Name: Abigail Forsyth
Location: Fitzroy, Victoria
Abigail Forsyth is one of those super women – she’s a mum, she’s environmentally conscious and she’s the founder of a multimillion dollar company.
Forsyth, previously the co-founder of Melbourne healthy food start-up Bluebag with her brother Jamie, was inspired to create the business alongside her brother when the pair saw how much disposable waste the cafes created.
They became increasingly concerned about the contribution of their waste to landfill. They tried re-filling juice bottles and selling reusable salad containers, but the biggest waste-producer was disposable coffee cups. Forsyth discovered her niche when she looked for reusable cups to be sold at Bluebag and couldn’t find any suitable options, kick-starting her KeepCup journey.
Each morning, Forsyth would give her daughter warm milk out of a sippy cup and she realised the idea of giving her daughter a disposable cup seemed “barbaric”. From here, KeepCup was born. KeepCups are the first Barista Standard reusable cup and since launching in 2009 at a designers’ market, three million cups have been sold. In the first six hours of the business, Forsythe had already sold 1,000 KeepCups and the business now generates an annual turnover of more than $5 million.
SmartCompany had a chat with Forsyth about her international expansion, green living and running a family and a business.
Forsyth doesn’t follow a set routine for the day, but she thinks it might be easier if she did.
“I wish I did, life would be easier, but I’m just not routine oriented.”
There are plenty of critics of women who choose to work and have a family, but Forsyth’s business aspirations do not detract from her job as a mother.
“I’m usually up between 6.30am and 7am, I get the kids breakfast and make their lunches before dropping one at childcare and one at school. After this I’m usually down to work around 9.05am,” she says.
Forsyth believes in living what she preaches, and does what she can to help the environment as part of her sustainability motto.
She cycles to work each day – from her house it takes 10 minutes and from her kids’ school, only five.
“I always cycle; it’s part of our sustainability plan. My brother Jamie also cycles to work and he lives 10 minutes in the other direction,” she says.
As with many entrepreneurs, the first job Forsyth does for the day is check her emails.
“I always use an online task system, but I also have a notebook to keep track of what I’m doing for the day. The first thing I do is check my emails to see what’s come through from last night.”
Throughout the day most of Forsyth’s energy is dedicated to “marketing, networking, a little bit of sales and going to meetings”, she says.
She spends a lot of time planning and devising new marketing strategies. Currently, her attention is focused on the upcoming World Barista Championships held during May in Melbourne this year.
“The championship is a good opportunity for us to promote KeepCup and we’ve got a lot of things happening to do with it in terms of thinking about our marketing sales and increasing brand engagement,” she says.
Initially, Forsyth targeted corporations such as the National Australia Bank and Energy Australia to secure buy-in from the corporate sector. She recognised the difficulty companies faced in spruiking messages of corporate responsibility and sustainability if they continued to use disposable, unsustainable products and acted to capitalise on this paradox.
Since it launched, KeepCup has expanded internationally and now has offices in Melbourne, the United Kingdom and most recently Los Angeles (opened two weeks ago). The reusable cups are also sold across the globe, throughout Europe, Asia and in New Zealand.
After taking off in Australia, KeepCup developed an online presence and it started being noticed overseas. Forsyth began noticing mentions of KeepCup in Europe and the US on blogs and social media. The brand had gone viral and quickly she realised the brand’s international potential.
As part of building this global presence, Forsyth travels around the world for networking and promotional opportunities in order to further the brand.
“Next week I’m going to the UK and then onto Sweden to give a talk at their national barista championship,” she says.
This global expansion has always been part of Forsyth’s business strategy in her crusade to rid the world of disposable cups, and has been achieved through a combination of direct sales, distribution and agency.
KeepCup has grown from two staff members (Abigail and Jamie) to 20 in the Melbourne office, eight in the UK and two in the US.
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