I was recently given the opportunity to interview Renzo, co-founder of Urushop, via e-mail. Urushop is an amazing yerba mate and mate accessory store, based in the UK. Read on to find out how it all started, who the people behind the shop are, and where they’re going with it!
What inspired you to start your own shop?
Since I was a kid I always wanted to have my own business and after trying many things without much success I founded this one, which I really enjoy as this is my culture (I am from Uruguay, by the way). I think that is the reason why we are successful in what we do simply because we like it and know our products.
Why the UK?
I run this business with my wife Emma, she is from the UK and about 5 years ago we decided to live close to at least one of the families, and as you might already guess we picked Leicester in the UK.
How did you do it?
It all started with 4 kilos of Yerba Canarias that we brought back with us from Uruguay when we just moved to the UK. I started looking where I could buy it from for the future and found that it was quite difficult to get.
So we decided to try to sell one of the 4 kilos on eBay and to our surprise we sold it in 2 days! After that we started researching suppliers and ways to import it, and we made our first order of 40 kilos! We have been growing ever since, adding around 80 different brands & variations of yerba mate; over 30 different types of accessories; and a range of foods traditional to Uruguay, Argentina, and Brazil.
Who did you do it with? Did you start it with old friends?
I started this shop with my wife Emma and we are an excellent team as she likes the culture, knows the language, and has a degree in business management; while I am more on the IT and marketing side of things.
How many employees do you have? Is Urushop just a family shop?
UruShop for now is a family shop — managed by the two of us and occasionally we receive help from all our family especially, Laura (Emma’s sister). We also helped my brother and a friend in Uruguay to start a leather mate accessories business in Uruguay; they have 4 employees and make probably one of the highest quality leather accessories for yerba mate in the world (here is an example of their work: http://urushop.co.uk/UruShop/p/174/leather-metal-rimmed-mate) The rest of my family and friends always give us a hand when they are around.
What’s up with the name Urushop? Where did that come from? Does Uru refer to Uruguay?
The name UruShop came a long time ago before having the idea of selling South American products. My idea was that I wanted to have an online shop, but I didn’t know what I wanted to sell and therefore I had to pick a generic name. Yes the Uru refers to Uruguay (my country); some people confuse it with euro which might sound similar.
Was it hard to begin importing yerba?
It’s not easy as I had a language barrier and we both needed to understand how the tax and legal implications would affect us. Then the other problem is that yerba is quite a heavy product and is expensive to buy in small quantities, but at same time it has an expiration date so it is a bit tricky to forecast sales and find the balance to get it cheaper and make it cheaper for our customers.
So far we are selling mainly South American products as we did not have many people requesting any American brands; however, we might be introducing them in the future, as a lot of them are very interesting.
Are you shipping Mate to a lot of other countries in Europe, or just the UK?
[We are selling only in the UK] Because the majority of our products are quite heavy the only country where we can compete is in the UK due to shipping costs; however, we do sell a few accessories all over Europe, though.
What’s your Mate story, how did you get into it?
Like most Uruguayans I have been drinking mate frequently since I was a kid; I can’t really remember when was the first time I tried it (I was probably too young to remember)
Most people don’t think about the UK when it comes to Mate, what’s the Mate culture like over there? Is it growing?
It’s a hard market as it’s only a small percentage of the UK population that consume mate. We are trying our best to promote it and to be honest I am not sure if is growing or just that more people know our shop.
What made you the most well known Mate outlet in UK?
Oh well first of all thanks for the compliment We have worked really hard to be where we are; we always tried to be professionals since the beginning, even if we sold 500 grams of yerba in a week we had make the effort to ship quickly, walking about a kilometer to get to the post office.
Since those days we have grown and have an efficient set up, including daily collections by three courier companies. We continue dedicating a lot of effort to give a sincere and personal customer service. For people who are new to Yerba Mate, there are lots of questions so we try to answer them and provide information on our website. We have even added a live chat function to try and help people even quicker. If a customer requests an item, we do try our best to source it for them, and we listen and act on suggestions about how we can improve our service.
I think our professionalism and personalized service and quality of the products are the key to our success. We have developed a very loyal customer base, and we find that our customers are very thoughtful, enjoyable customers to work with.
What’s your vision for Mate?
Our vision is to try to get everyone drinking mate properly! — hence all the photo instructions etc. on the website. We see that so many people just put some Yerba in a gourd then some water, stir it with a spoon and drink from that! It’s no wonder why many people say that mate is horrible!
Other people for example try to do it properly, but then they fill it up with water, only taking a few little sips every 10 minutes: you can imagine that the first sip will taste OK and the rest will be taste worse and worse every time; also, by then the Yerba will be “washed” really quickly which will shorten up the amount of water that you can drink using the same Yerba.
Mate is a really special flavor and for people to have a chance to like it it has to be prepared the right way!
Thanks so much Renzo! To order Mate within the UK, or mate accessories, check out Urushop! You won’t be disappointed!