Natali Stajcic and Chi-San Wan, Founders, The Pressery
Interview by Tassja Garner
A Rverie Conversation with Natali Stajcic and Chi-San Wan, Founders of The Pressery, a raw, preservative-free almond milk company based in the East End of London.
I met the girls from The Pressery earlier this month in London. As someone who loves good food and eating well I was instantly drawn to the passion they had for bringing integrity and change to the food industry.
Based in Haggerston, East London, they are the first UK company to produce 100% natural almond milk – they offer an original flavour (organic almonds and purified water) and a cacao flavour (with cacao, dates and vanilla). All of their products contain no additives, sweeteners or preservatives and their client list includes Selfridges and Daylesford Farm, alongside a number of local shops and cafes.
Not only are their products delicious, but their brand is one that is even more attractive because of the passion that drives it. When meeting Natali and Chi, it’s evident that they will be a success based on their commitment and love for transforming the food industry, as well as being a company that builds deep, trusted relationships with its customers.
I met them at the Rochelle Canteen, one of their favourite restaurants, to chat about how The Pressery started, and what inspires them.
Could you introduce yourselves and tell us how The Pressery started?
Chi: I’m Chi, this is Natali and we started The Pressery about 4 months ago, but the idea came about probably over a year ago in the Summer when we were talking about how much we loved food and how we wanted to change the health industry.
We kept seeing 'natural' products growing in popularity, but when we looked a the back of the products we couldn't recognize any of the ingredients.
We started making almond milk at home, so we decided, along with encouragement from our friends and families, to launch The Pressery. Initially we looked at doing cold-press juices, but quickly dropped the idea. We found nut milks more interesting to start as a business and also different – London hadn’t seen anything like it before.
So, from making milk at home and deciding to start your business, how did you go about getting your first clients?
Natali: We started selling at a market in Waterloo – it seemed like the easiest way to get the product out to people and get the message across that we wanted to convey. We always thought a market would be a good platform to start with. Being able to be in front of customers is a real luxury. We were told that our first big client, Daylesford, found us via our Instagram page - the power of social media!
It was very quick, it happened within two weeks of us starting at the market!
The power of social media is amazing! Being one of the first companies in London to sell completely raw, natural almond milk, have you found there has to be a level of education with people about your product?
Natali: Definitely – and I think it will be an on-going educational journey that we have embarked on. We are obviously incredibly interested in what products have in them, but most Londoners just want to be able to pick up something, grab and go, and trust that it will be good for them. There are such mixed messages from health brands on the front of their packaging, shouting that there are no artificial sweeteners or flavourings, but it’s surprising how misleading those lines can be. It’s so important for consumers to find a brand that they can really trust – and we hope that we can be that brand.
If you look at our ingredient list it is only ones you would recognize - no preservatives or anything nasty! I wish more products were like that. We want to help enable people to look out for the common mistakes that are made when purchasing supposed health products...
We’re actually going to be doing that through workshops and talks in the future - when we have some time!
With the company growing so quickly after only a few months, what has been your most exciting achievement and your biggest challenge?
Chi: Probably jumping through the hoops to get into the bigger stores. We’ve had to rush to get everything sorted prior to launching in the bigger shops such as Daylesford and Selfridges, and come up against barriers at each stage.
Natali: We face big hurdles every day – I keep saying to people, owning your own business is like walking through walls, you manage to knock down one wall and then there is another big wall behind it. But having support from massive stores, such as Selfridges, has probably been our most exciting achievement to date. Seeing that it sells really well there, and how ready their team is to get behind a small brand and a product that has a shelf life of five days, has been amazing. People told us that would be impossible from the beginning.
Chi: The shops that want us also seem to be doing everything they can to get us onto their shelves, which is encouraging!
Selfridges is an amazing place to have your product sold - how did they find out about you?
Chi: Through an acquaintance of ours - a guy I met who consults and designs for restaurants. He put us in touch with them as they had been looking for a good dairy alternative for a while – they hadn’t found a good one, until they tried ours apparently!
What were you both doing before The Pressery?
Chi: I was styling in fashion – freelancing.
Natali: I was an event organiser.
What other brands and companies inspire you both?
Natali: We get a lot of inspiration from America and Australia. Obviously the juice culture and nut-milk scene there is really saturated, but there’s always one company that comes along to do it way better with better ingredients and better flavour combinations.
Chi: We love food. That’s where it stems from – a love of pure unadulterated food. I guess that’s when it becomes inspiring for us. It’s not boring, there's flavour in the combinations considered, there are layers – It’s different.
Natali: Companies we like are usually the ones always pushing boundaries and looking to nourish traditions.
You guys have great business minds, are there any business models or companies locally that you admire?
Natali: Aesop, E5 Bakehouse.
Chi: E5 definitely – when we started, the model for the E5 Bakehouse was something that really inspired us. They showed us that you don’t have to say ‘Yes’ to everyone, and that it’s important to stick to what you believe.
Natali: Grow slowly, organically (no pun intended!), don’t push sales – it doesn’t have to be a massively saleable business, for it to be a company that you want to work in.
Chi: And give some back! E5 does workshops – He [the owner] loves giving things back. It’s not just about sales.
As lovers of food, do you have any favourite places in London that you could recommend to people?
Natali: Yes, loads... Chi-San is the girl for that!
Chi: Places where you’re not disappointed by the food or the service… Ever! I’d recommend Towpath Café in Haggerston and Rochelle Canteen in Shoreditch for lunch. Evening-wise, it chops and changes – We went to The Clove Club didn’t we? That was really lovely!
Natali: The Clove Club was delicious – Terroirs is also nice.
Chi: Terroirs is great; it’s a French tapas in Covent Garden. You put me on the spot, my mind is blank but I have an ever-growing list on my iPhone!
Send the list over!
Natali: I think those are pretty much our go-to’s, Towpath, Rochelle… St John’s too.
Chi: Ones that are fail-safe.
Do you have any advice for people starting up a food business?
Natali: I think the thing that has definitely helped get us off the ground so quickly is the fact that what we are doing hasn’t been done before. It's hard to find an idea that hasn't already been attempted in London but your starting point should be what makes you stand out as a company. That's what draws interest.
Chi: A USP. And also not being secretive – from day one we obviously wanted to keep the idea to ourselves as we didn’t want anyone else to copy it, but the more we spoke to people, the more we found out how other people could help us, and tell other people about us and that is how we’ve got to where we are now. It’s helped! You have to be open about what you’re doing to receive advice.
Natali: Sharing knowledge and being ready to work hard!
Chi: Try to get enough sleep, and yoga helps!
After a busy start, how do you see The Pressery developing over the next couple of years?
Natali: I suppose the answer to that question changes every day because we are still getting to grips with just trying to bring out this one product. Getting the almond milk to more people is probably our priority right now – getting it in more shops and reaching a wider audience. Bringing out new flavours and similar products that are also really natural and genuinely beneficial to your health.
Chi: Full of super-natural goodness! We believe that less is more; and will continue with that mantra whatever we do.
For more information visit http://www.thepressery.co.uk
Images courtesy of The Pressery