Julian Evan Musikant
Checking In With Liquid Confidence Since last catching up with Liquid Confidence’s co-founders (Ashley Sherman, Catherine Lamb, Dennis Wong, and Confidence Udegbue) back in May of 2021, the team has made immense progress toward its goal of defining the “mindful drinking” category by bringing the unique bourbon-based kombucha cocktail to market at scale. Despite the difficulties so many have faced during the pandemic, these student entrepreneurs seized opportunity and successfully conquered some major obstacles to the growth they believe is possible. To boot, all of this progress has been achieved only with economic support from the co-founders’ own pockets. Last week over Zoom I sat down with the Confidence to hear more about the experience he and his co-founders have had in the last six months.
Proof of Concept As planned, the team spent the second and third quarters of 2021 diving head first into their co-packing pilot program. The success of this partnership with Blue Blazer Cocktails has brought the product from being sold only on Tock, to now being available at over 15 beverage outlets in Chicago. To use Confidence’s words, the team is now able to “sell through their product” after having received so much positive feedback. This has led to higher than projected reorder rates - one of the most relied upon metrics of success in the alcohol industry.
From “Stay Fit, Get Lit” to “Mindful Drinking, Without Compromise" The success of the pilot program not only gave the team confidence in their product, but also revealed a trove of valuable information they were able to use to redefine their strategy. Real customer interviews and purchase data revealed that they may have slightly underestimated the age of their target consumer, leading to the decision to shift their focus from younger millennials to socially and physically active professionals ranging from 30 to 50 years old. With this insight in hand, the team chose to rebrand away from the “Stay Fit, Get Lit” tagline in favor of what they call “Mindful Drinking, Without Compromise”. Though the alcohol industry has seen significant growth with the popularization of hard seltzers and canned cocktails, Liquid Confidence aims to represent a philosophy focused on living life in moderation. It is this broader idea of “mindful drinking” that drove them to create a full-flavored bourbon-based kombucha that fits into the “better for you” category, but also has the higher alcohol content and bourbon flavor that so many consumers seem to want in social environments. The team’s ability to execute on the pilot program, and then to pull out insights from the data received, has the co-founders poised to make Liquid Confidence a household name amongst everyone interested in “enjoying the cocktail occasion without compromising on taste or wellness.”
The team’s ability to execute on the pilot program, and then to pull out insights from the data received, has the co-founders poised to make Liquid Confidence a household name amongst everyone interested in “enjoying the cocktail occasion without compromising on taste or wellness.”
Milestones Passed Because Liquid Confidence is creating the kombucha cocktail category as the first hard kombucha made with premium spirits (as opposed to traditional hard kombucha which is double fermented and taxed like beer), the co-founders had to do significant legal work to get their formula and label approved by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). Meeting these stringent federal requirements for retail alcohol sales symbolizes a major step forward for the team. Having conquered this obstacle, the team then began working on making the product “shelf-stable”, a factor differentiating the product from almost every competitor in the kombucha space. Though the practical effects of having a longer shelf-life creates what the founders believe is a competitive advantage in sales and visibility, the team is most excited about the potential distribution opportunities that may arise from avoiding the costs and logistics of cold storage. Having reached these milestones, the co-founders are understandably excited about what lies ahead for the company in 2022.
Moving Forward, Mindfully When I spoke with Ashley, Catherine, Dennis, and Confidence, they were thrilled (and in my opinion, humble) to say that in 2021 the team “definitely ironed out some of the kinks”. During this inimitable year, all of the co-founders feel like they have set themselves up to make 2022 the year they scale their business to the next level. With scale being the focus, Liquid Confidence is going into the new year excited about starting its first round of fundraising. Confidence told me that they first plan expand across the Midwest, with the ultimate goal of leading both the kombucha cocktail and mindful drinking categories throughout the United States. The team has proven that they can bring an innovative product to market and has secured the support of both Northwestern University’s incubator, The Garage, and Chicago’s tech incubator, 1871. I am intrigued to see how they will further progress, all the while embracing and encouraging mindfulness, moderation, and a uniquely modern approach to drinking alcohol.