Man delivering packages to a house

Strathclyde InspireCase Study

Pivot and evolve 

John Robertson, Founder of Shoply Ltd (formerly Drinkly ltd) - BSc Mathematics [2000]

In 2016, Strathclyde Mathematics graduate John Robertson founded Drinkly Ltd; an online platform allowing customers to order premium alcoholic drinks and have it delivered straight to their door within one hour. Prior to launching his business, John worked for nearly 20 years in international sales and management roles in the drinks industry, launching and helping grow some of the best brands in the industry including; Innis & Gunn, Kingfisher Beer and Whyte & Mackay.

John’s idea for Drinkly resulted from a discovery that he made of a highly successful business model operating in the US whilst studying as part of the Saltire Fellowship in 2015. Since 2016, Drinkly has grown from strength to strength, receiving support from a variety of accelerator programmes and public sector organisations, and has since created partnership deals with Asahi UK, Heineken, Pickering’s Gin and Innis & Gunn. During the beginning of 2020, the company pivoted and re-branded to Shoply. The move came after sales soared by 500 per cent amid lockdown in the six weeks ended May 3 compared with the same period last year, with “mixed basket” sales accounting for a growing number of transactions.

Shoply now allows customers to order from their local convenience stores, ensuring that all branded essentials can be delivered straight to the customer within the hour. By Pivoting the business, Shoply has expanded its offering whilst staying true to the company’s original ethos to deliver greater convenience and value to consumers.

We were actively looking at ways to develop our platform and proposition beyond drinks and snacks, and integrating a convenience-led retail offer with our existing business stood out as a natural progression. It made me reflect on when I first started too. It’s so important to take ideas and simple iterations of your product to your potential customers and listen to their feedback. I delivered to every customer for 9 months when I first started my business; listening all the time to their feedback to allow us to make our proposition stronger to allow consistent growth. Never be afraid to get your hands dirty and make it happen as no one else will.

Strathclyde was able to offer advice and support, and kept John informed in upcoming events in the entrepreneurial space. The University also assisted in John achieving one of 20 places on the Scottish Enterprise Unlocking Ambition cohort for 2018, and prepared him to present his business case to the Strathclyde Entrepreneurs Fund (SEF), which resulted in successful investment in 2019.

John Robertson, Founder of Shoply Ltd