Irene Falcone is used to people doubting her ideas.
“I was in the paper the other day and there must have been 10, 20 comments on there, saying I was going to go broke in a week,” says the founder of Sans Drinks, a retail business which recently opened what it claims is Australia’s first non-alcoholic bottle shop.
Still, the doubters might be brave if Falcone’s prior success building and selling e-commerce business Nourished Life in 2017 for $20 million is anything to go by.
“I love disrupting… (but) there's people everywhere that are going to say that an idea isn't great,” she says.
“The number one thing you need to do as an entrepreneur is follow your gut. That is all. If you think it's a good idea and you've got that buzz, you’ll know, you just do it.”
Yet again, Falcone is fast following through on her self-belief.
After starting online last year during the pandemic, Sans Drinks opened its second non alcoholic bottle in Sydney’s Freshwater in May and has plans for several more. Falcone’s husband, chief operating officer Tim Fairservice, says after starting the business in their home garage, they quickly had to expand to a warehouse to meet soaring demand.
It taps into the sector’s rise globally in recent years as more people seek to moderate their alcohol intake, global beverages research group IWSR estimating the no-alcohol and low-alcohol category upped its market share of the total beverage alcohol market in 2020 to 3 per cent across 10 key countries that represent the bulk of consumption, including Australia. The group forecast the category would experience a compound annual growth rate of 5 per cent in Australia from 2020-2024.
“Business is going fantastic, we’re pumping out 300, 400 orders a day out of the warehouse. On Saturdays, we have a line up here in Freshwater to come in,” Falcone says.
“I'd like to see this business expand really rapidly and we have plans for six more stores in Sydney and 20 across Australia in the next three years.”
As the economy continues to recover from the COVID-induced recession, Vatche Torossian, a business banking manager at Westpac, says it’s critical for banks to support small businesses and entrepreneurs with good ideas like Falcone and Fairservice.
“There’s niches out there that haven't been tapped into and …. to help her grow, along with the economy, 100 per cent, we need to back them,” he says.