Today is National Twin Day, and our man on the ground, Kevin Pilley meets some more than usually effervescent twins.
Twins sometimes don’t make good mixers. But the Dutch De Haas identical twin sisters, Joyce and Raissa, do.
Tonic is in the blood and mixers are in their DNA. The parents of the founders of Double Dutch ran their own gin and spirits shop and licensed garden in Antwerp.
Raissa, the youngest of the 32-year-olds, says:
“We both studied for an MSc. Technology Entrepreneurship at University College London and devote our dissertation to finding a solution for our frustrations.
“We noticed that the gin market was booking but the mixers market was lagging behind. We concentrated on flavour innovation. Double Dutch mixers were the first dual-flavoured mixers.
“Winning awards such as the UCL Bright Ideas Fund and the Richard Branson Foodpreneur award inspired us to keep pushing forward.”
“We secured a year of free London office space in Gordon Square. Now our products are available in 45 counties – Double Lemon, Indian Tonic Water, Skinny Tonic, Cucumber Margarita with Chilli Soda, Cucumber and Watermelon, Cocktail Soda, Cranberry and Ginger, Ginger Ale, Ginger Beer and Refreshing Lemonade.”
Their perfect serves are an Americano with their own brand Pomegranate and Basil and a Tequila, agave syrup and Double Dutch Pink Grapefruit Soda Paloma. The drinks are made in Kendal in the Lake District.
Raissa focusses on sales and marketing and sales. Joyce is the more analytical and number-focussed of the two. She is the planner and head of operations and finance. Previously, she worked as an investment banker with BNP Paribas.
“One of the advantages of working with your twin is they are someone you always have access to pick their brains. Sharing the highs is much more fun, but sharing the lows is also a lot easier to get through when there are two of you. Knowing each other inside out makes for very efficient working.
“When we disagree, we can say what we think without having to worry about how it comes across, or when we are in a meeting together, we know each other’s facial expressions and what we are thinking. It’s unique partnership.”
But there are drawbacks.
“When working with a twin, it is almost impossible to split personal life and work. However, I don’t really believe in the massive need for a work/life balance because work is such a big part of life for most people, and so doing something you enjoy feels like life.”
“When we were younger, we used to play around a lot and do each other’s exams or when we were very young we used to pretend to be each other and break up with our boyfriends meaning we didn’t have to. More recently it’s quite handy as we can do each other’s meetings if it’s really needed!”
They both agree that when setting up a business with a twin there are both pros and cons involved. The pros involve a direct and open communication stream, the same work ethic, and 100 per cent trust between partners.
“We also have the same alignment and vision and, finally, when it comes to culture, we are very informal. However, this could also be a con!”
Further cons involve an always ‘on’ attitude and spending so much time together at the expense of others.
“The key skills important when starting a business are passion, drive and enthusiasm and self-belief and confidence in your own ability. We have that two-fold. Resilience is crucial. And we have double of that.
“My number one advice to young people looking to start a business is to do it around something you love or are passionate about. There will be lots of sacrifices in your personal life, so at least do something you enjoy.”
Concludes older twin sister Joyce:
“Secondly, don’t do it alone.”
Kevin Pilley is a former professional cricketer and chief staff writer of PUNCH magazine. His humour, travel, food and drink work appears worldwide and he has been published in over 800 titles.
Photographs courtesy of Double Dutch Drinks