June 21, 2024

Thrive Insider

Exclusive stories of successful entrepreneurs

Irene Falcone founder of Sans Drinks, Australia’s number one alcohol-free superstore

Who are you and what business did you start?

My name is Irene Falcone and I am the founder of Sans Drinks, Australia’s number one alcohol-free superstore.

What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

Prior to starting Sans Drinks, I was the founder and CEO of Nourished Life – a health and beauty site that helped customers find toxin free products. Nourished Life became one of the fastest growing companies in Australia and the #1 online e-commerce store for Natural Beauty & Healthy Living. After selling Nourished Life to an ASX listed BWX Ltd Group I planned on taking a break from work. But an exchange in a liquor store changed that. Having decided to take a break from alcohol, I found myself looking for alcohol free beer to take along to a BBQ. When I asked for help in finding it, the man behind the counter looked at me as I if I was mad. It was the same look that I got before starting Nourished Life when I asked for natural deodorant. I started planning Sans Drinks the next day.

Describe the process of launching the business.

I started small, building the website from my kitchen table and storing stock in my garage. I knew that there was a market for alcohol-free drinks but I also wanted to change the perception that alcohol-free options were daggy and poor quality. So in starting out, my mission was to show case products as part of a fun and healthy lifestyle.

The business grew quickly and I was able to open my first warehouse within a couple of months. Since then I have expanded my team and also opened a retail shop where I can personally serve my customers.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

igh quality products and excellent customer service is at the heart of Sans Drinks. I personally taste test and review products so that I can be confident that I am stocking the best selection of alcohol-free drinks available.

Customer service is also crucial in retaining customers. I ensure that any customer issues are answered within two hours and have personally responded to thousands of customer queries. This has been challenging during Sydney’s recent Covid lockdown as some deliveries have been delayed. However, my personal approach means that 70 per cent of customers come back.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

It’s an exciting time for Sans Drinks and I have lots of plan to expand the business. I plan to open more retail stores to give customers the opportunity to shop in person. On top of this I am opening new warehouses around Australia to enable faster delivery outside Sydney.

The alcohol-free drinks trend has continued to grow, and I don’t anticipate it slowing down any time soon, so I am excited about the future and making Sans Drinks a household name.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

My biggest lesson has been learning to know the difference between short term and long term goals. I have so many amazing ideas, but it’s impossible to implement everything at once, no matter how much I want to!

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

We like to use everything natively and avoid as many tools as possible.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

I actually prefer to use podcasts as a great way to tune out from work. Love readying an listening to health and wellbeing podcasts like Melissa Ambrosini and goop as well as the Mama Mia podcasts like true crime and beauty podcasts and I am a huge fan of mia Freedman and her Lady Start up.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

While it is a massive thrill to build a business from the ground up it is also a huge slog. Through my first business, Nourished Life, I learned that the journey is every bit as important as the destination – so now, second time round, I remind myself every day that there is no need to rush – growing a new business is a marathon, not a sprint.

Where can we go to learn more?