Square Root London
“We don’t have an exit strategy” Ed says in between pasteurising a batch of Raspberry soda as I sit down to have a conversation about their company, Square Root London. As it turns out, strategy was not central to the founding of the company either. Just before they founded Square Root, Ed was working at Redemption Brewery, and Robyn was working in a bar. On weekends they started selling cake, jams, and ginger beer at a local market, before homing in on drinks. Ed spotted a beer bike cycling around in Portland serving cold pints, and decided that they should a soda bike. They found a vintage tricycle, became more serious about the weekend markets, and started bottling their drinks at Five Points Brewery. Before they knew it that had quit their jobs in order to build a small soda factory in Hackney.
“We’ll see where it takes us” Ed continues. "I feel like where we are at, there’s not a lot to lose. We have not got kids, we have not got massive overheads, and we are renting a house. We just need to make enough money to support ourselves, and have fun. It’s simple really.” He looks at Robyn, “the worst thing that can happen is that we waste a bit of time, but it’s a great experience.” They both agree that it is a pretty good time to start a business. “There is a lot going on with food in London, and people are interested in local producers. Why not give it a go?”
Ed and Robyn might not have had a strategy, but they are very clear on the principles behind Square Root; “we want to be a responsible business, buy local, sell to local people, and make a difference in the area” Ed explains. “We also really enjoy being in London” Robyn adds, and starting a business in the middle of a metropolis does have its advantages. "Half of the deliveries we make we make by bicycle to customers in the neighbourhood” Ed says and points around him “ we sell to a business here, there, and over there”.
Square Root’s small batch soda factory is also less than a mile away from New Spitalfields Market, where they source most of the fruit for their soda, and are able to team up with other local producers, such as London Borough of Jam, to buy larger volumes and get a better price. "The advantage of being in a place where there is a lot of food producers is that there is a lot of collaboration going on” Ed says, and Robyn agrees, “it’s a really good community vibe." Five Points Brewery and Pressure Drop Brewery are both close and use similar equipment, so they are able to borrow and learn from each other.
The idea behind the soda itself is equally simple to the principles behind the business: freshly pressed seasonal fruits, sourced locally, and less added sugar. “Keeping it seasonal and sourcing as locally as possible is really important for us” Robyn says. "All of our sodas are made with fresh fruit juice." “As soon as you concentrated juice, you have already lost flavour before you even started.” Ed adds; “by working with fresh juice, you don’t have to add flavours to make it taste like what it is supposed to taste like, and you don’t need as much sugar”. Square Root currently has seven flavours, and, plan to continue to release a new seasonal flavour for every month of the year.
Despite the lack of a master strategy, Ed and Robyn do have ideas of how they would like to expand their business and contribute to the local area. "In a year we would like to open a soda cafe as an extension of the factory" Robyn explains, and "hopefully be able to take on a few people to help us in the day to day running of the business.” Their vision might be closer than they think, as they just started selling to the Tate Galleries, their first really large customer, and have had to hire their first member of staff to be able to keep up with the demand for their products only a few months after opening the doors to their small batch soda factory.