Magic, an entrepreneur, and alcohol shake hands – Quick Brown Fox

“I look at the best marathon runners in the world and think how can they run for hours every day? Well there’s only one way – they absolutely love it. It’s their natural state. For me, coffee, with its unlimited complexities became my passion. When I’m working in the kitchen I’m in my natural state. This hunger to learn all there is to know about coffee hasn’t left.”

That’s Arjun Haszard. Coffee connoisseur. Liqueur enthusiast. Entrepreneur. Founder of Quick Brown Fox.

Dunedin seems to be a magnet for creative souls. Be it the brisk air, the vibrant community, or the beauty that the South Island carries – something attracts creative geniuses to Dunedin. Maybe that explains why Arjun Haszard left his lucrative job to move there.

“There’s a quote that goes, ‘The three most addictive things on earth are heroin, carbohydrates and your weekly paycheck’. So naturally when I followed my heart to Dunedin and left a perfectly well-paying job, I had a difficult time adjusting. I became unemployed and apparently unemployable, but looking back, I knew in my heart that I was unhappy where I was, and this move was a chance to start again. Initiating the reboot was difficult, but it allowed me to lose the addiction to money and actually find something worth doing.”

Arjun is a creator, and creators are statistically more prone to addiction when compared to the average person. It’s true. Science said so. Cutting ties with his addiction to the paycheque left a void for a new range of addictions to fill. Coffee. Learning. Success. These things have moved in.

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“With time on my hands, I started tinkering with a very, very basic coffee liqueur for my own enjoyment. This continued for months, and the realisation that it could perhaps be a business occurred when I was visiting friends in Wellington. One was a barista at a theatre who mentioned in passing, ‘During an intermission there’s a line of people waiting for their coffee.’ And that’s when everything connected. These lines of theatre-going night owls love coffee, even at night ergo I should turn my rudimentary coffee liqueur into something sophisticated, worldly, delicious and different. And a year and a half later in December 2011, Quick Brown Fox was launched.”

“The sudden launch does make it sound easy – coffee is the most complex food or drink in the world and with 900 volatile compounds it’s one hell of a difficult thing to work with. I reached the end of google a long time ago, so I experimented. One can only gain this knowledge by doing, tinkering, experimenting and that, funnily enough is far more valuable than reading.”

Back in ’11, Arjun started the business partly out of desperation for not being able to find a job, and partly out of following his own curiosity. And he admits that he would never have gotten curious if he had never left his job.

“Before I began tinkering with a recipe, I had no plan to turn it into a business, nor did I have any experience in business, but the root of business is simple: you create something of greater value than the sum of its parts and you have a business, the rest is all secondary. The most important qualification I have, is the realisation I don’t need one. You can’t be the ‘ask for permission’ type in a start-up.”

 “the root of business is simple: you create something of greater value than the sum of its parts and you have a business, the rest is all secondary”

So far, nothing has been easy for Arjun. “Being just two years old with no outside funding, all the money is still going into growing the business. And as I grow there’s a whole new set of challenges. Decisions need more intense mental processing than simple whims and I enjoy these as much as I enjoy the start-up phase. Quick Brown Fox started with 12 bottles and I’m quite fortunate that people keep buying it because it means I have to keep making it. I’ve never spent a dollar on advertising. It spreads because it’s worth talking about.”

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Quick Brown Fox is worth talking about because of the amount of care and work that is poured into each bottle. Arjun works with Strictly Coffee Company to get the coffee beans just right, then mixes up his delectable concoction with his secret recipe. Jugs of Quick Brown Fox are then poured into dark bottles, and the labels peeled off and placed on the bottle, and smoothed to perfection with Arjun’s own fingers. Why all the effort?

“People love tapioca starch finger prints on their bottle, it shows them it was made by a real person! By someone who actually cares about the product. This is rare indeed, but it’s not the reason people buy Quick Brown Fox. In my spare time I talk to friends or watch a movie – both of these things can be  done while packaging bottles. At the moment major changes in the production aren’t in my thoughts, I enjoy packaging by hand it’s meditative.”

Do you think 2013 is a good year to be an entrepreneur in New Zealand?

Of course. It’s a turbulent world, but it pays to be brave. I was told many times by men in suits that a coffee liqueur wouldn’t work. “We’re in a recession” they said. I get great pleasure selling Quick Brown Fox to their wives. I am being a little facetious here but my point is, people love cool things. There’s a surplus of average and free space for the bold.

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