Summer is almost here, so it’s about time to pick your favorite cider drink and go have some fun. While you can choose from a huge variety of local craft to world-famous brands, Slovakia-based Opre’ Cider has something special to offer. We have already tasted their whole product line, and I have to say we loved it! Yes, Opre’ managed to get a 5 full bottles review from us. Today, I have the pleasure of talking with Gabriel Oprendek, the CEO of Opre’ Ciders.
Well, the story of Opre’ starts back in spring 2013. I just returned home from marketing internship in Cape Town. I have a tradition that wherever I travel I try to bring local cider and products home. That time brought south african Savanna Dry cider for my brother and he just loved it. We got curious how cider is made and whether we would be able to produce it on our own. We saw an opportunity to make the first cider ever in Slovakia and decided to give it a try and start our own company. We are in business for 3 years already. I’m in charge of marketing & sales and my brother who is a biologist is the main cider maker. This is I think perfect combination that works very well inside the company.
We started with classic apple cider, later released dry hopped cider with help of our friend homebrewer Padre Craft Brews. Last year we introduced Perry made from 100% pear juice. We are planing to introduce one more product and that should be enough for educating Slovak consumers about cider culture.
Besides cider, we are currently working on a new craft herbal lemonades sweetened only by honey. We plan to fill a gap in Slovakia for crafted non-alcoholic beverages.
We also just started selling in Estonia and there is Austria too. Currently we are in contact with a distributor in the Netherlands and we are also testing market in China. All current contacts found and contacted us which is an important element of our company. Instead of knocking on people’s door we are making quality products and customers are searching for us.
When I was studying in Denmark, I met a great estonian designer Kärt Koosapoeg from EETER. They created a visual identity for Opre’ in a simple and modern way. Crazy product such is our dry hopped cider Hoppy deserves a crazy design. Astronaut cats were inspired by old Czechoslovak cartoon “Pa & Pi” which we transformed into “Hop & Py” and everyone just loves it.
The biggest challenge was to even start. We started our cider business when I was 21 and my brother was just 19 while we were both full-time at universities. We managed to get the right recipe for cider, find financing, create a business & marketing plan, establish a company, set up own production and introduce Opre’ Cider in Slovakia. We didn’t have any investors or mentors and we financed the whole beginning with student loans and own savings.
Another challenge was to overcome the period before breakeven. We learnt most of the experience by doing mistakes and trying again and again. Once we purchased a capping machine from China which was a terrible mistake that costed us lots of time and finances. Overall I would say that we face challenges every day and how we react to them defines where we get.
I was studying Marketing & Business Administration at Aalborg University in Denmark and didn’t know what to do with my life after school. Before I tried to travel every time I had an opportunity and enjoyed my life to the fullest. My brother was just studying biology. We are just writing our life story.
We are very happy when we hear positive feedback about our products. What most satisfies me is when our loyal customers that were among the first one are still buying our cider and sharing with their friends. Also I’m very happy when I see customers trying our cider for first time and seeing their surprised face that even they didn’t expect to taste so good.
One advice that I recommend for every beverage start up is to think about how to you spend your finances. We always ask this question: “Can we make it ourselves cheaper?”. And the answer might surprise you. For example my brother has a talent to create a machine out of nothing. Once we needed a filling machine and the cheapest ones costed about 5000€. He googled “how to make a filling machine” and watched some youtube videos, went to DIY shop and bought materials and made the whole filling machine that works perfect until now. It just costed 150€. We applied it for our machinery and since then my brother made rinsing, filling, carbonating, shaking, pasteurizing and labelling machine himself. If we had to finance all this machines we would be in deep debt or not here at all.
Another advice is to have generic growth. We see it in Slovakia with some startups that got an investor didn’t end up well. We are avoiding investors and want to keep it as family business and have total control over what we do and how we do it.
Running a beverage business is not easy job but if you love what you and work hard for it the results will show soon or later.
For more information visit Opre’ Cider website.