants were banned from operating. As a result, many companies lost a large portion of their income and continued to pay for expenses such as renting the premises. When they allowed the reopening with very strict measures, there were very few customers. In the summer of 2020 there was still very little information about COVID-19 and therefore great fear of catching it. All of these conditions made it very difficult for consumer centers to stay open. How did Simple get you not only to survive this but also to grow?
Image: Courtesy of Simple and Niss
In an attempt to survive during the imprisonment, the two partners delivered as much as they could: in one’s car, on the other’s motorcycle, by bicycle, or on foot. By doing this and without using applications like Rappi or Uber Eats, they saved money as they charge between 20 and 30% commission. They had said they would lower the commission for the pandemic, but it didn’t and cost many companies a lot of money. And so they were able to hold out until the orange light was announced in summer 2020. They were finally able to open, but on one condition. For their own consumption they had to declare themselves as a restaurant and serve food for it. Looking for a solution, they started running pop-up events with various chefs and suggestions. This is how Niss comes to your doorstep, a suggestion kitchen project that was born during the pandemic. Luis Carlos, one of Niss’ partners, prepared Arepas for a pop-up event that Simple customers really liked.
Luis Carlos is a Colombian chef who has worked with his sous-chef Dennise Pérez in the hidden kitchen restaurant for the past few years. Both were unemployed at the beginning of the pandemic and wanted to do something different.
Carrot Hummus / Image: Courtesy of Simple and Niss
“The time came when we had to do something because we didn’t have enough money for our entire life. Working under someone else didn’t work for me anymore, so it seemed like a better idea to build something yourself. “Dennis comments on the interview.
On the day he was cooking for the pop-up, Luis Carlos came to speak to Andrés and Miguel to supplement his powers. It had been a busy day and people had tasted the food so Simple’s partners thought it would be a good idea to give the collaboration a chance. Niss made him a meal suggestion that surpassed her and they have been working together ever since. The restaurant was installed in the taproom and the premises, which had been open for three months, were expanded to include a kitchen. There are still two sole proprietorships that are currently working together on one goal: to make a name for themselves in the industry and to grow.
Miguel explains that part of what Simple wants to do is enrich the concept of beer in Mexico, which is difficult because people are sticking to what they know. They want their business to serve the craft beer niche, show them that it is an accessible drink but can also bring something other than traditional flavor and become a combination option.
“It is a big challenge to lead by example where we want to lead the beer culture and that more people recognize it as a high quality product. That is why we try to make sure that our average ticket is not too high. Yes, we have to adhere to the cost calculation, but we don’t want the price to be an exclusive element. “
When it comes to food, Dennise faces a similar challenge: people expect burgers or very filling plates and find a much cleaner kitchen. She does not like to saturate the dishes with flavors so that they go well with beers and that the most difficult thing is to change the perception one has of the dishes that go with that drink.
“I believe this is part of our overall project. Our two brands, which end up going hand in hand, want to change this concept that we have. “
That challenge has to do with getting people to accept your proposal. To do that, they need to have customers to suggest it to. Despite the fact that they were able to open the place, the pandemic continued to present food and drink consumption challenges, such as persuading people to physically go to a restaurant.
In general, there are already many aspects of life that we are digitally solving and businesses need to keep up with, but the limitation has tripled the time and services we seek online. In order to reach the customer, it was necessary to think about a digital marketing strategy. At first they didn’t bet much on growing their social networks because it didn’t help them to have a lot of followers who don’t come back in the form of a client and they didn’t have a full digital cover letter, then they preferred organic growth. They found it made more sense to reach out to different food or beverage or business outlets to get their validation. They took part in the Centro de Cervezas Cup and won two medals. This allows you to show the public that your product is really worth it and that you already have a year and a lot of work behind you. Having your cover letter allows them to focus more on their social media and maybe even pay for advertising.
Dennise Pérez / Image: Courtesy of Simple and Niss
They were constantly looking for new ways to expand their product and bring it to different customers. Now they already have eight headboard styles available in addition to the taproom, they have already made a production of these in cans and are now working on one in bottles.
“We’re trying to diversify the product. Yes, the premises are as they were initially imagined, but let’s now think about how we can sell abroad. What other consumption centers can we reach? You have to get labels, cans or bottles, you have to enter into collaborations to achieve greater brand positioning. “
Restrictions and hygiene measures imposed on restaurants severely restricted sales. Anyone who did not want to generate an income despite the obstacles that were placed on them or that were not possible for other reasons had to close their business. The fact that you searched for different opportunities for your business and didn’t stick with the original idea is one of the key elements that Simple and Niss used to not only survive but grow the pandemic.
One of the things that increased during the pandemic was capacity. In the beginning there were only three tables for four and a bar for seventeen. Thanks to the involvement of a restaurant, they were able to access the procedures to place tables outside on some sort of terrace and add two more bars. A terrace makes it a little easier to comply with the measures prescribed in restaurants. The rule is that people cannot sit inside until the terrace is full. The sanitary measures do not allow them to reach half their capacity for the time being, but the growth was still a good achievement.
Although they have taken very good steps to save and grow their business, their story is not over and the challenges continue. As Miguel said at one point during the interview, “We did not get out of the pandemic so we have to try not to limit ourselves to thinking that we have already solved everything because we have already solved one thing. In the end we keep building. ”
Meaty pork rind salad / Image: Courtesy Simple and Niss
For anyone thinking of starting now or already having a project that has stalled in the last few months, the partners at Simple and Niss have two pieces of advice that they have learned from their own experience. On the one hand, Miguel would tell them not to rely on any sales channel and that there are many accessible and easy-to-understand tools that they can use to reach more people.
“It’s like this example of real estate companies putting their umbrella and chair on the street and sitting there. If you don’t sell elsewhere, that’s you. You sit there on the street waiting for people to come over and ask you. “
On the other hand, says Denisse, it is about the possibilities that present themselves and not letting them pass by.
“If the opportunity presents itself, grab it! Because if we had stopped because of this situation or because it wasn’t sold, the opportunity might be gone and we wouldn’t have done anything. “
It is clear that Simple and Niss took advantage of every opportunity and did not stop looking for others. They found the weaknesses of two individual projects and came together to strengthen each other. Right now it’s a great collaboration that works very well, but they don’t want to tie their projects so tight that everyone has the opportunity to grow where they want.
It seems that a good friendship has developed between the partners and that in Simple and Niss an atmosphere of trust and freedom is conveyed.