This year we were lucky enough to have CityStack join us at our Christmas Fair in London. This unique brand provides a particularly interesting service that is certainly beneficial during these colder months when all we want is to cosy up in a welcoming pub. We recently caught up with the founder of this wonderful brand, Alison Boutoille, to discover their origins, inspiration and plans for future projects.
CityStack is the perfect gift for pub lovers: a £20 stack of beer mats that allows pub lovers to get £100 worth of food & drinks at ten amazing independent London pubs.
This pack offers ten money-saving coasters, each giving £10 off a £20 spend at one of the ten independent London pubs that are part of the collection: it’s a total of £100 worth of food & drinks offered per pack.
How does it work? When it is time to pay, give the coaster to receive a £10 discount on your bill. This discount is available on any item on the menu (food, drinks…) at any time.
With this pack, you save money, you discover, and you support a selection of great independent pubs at the same time, it’s a win-win!
How did it all start?
I am French, and I arrived in London in the middle of the pandemic (Oct. 2020). I fell in love with the pub culture and was fascinated by how Brits consider a pub as an extension of their living room.
But I was sorry to see how people deserted these amazing places dedicated to gatherings.
I decided to help prevent the disappearance of these businesses that are part of the UK’s DNA with a unique gift for pub lovers, and launched CityStack for the Christmas season, which is a great excuse to encourage people to go back to pubs. The goal? To allow Londoners to treat pub lovers with a gift that supports independent pubs.
In October 2021, I was able to select ten amazing independent pubs ready to kickstart the adventure with us, and we launched a two-weeks crowdfunding campaign for Christmas, which we overachieved in a short period of time. My network has been very supportive and so the pubs. People are very sensitive to the support of these independent businesses. I was then able to order our first coasters, the packaging, and the booklets, and I spent a few nights assembling the packs.
Since then, we started to generate sales both online and in retail independent shops. We also dealt partnerships with coworking spaces and have been recommended by TimeOut.
The story behind the name…
“City” refers to the City of London, in which we are launching our project. “Stack” refers to the stack of coasters you use to get discounts at pubs!
Where are you based?
We are based in London, in Spitalfields’ area. For now, our packs are prepared at home, in my living room to be very specific! I am lucky enough my flatmate accepts it to be a bit messy sometimes for producing the packs!
What inspires you?
The best way to get inspired and find amazing independent pubs, is to walk across London, discover hidden streets and small boozers around the corner. I usually do it when browsing the city with my DSLR to get nice pictures of places off the beaten track.
I also get a lot of inspiration from discussions with friends. When I explain my project, there is always someone happy to share his/her favourite pub in a specific area. Conversations with Londoners are always a great source of inspiration for finding good independent pubs.
What is your creation process?
Using our advanced ranking model and visiting scores of venues, we have hand-picked some of the very best pubs with meticulous care. We have created a selection of outstanding independent public houses across London. All have something particularly special to offer: craft beers, a hidden garden, an incredible menu or unique design.
Each pub has been visited and we met every manager. Once our pubs are selected, we launch the production of the bespoke coasters and the printing of the packaging.
All the packs assembled at my place, then ready to be shipped!
What makes you, your brand or products unique?
CityStack is a unique system that allows to discover amazing hidden gems, support independent pubs AND save money at the same time. Great pubs are willing to offer exclusive discounts with CityStack because it drives people to visit and discover them. It’s a win-win!
This gift is an experience we offer to pub lovers. People like to spend time at pub, we simply encourage them to do what they enjoy the most: to connect with people. It is also a great way to support local businesses.
What is your next project?
If this first collection proves to be a success, we will launch new versions for other independent businesses in new cities in the UK, and with other categories (bakeries, wine shops, coffees, restaurants etc.).
The goal? To connect people with independent businesses!
What are your plans for the next 12 months?
For the next 12 months, we plan to develop new collections, more local, dedicated to London boroughs. The goal is to allow Londoners to discover fantastic hidden gems in their own area!
We also want to offer companies to treat their employees & partners with this unique gift, with personalised collections. It can be a great gift for Christmas treat for clients, branded gift for employees, incentive prize for sales team, social media prize draw… and we already started a few discussions with some companies based in London.
What is your biggest achievement?
I am quite proud to have launched CityStack in such a short period of time. We already started to generate sales both online and in amazing retail independent shops such as the Brick Lane Bookshop, Inspitalfields, Funky Cellar, Mae and Harvey, or Magma bookshop.
We also dealt partnerships with coworking spaces and have been recommended by TimeOut.
What is your best-selling product/line?
For now, we have only one collection, the first edition, with 10 pubs across London, in zone 1 and 2. But we plan to develop new ones very soon for other areas, and other kind of independent businesses!
Your experience of your first Country Living Fair?
It was the first “big fair” we participated in, a great way to prove the concept of our product and showcase it to new people! We received great feedback from visitors, and people were very enthusiastic about our project and sales were good for this first edition!
What do you love about Country Living Fairs?
It looks to be the right audience for people looking for unique gift ideas. Find the best novelties!
Your three top tips for crafters and makers…
- Acquiring new clients can be time consuming and, most of all, very expensive. Focus on loyalty! Make your clients super happy with your products, create relationships with them and transform your customers into ambassadors. They will probably be the ones who will bring you the most prospects!
- Use social media: people spend increasing time on the platforms, you need to be there. Show your success and your failures as well. Show the person behind the brand, and always keep in mind that people don’t buy a product, they buy the story that goes with it.
- Keep learning: Internet allows us to have a massive amount of free available information to learn new skills. Don’t be afraid to learn how to design on photoshop, code for a website, or use free platforms to make your work online more efficient. These platforms offer, for most of them, free version, you should use it!
Any advice for fledgling businesses…
Do it because you love doing it… not for money! The beginnings as an entrepreneur can be quite though. If you do a business to become “rich quickly”, you will quickly lose your motivation, as the key for launching a business is to be patient. Trying many things and learning from it can take time.