These Female Founders Are Shaking Up The Booze Business
“I asked the women leading six early-stage alcohol brands — including craft beer, hard kombucha, canned cocktails, hard cider, hard seltzer and canned wine — about their experience building an emerging beverage business. Here’s what I learned.” – Chris Furnari, Forbes
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Chris Furnari: What compelled you to launch a beverage company, and what’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced or lesson you’ve learned since you incorporated?
Alix Peabody, founder, Bev: I never really set out to build a beverage company. I had a brand and a mission I wanted to bring into the world long before I landed on beverage as my industry. A lot of what I care about centers around gender dynamics, drinking culture, and the sexualization of women in advertising, and as I started to think about industries that had the ability to make a real impact in this space, beverage seemed to be the right fit.
There have been so many challenges along the way, but the biggest lesson I’ve learned is to trust my instincts, and to understand that a lack of experience is an edge if you let it be. It’s so important to surround yourself with experience, but at the end of the day the vision is yours, and the choices are yours.
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CF: What is your company’s mission?
AP (Bev): Do it different. Do it better. Break the glass!
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CF: What is your product, what makes it unique or different, and how are you generating brand awareness?
AP: In 2017, I cashed out my 401(K) and bought 300 gallons of rosé. That’s how Bev rosé was born! In 2019, we launched two additional SKUs: Bev Blanc (sauvignon blanc), and Bev Gris (pinot grigio). All three varietals of Bev are 11.9% ABV, 0g sugar, and made from high quality grapes sourced from the central coast of California.
What makes Bev particularly unique is that it represents much more than canned wine. It’s a movement rooted in the concepts of empowering underrepresented communities and redefining the traditional adult beverage industry from the inside out.
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CF: The biggest choke point for any new beverage venture is distribution. How have you earned (or plan to earn) wholesaler, retailer and ultimately consumer mindshare for your offerings?
AP: We were able to secure distribution with Southern Glazers Wine & Spirits, one of the largest alcohol distributors in North America, which has led to rollouts in major chains such as Target, Albertsons, Vons, Pavilions, Safeway, Kroger, HEB and more. I think that no matter what size brand you are, you can win in one of two ways — share of mind or share of heart. When you’re a young brand, like Bev, share of mind is not really an option as you don’t have the resources to make it one. So, you must capture share of heart by working tirelessly to prove you are worthy of an investment of your partners’ time.
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CF: What stage of growth is your company in right now?
AP: Bev’s first funding round was led by Founders Fund in Spring 2019. Founders Fund, known for investments such as Facebook, Spotify, and SpaceX, had never before invested in a beverage company. Presently, Bev is in an early, yet aggressive growth stage and we’re expanding our footprint rapidly. With the support of Southern Glazer’s, we have plans to open new markets across the U.S., though some have been delayed due to COVID-19.
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CF: What has been the biggest surprise since you’ve launched?
AP: The same day I incorporated Bev, I got a cat named Harold. Now, we have a company policy that qualifies you to receive a cat after completing your first year at Bev. I truly did not anticipate starting a cult following surrounding Bev cats, nor did I anticipate facilitating upwards of 10-plus cat adoptions.
- Alix Peabody, founder, Bev (A MaC Venture Captial Company)
- Amy Walberg, founder, PRESS Premium Hard Seltzer
- Bridget Connelly, CEO and co-founder, Luna Bay Booch
- Bronya Shillo, founder, Fishers Island Lemonade
- Caitlin Braam, founder, Yonder Cider and The Source
- Jennifer Newman, CEO and co-owner, Young Lion Brewing Company
Caption: These female founders are leading breakout beverage brands. CHRIS FURNARI