A case study with StrangeLove

Think of research and development (R&D) and you may be taken to a world of white lab coats, conical flasks and wraparound safety glasses. So, if you’re working for a fledgling beverage company, you’d be forgiven for thinking R&D funding wasn’t meant for you. But, as you’ll come to see, StrangeLove isn’t like other drink companies. CharterNet began working with StrangeLove, an organic soft drink and craft mixer company, three years ago. It was a flavourist – helping to perfect the now renowned Strangelove concoctions – who told James Bruce, StrangeLove’s co-founder, about the Government’s R&D incentive. After taking to Google to find out more, James came across a Sky News interview with CharterNet’s Sameer Kassam discussing the R&D Tax Incentive. James describes his working relationship with the CharterNet team as “just dreamy.” Keep reading to find out why:


When you look at the soft drink industry, you start to notice a bit of a trend – flavours are pretty nondescript: no offensive bitter or spicy ingredients, lots of sugar. However, StrangeLove isn’t one to follow trends or appeal to the masses. Au contraire; its flavours, packaging and descriptions are designed to polarise. Organic soft drinks like the Ginger Beer ‘stolen from Grandpa Mike’s basement’ or the Blood Orange and Chilli that’s ‘the next best thing to real emotions’ aren’t soft drinks for ‘stupid, dumb babies,’ they’re elixirs for adults. From day dot, the StrangeLove concept had naysayers – supporters of the status quo –declaring, ‘you can’t do that.’ James explains that in Australia we may be engineered to think in this way: everything from glass bottles to the contents within them is stock standard or middle of the road. “Maybe it has something to do with us being a small island,” he said. “But, when you’re told you can’t do something you only want to do it more. It’s like a war that’s been waged.” What StrangeLove needed was the financial support to prove: yes, we can. In 2014, James began working with the CharterNet team. Initially, it was out of necessity more than anything else. “When I found out about the R&D Tax Incentive, I had 24 hours to get an application in,” James said. “I spoke to Sameer at CharterNet and he said, ‘we’ll get it done.’”  


StrangeLove and CharterNet’s relationship was full speed ahead from the get-go, with the first goal to secure the R&D Tax Incentive. By this stage, StrangeLove was already experiencing growth. Through implementing CharterNet’s skill and expertise in technical writing and their nous in efficient record keeping, Strangelove’s application for the R&D Tax Incentive was successful. “In my job, I deal with a lot of people,” said James. “Coming across someone like [CharterNet’s] Sameer is a very rare find. He’s one in one hundred. Working with him is easy; his advice is always right and he gets on with the job.” CharterNet now supports StrangeLove beyond its R&D Tax Incentive capacity – helping with financial aspects of the business like accounting, tax and advisory. “CharterNet is an essential part of our business,” said James.


In the three years StrangeLove and CharterNet have been working side by side, the drinks company has doubled its revenue each year. And, this year, James says the company is on its way to doubling again. James admits that it was hard for him to believe that all this would be possible in an industry controlled by a few big players. “I’d go as far as to say we wouldn’t have survived without the R&D tax incentive,” James said. “They’ve [CharterNet] brought expertise to the table and saw things that I couldn’t see.” James says working with CharterNet has afforded them peace of mind, as well as a greater understanding of how to use financial data to inform decisions and strategy. When asked to offer advice to other start-up companies, James laughed and said, “quit and get a day job.” All jokes aside, James explains that to the best way to be ahead of the curve is to “get CharterNet on board as soon as possible.” While less reputable consultants might not champion their own work, James said CharterNet works hard to ensure their clients’ applications are successful. “CharterNet won’t submit anything they won’t endorse. The buck stops with them and they’ll defend any audit.”