Here’s how Kasama Rum’s Alexandra Dorda made it and the key lessons to launching a spirits brand
Updated: Jun 26
Today I’m chatting with Alexandra, the Founder of Kasama Rum.
As the daughter of the Belvedere and Chopin vodka co-founder, Alexandra brings the same level of quality and experience her family company was built on to her first solo venture. Kasama is distilled in the Philippines, bottled at her family's distillery in Poland, and enjoyed around the world. Leaving behind the typical tropes associated with old-school rum brands like sailors and pirates and absent of heavily spiced flavor profiles - Kasama brings a refreshing approach in both branding and palate to a category in need of a breath of fresh air.
If you’re in the alcohol industry or you’re wanting to launch a spirits brand, this episode was a real eye opener for me. We chat through how she sold out of her first batch of 12,000 bottles in less than 3 months, why she’s not optimising for profits and what she learned from the family biz that she’s putting into action with Kasama.
Omg. July 12!!!!!! Have you marked this date in your diary?! It’s the launch date for our private network and if you’re a woman building a cpg slash ecomm brand, this is built with you in mind. You can pop your name on our waitlist which is growing everyday and makes me so excited to see - at femalestartupclub.com/waitlist and we’re going to let you know the second it goes live. We only have 50 spots, we’re starting small and trust me you’re going to want to be part of this from the get go.
Please note, this transcript has been copy pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!
Alexandra. Hi, welcome to the female startup club podcast. Thank you so much for having me. I've been a fan of your show for a while so I'm so thrilled to be here myself. Oh. Oh my God, that's so cool. Thanks. I love that for those who don't know who you are. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what your business is? Sure. So my name is Alexandra. I'm the founder of Kasama rum, which is a rum from the Philippines. We just soft launched in September of 2020 and our official launch was in February of this year.
00:04:43 So we're very, very new but I feel like this is a business that's really been in the making for my whole life? So I just turned 30. But I sort of like to joke that I have 28 years of experience in the alcohol sector. I was just two years old when my dad started his business is so he co founded two of the leading premium vodka brands, So, Chopin vodka and belvedere vodka. And I really grew up shadowing him in his work. And when I mean I was young, I was like really young. I remember being five years old or very young and he would take me to restaurants with him and say, come on, we have to go meet the bartender, We have to check the back bar, We have to shake his hand, like see what's on the menu. And so that's really how I got into this space. And I just sort of got more and more involved as I got older. And so because I was really a labor of love and sort of the culmination of all of my experience in the alcohol space. Mm That's so cool. And I love how you are able to leverage what you knew and the people around you to come to the table with something that you're actually really uniquely positioned to tackle in the industry.
00:05:52 But put your spin on it. And I think that's a really important question that people should ask themselves is like what am I uniquely positioned to tackle? What do I know that other people don't know and like what have I got at my fingertips? So why rum? Why not vodka? That's a great question. So I think first of all I love drum always and I love tropical cocktails and I love sort of sour cocktails and things like that. But I never felt like there was a rum out there that was really speaking to me. So if you think about the rum category, I think it's very stuck in what I like to call the nautical rut. So there are lots of rums that have pirates on them or cartoon sailors on them or ships or I don't know, all dead men. I think it's a category that should be really, really fun, but it's just really stuck in the past. And I always felt like where's the rum for me? Like where's the rum that speaks to me as a millennial woman? And it didn't exist. And I actually set when I first had the idea because I set a google google on my phone, a daily google alert for rum and I woke up every morning being like someone's made this rum, it's so obvious like someone's got to do it and just nobody did it.
00:07:03 But so I sort of saw this gap in the market, but like I said, we are vodka distillers, we own actually a distillery here in Poland where we just still all of our vodkas, but we don't have sugar cane in Poland. So while I saw this gap, I didn't think it was really my, I didn't know how to solve it, I just didn't think it was my problem. A couple of years ago, I actually learned that the Philippines is one of the largest rum producers in the world and my mother is from the Philippines and when I learned that I had, I literally had and ah ha moment, like a light bulb moment and I thought, wow, I can create the rum that I wish existed and I know that there's a need for and also make the branding all about this, you know, my filipino culture in this country that I'm so passionate about and that has so much to bring the world. And so it was sort of like the perfect storm of, of seeing a gap in the market and realizing I had a story that I wanted to tell that really worked in that space. And so the rum is really about, first of all modernizing the category B you know, being young and relevant, being more than just a product, but really about the lifestyle of the, you know, the tropical islands and the Philippines and and the beach life and we really just try to bring rum to a new consumer that maybe hasn't thought about rum in a really long time and what's the industry like now, are there many female founders in the rum space?
00:08:24 And have there been more brands coming out since you started this project a couple of years ago? I don't know that there are many female founders in the rum space or an alcohol in general. There are some, not a lot. I would say that there are more sort of female blenders and things like that or marketeers or brand managers in terms of female founders, there aren't that many, but I would say that there are a couple of other rooms that I can think of, I won't name them, but a couple other rooms that I can think of that are trying to modernize the category, but I would Say that I think they're doing it in a way that's slightly different from the way that we are trying to do it. So Kasama, like I said, it's a celebration of the Philippines, you know, it's I think the most beautiful country in the world we have over 7000 islands that literally are like heaven on Earth. And so it's a celebration of of that lifestyle, but also sort of plays on this wonder less that I think our generation really feels and the visuals that we find really compelling and no, like so far, I literally don't know how, but nobody else is doing this in the room space yet?
00:09:30 Yeah, that's amazing. And I think that again, that's one of those things where look to kind of male dominated products, but not even like being built by male founders, just like more masculine products, like what you were saying, it was more nautical, it was more piratey and you know, whatever sailors and stuff. Uh, and then being like, where's the fem version of this? Where is the version for the millennial woman? It's a really cool way to approach like different industries. If you're thinking about what ideas you could go out and start a brand around definitely for a really like, you know, novice in terms of, I've never created a spirits brand, I don't know anything about that side of the industry. How does one create a spirits brand? Like are you shipping sugarcane from the Philippines to Poland? Are you like, how does it work? What are the steps to getting started? So in our specific case we're actually sourcing the rum from a distillery in the Philippines and we actually bring it to my family's distillery in Poland where it's blended, bottled and packaged and then we ship it off to primarily the United States right now, but we're also targeting many other international markets.
00:10:38 So that's how we do it. But how do you go about creating a spirit spread? I mean, I think first and foremost it's about having a really strong concept, you know, different people do different ways. Some people actually go out and build a distillery or create the alcohol themselves, but there are also lots of third party sort of white label distilleries or wineries if you want to make a wine that can actually create it for you and you can source what it is that you're looking for. So first and foremost you start with the liquid and then you sort of work backwards from there on the branding, the packaging, and then all the regulatory aspects that come along with that. What are the kind of regulatory aspects that come along with? I'm sure there's gonna be a lot. Yes, so I, a lot of people come to me and tell me that they want to start the spirits brand and I always tell them to just take a minute to really think about it because it is not like other industries. I'm often really sort of jealous of people who start, I don't know, clothing brands or jewelry brands or cosmetic brands. Not that that's hard, but you can sell direct to consumer and that's a huge advantage in today's world where, you know, people want to click something and purchase.
00:11:49 What makes the alcohol space really complicated is that it's highly regulated because it's sort of, it's a controlled substance. So specifically in the United States, there's something called the three tier system and this is a hangover from prohibition basically, where they were trying to make sure that nobody had too much control or power within the spirit sector. So there are producers. So like me and we can only sell to a distributor and only distributor can sell to a retailer. So that might be a bar, a restaurant or a store. And only a retailer can sell to a consumer. And so it does a couple of things. First of all, it means that the margins are not what they appear because there are lots of people in this chain. That's one thing. And the second thing is is that the moment between when a consumer might see your brand, whether that be like on social media or on your website or something and the moment they can actually buy it, they're very far apart, both in terms of time and in physical space. And so it makes it really difficult to actually find consumers.
00:12:52 You can get people interested, but you cannot sell, I cannot sell directly to somebody. People message me all the time on instagram, they're like, hi, your run looks cool, can I buy it from you? And I'm like, no, no, you cannot, unfortunately. And that's a really, it's a really hard thing to try to navigate. So that's just one thing. I mean, in the United States, for example, there are something called Control States. So there are states where the government actually sells alcohol and they're the only ones who are allowed to sell alcohol in sort of government owned liquor stores. There are whole countries like that, like Sweden is a good example Canada is like that as well. So that makes it really hard because they're not sort of driven by market forces, there are lots of regulatory aspects like labeling every country has a different regulation on what needs to be on the label, where it needs to be on the label, how big the font needs to be, Does it need to be parallel to the bottom of the bottle? Can you, can you make it vertical? I mean, down to the nitty gritty like that, it's super, highly regulated and it makes it very difficult to navigate.
00:14:02 Wow, That's so interesting on so many different points that you just mentioned. Does that mean for you, like, if you're wanting to take a DDC approach, you basically have to come up with like RTD ready to drink, like mixed drinks kind of thing. Is that how you could basically reach your customer directly in a different way? That's one way. Although RtGS are very different than spirits in many other ways. So, for example, in retail, that's typically a different fire. So it doesn't necessarily have the synergies that you might think it has, What we've done, for example, is on our website, you can buy Kazama rum you like from the consumer standpoint, it feels like it's on our website, but in fact it's routed through the distributor, a retailer and this sort of technology platform that's enabling the sale. So from the consumer, they feel like they're on our website. They feel like they're buying it from us. But in fact it's it's enabled through like this very very long chain of people. That's why the shipping is painfully expensive.
00:15:05 That's why I can't control what packaging it comes in, things like that. So that's the first thing we've done is enable, you know, sales through our website and we're thinking about R. T. D. S. But like I said, it's quite different to produce and it's also quite different from a retail standpoint. So we're just not we're not there yet but certainly something that we're thinking about, you know, Rtgs are are obviously huge right now. Mm. Yeah, absolutely. What about amazon? Can you buy spirits on amazon? Is that part of the mix or out of the mix? I don't want to say decisively. No, I haven't checked to be honest. So I'm not, I'm not sure. I think in some places you can, so for example in Germany, I know that you can sell through amazon in the US. I'm not sure it's not a huge part of our business yet, although it probably should be and I'll bring that down to check after this but we're not selling on amazon right now. Yeah, okay, got it. So I read that you started with a small batch of around 12,000 bottles which you sold out really, really quickly? That's amazing. Congratulations, by the way, how much money do you need to start a spirits brand and like what kind of capital did you need to invest in the beginning?
00:16:15 Sure. So I invested my first investment when I came up with the idea for Kasama was in branding, so like many other people who listened to your podcast, I think I had had many, many business ideas before this and many ideas for spirits brands, but they all fizzled, you know, for various reasons because life got in the way because I had a job because I sort of got maybe overwhelmed and never went through with it. So the first thing that I did was when I had this idea, I really wanted to make myself commit to it, so I said okay I'm going to hire a branding agency and I'm gonna sort of create the packaging and the look and feel of the brand so I can feel more invested in it. So I hired an agency in Manila Philippines called serious studio. It was very important to me to work with locals who could sort of bring the brand to life in a very authentic way That probably cost me around $10,000 and so it was an investment but you know, it, it felt like something that I was ready to take the risk on and it really helped me because it meant that I, you know, was more committed to the idea and actually went through with it And in terms of the first production run, which was you know 12,000 bottles might sound like a lot, but it's very small in the industry and I just sort of took it as a proof of concept, you know, I thought of this brand, I made this brand up in my mind and I wondered, is there anybody else in the world who actually wants this thing?
00:17:39 So I just made a very small production run to test that out, And that probably cost me around $50,000 that I took from my savings, but it did go well, I I think there are other people in the world who want this, this rum and so from there I became much more bullish and started to work on larger production runs. What's your kind of financial, like, approach to building this business? Are you boot shopping, bootstrapping, bootstrapping or you kind of like, Okay, now I've proven the concept, I, I read that you did another order of, I think 75,000 bottles or something like in that range. And are you thinking, yep, let's get funding now that we've proven it. So for now I'm still, it's a combination of bootstrapping and then also, I've been lucky to have help from my family business, which is a wonderful thing that I'm very grateful for. I used to work before before last time I worked in a private equity fund for four years and I worked there actually, while developing, because I'm around on the side and to be honest, this, the experience made me very skeptical of taking on outside investors.
00:18:43 I really think you should never like take somebody into your business unless you absolutely have to. And so far, thankfully I haven't, I haven't needed to do that, but I'm not saying I would never do it. It's something that I'm open to. But I personally am very skeptical of funds or VC VC investors who are not super specialized in a specific field. So I would do it. But I think I'd be most open to investors or companies that have deep expertise within the spirits or CPG space because I just think that capital is relatively easy to find in today's world. There are lots of investors who sort of reach out to me on linkedin and things like that. They're just kind of like looking for something to put their money in and I would only do it if they could really bring deep expertise. So it's something that I'm open to, but I'm not quite there yet. Yeah, no, I totally get that. I totally get that. I wondering before we get into talking about the launch of the brand and how you marketed it and like what the strategy is for launching a spirits brand with knowing all these challenges that you have to launch with, when we look back at your family's brand, your dad started Belvidere and he started shope shope in.
00:19:53 I never know how to say it because I don't have the accent obviously and you know I suck at saying those kind of words show Patton being Australian Chopin When you look back at his, you know he did really well with the brand. I I believe you sold Belvidere you know in 2008 or something like that. What do you think made the brand successful? Like everyone knows this brand, it was all over the world, we all know it, we can all picture it. What do you think it was about that that made the brand so successful that you're able to then take into your brand. That's an excellent question. I think I think it was a combination of timing and a lot of strategy and I think every brand that gets built to that size or some element of magic involved in that to just sort of luck and you know the contributed to it being so large. But I think it was the nineties, it was a moment of you know the dot com world, like there was you know, people were getting rich quickly and I think that they wanted to, it was a very celebratory moment and it was Belvidere actually Chopin was the first luxury vodka in the world which was created in 1992 and at the time it was four times more expensive than any other vodka in the world.
00:21:06 The most premium vodka in the world in the world at the time was absolut vodka. And everybody said You guys are crazy, like nobody's gonna buy Vodka for $35, are you, are you off your rockers, essentially. And the story goes, is that they ordered 100,000 bottles in the beginning and they thought, okay, we're going to, we're going to have this for years to come, like we're just gonna sell it off slowly for for several years. They put it in a wine type bottle, it was the first vodka to be in one of those tall sort of slender bottle that looks a bit like a wine to sort of signify the quality of it and they sold out in three months. So I think it was, I think it was a combination of just really high quality spirits, really unique packaging that spoke to the quality of the spirits, something unique and different the right moment in time and maybe some, some level of magic. And look, I think as well, but what I took from from that is, I think you cannot underestimate the power of packaging.
00:22:09 I think a lot of people think the most important thing is the product inside and absolutely, that's super important. But the fact of the matter is is that consumers buy with their eyes first and in a sea of other products. I mean, if you imagine your local liquor store, there are thousands of bottles there and how do you first of all get them to buy your product when they already have a shelf full of rums and second of all, how do you get an end consumer to, of all things, pick up your bottle and actually buy it and I think it speaks to the packaging and so we really took a lot of time to design the brand, so the bottle itself, but also the secondary packaging. So for example, my shipper cases, I'm sort of looking at them over there, my shipper cases are really beautiful and the reason is that sometimes they get stacked in a store and so if they're stacked in the store, I want it to be super eye catching and exciting and really pull people's attention and so that's what I took away from the experience was to sort of think about branding from start to finish, think about packaging in a level of detail that maybe some other brands don't think about and try to differentiate myself that way.
00:23:18 And I think you're totally right. It's like, especially in today's world, the competition for good looking products and great marketing is fierce, like there are so many good looking things. So if you're sitting and whether this is in beauty or food or beverage, whatever you, if you're looking at two products side by side and one has better branding, You're going to go for that and nine times out of 10, I actually think I'm the kind of girl who is a Marketer's dream were like even if I knew the product wasn't as good on the other one, I'd still probably go for the one that looks good because I'd want that to sit on my shelf and I'd want to look at that definitely our generation is very visual in a way that I think is hard for older generations to understand. I remember having a conversation with someone recently and I said, you know, millennials think that everything that we buy is a representation of ourselves, whether that's our toothbrush or our suitcase or I don't know anything. We think it says something about ourselves. And so I think that's something that older generations don't understand very much.
00:24:22 I think that's something that maybe men don't understand as much as women, this is a very male dominated space and I'm actually happy about that because I think it means that there are lots of gaps that men and I'm not mad, I'm not, you know, I think you it's natural to create products that you relate to and that you want to buy. But in reality women are half the market there, you know, they often do most of the buying for the household and there just aren't as many people creating alcohol brands for women and I think it leaves lots of gaps wide open. So Kasama is my first foray, but I have lots of brands in my head that I'm working on. So this isn't the last, you're going to hear from me. Yeah, and I think like in addition to that, why it's such an advantage to be a woman in that industry is like what comes to mind is, you know, speaking opportunities as if like you know, if there's all guys on a panel, of course they need to have you know, more women coming to the table and speaking on these topics that traditionally they haven't been, you know, at the forefront of and so that gives you a really cool advantage and opportunity to go and like, you know, that's obviously one category, but like there would be so many opportunities like that where you can take the fact that it's male dominated and really use that to your advantage, which is awesome, definitely.
00:25:43 I mean it's such a great time to be a woman in this space, I really think that first of all consumers are looking for, they're looking for something new, whether that's something owned by a person rather than a corporation or female owned or minority owned. I really think consumers are buying what their values are and retailers are really listening so in the case of Kasama we have several really important american retailers and the reason that were there is because they had a specific initiative around female owned spirits brands. So one is bev mo which is I think it's the second largest alcohol retailer in the United States sort of alcohol specialty store in the United States. They had initiative around females own spirits brands and then there's a midwest grocery chain called Meyer has never been to a Meyer but they are my new favorite grocery store. They also had an initiative around that. And so it is a really good time. And I think for anybody who's listening, who has, who's trying to launch a brand, you know, look for retailers that say what it is that they're looking for because a lot of times they're being pushed by their customers to take a stand on certain things and that means that there is space for there is more space for female and brands and minority on brands in many cases.
00:27:01 Mm That's really interesting. A great time to be a woman launching a business. Mhm. Two. Mhm. Hey, it's doing here. I'm just popping in to bring you a quick message in every episode of the Fsc show, you'll hear women who were just like you trying to figure it all out and hustled to grow their business. And I would know a lot of you might be sitting there asking yourself, but how do I actually scale my revenue and get to that next level from where I am now. You also know that so many of the entrepreneurs I speak to have mentioned facebook and instagram ads as a crucial part of their marketing mix From today onwards. I'm really excited to be able to offer our fsc small business owners and entrepreneurs and no strings attached, our long chat with leading performance marketing agency amplifier, Who you might also remember from our D. I. Y. course, full disclosure amplifier is my husband's business. And what's really important to know is that I've been able to witness first hand the transformation of so many businesses going from as low as $10,000 a month.
00:28:18 all the way To $300,000 a month and in some cases upwards to seven figures. So if you're listening in and you feel like you're ready to take your business to the next level, jump on a no strings attached call with amplifier where you can ask all the questions you have about performance marketing and whether it's the right time for you and your business to get started. Go to female startup club dot com forward slash ads. That's female startup club dot com forward slash A. D. S. And booking a call today. Okay, Let's talk about the launch. You sold out of 12,000 bottles within three months or very, very quickly you ordered another 75,000 bottles. How did you do it? How are you selling those 12,000 bottles? Um, so it is a very grassroots operation. So as I explained, it's a very disjointed value chain in terms of how we get things to market and how consumers actually buy them. So it was a lot of hard work on my part.
00:29:21 I also important with the largest distributor in the United States, which is called southern glaciers, wine and spirits and they've been very supportive of my brand. But if you see Kasama in a liquor store or restaurant, it probably means that somebody, so either me or somebody from the distributor probably physically went to that location, set up a meeting, you know, tasted the buyer and had to hand sell that product in. And so it's a lot of just pounding the pavement and literally going to all of these that hand to hand combat strategy. That's what I say exactly. Every single liquor store, every restaurant, every bar, every hotel, every grocery store is a battle and it's a continuous battle because you can get it in one day and then sell out or not sell and then somebody else will take your spot. So it's a continuous battle in every single location, which is another thing that makes it really, really hard. But we have also had a lot of sort of grassroots support from the community. It's a Filipino brand as I mentioned, and Filipinos are so supportive of their own.
00:30:28 I think they're really excited to see a brand that represents their country and culture in a way that's modern and exciting to them and is also, this is key, not just for Filipinos. I think a lot of times we do a lot of talking to ourselves about how great, you know how great our country is, how great our food is, how great our culture is, but I think I really said I want to be a brand that's loudly and proudly filipino, but not just for Filipinos, and so we've gotten a lot of, you know, write ups and mainstream press and things like that, but the Filipino community is certainly my base and they've done an amazing job in being so supportive, but also sharing it with other people. And I would say that that's how we That really contributes to our success so far, and how we sold out of that 1st 12,000 bottles. Yeah, that's so cool. And I have read a few of your really cool pieces, you are in vogue, you're involved, you're in all the places. Was that a matter of you finding journalists and emailing them yourself, or did you hire someone specifically to run your pr efforts?
00:31:32 So one of the very first things I did was hire a pr agency, I knew that it wasn't a skill set that I had. I thought that we had a really cool story that people I hoped would want to write about. And so I I hired an agency in new york in november of last year and they're absolutely amazing. I love them and they've done an amazing job of telling our story and getting it out there, but also were helped by the fact that alcohol, thankfully it's a very high interest category, you know, people really are interested in it, they want to talk about it, They want to write about it, They have questions and so I think it's been, I don't want to say easy, there are lots of alcohol brands, but I think it's it's easier than some other categories which maybe aren't as newsworthy. Yeah, I totally get that and I think as well, you have a really great story, you have a great background story, you know, with, with your experience, with your, with your family business and obviously merging these two cultures together and doing something so unique in an industry that's male dominated and has typically not been catered towards the millennial woman.
00:32:34 So I can see why it's a great story and why press would love to write about you. And again for anyone listening, it's like make sure that you're crafting stories that are compelling that other people would want to know about and read about, that aren't just the same message that another brand is putting out into the media, find what's unique about you and what's your point of difference and make sure that that story is told so that other people can get excited about the brand, Love that when you think back in hindsight about building this brand, obviously you said you've had ideas around alcohol, spirits brands for a really long time and this is sort of on the newer side, I guess you would say what was absolutely critical, like what's the absolutely critical to dues and not to do for anyone who wants to get into the beverage industry or specifically in alcohol and spirits. So a few things I think you really need to figure out why your existing, what the gap is that you are filling. So as I mentioned before, I spoke a bit about sort of that nautical rut with rum, but there was a more specific gap even so on the one end, there are inexpensive rums that have cartoon pirates on them, cartoon sailors, parrots, things like that.
00:33:47 And then there are actually a lot of really wonderful high end drums. But again they had sort of these old dead men on them or galleon ships and things like that. And there was sort of a gap both in terms of the branding but also the price point. So we retail in the United States for around $30. There aren't that many rums at that price point. There are cheaper rums and there are a lot of more expensive rooms but there aren't that many in the middle. So that was more tactically the price point gap that we were filling. So that would be one. But you also of course have to have something that tastes good. I call because I'm a crowd pleaser. It was really designed to be light to be something that a lot of people would like to, to sip on but also a great base for tropical cocktails. So we really tried to make something that a lot of people would enjoy. It's 40% alcohol, which is the lowest rum can be in terms of alcohol content to be considered a rum. But again, that was very tactical. There are lots of rooms that are hyped, they're called over proof rums in the sort of 50 something range. I don't think that there are lots of people who want rooms like that.
00:34:53 I think that there are more people who want something that is pleasant to sip on its own or you know, easy to mix into a cocktail and so at every stage we really thought, how can we make this something that will a fill a gap and be please a lot of people. And so that's, that's something that's really worked, worked out for us. And if you think about the flip side of that, what should people really not do? Like what's something that is like maybe you've experienced where you've wasted time and you wasted money that other people could avoid by knowing from you. Yeah, that's a great question. I mean, I think first of all I'm a perfectionist and there's this quote from Mark Cuban that I love, which is like perfectionism is the enemy of every entrepreneur. I think you just have to, sometimes you just got to suck it up and even if you don't love it, you just need to say, okay, it's good enough and I need to keep going. I think some people invest way too much money in branding upfront. I think sometimes I hear I was actually listening to one of your podcasts a couple of days ago and one of the entrepreneurs had had spent an eye watering some in my opinion on the branding.
00:36:04 I just don't think that that's necessary anymore and I think it's more important to prove the concept early on. So one thing I recommend is especially in the United States or you know, maybe in the UK Brandon can often be very expensive. So one of the ways that I save money is by turning to creatives who are outside those places. So like I said, I worked with a company in the Philippines, I do a lot of my content creation actually here in Poland and so it ends up being a lot less expensive, but also really high quality. So what I would say is, you know, don't of course everything needs to be really high quality, but don't overspend too early on, especially if you don't have to. Absolutely, I love the, I love the saying done is better than perfect and I really operate by that and I absolutely tell my team to operate by that because otherwise you can just waste so much time being really nit picky yes, I had this moment yesterday, I was at our printing house and I was printing some boxes for Kazama roman and it's quite a small run.
00:37:10 So we had to do smic colors are called the digital colors instead of pantone colors and it didn't match exactly. And I just thought, okay, take a deep breath, just get it out the door, You're going to spend way too much time trying to color match this thing that nobody else is gonna notice except for you. Just just keep going. And so it's something I keep telling myself. Yeah, absolutely. And I think just being like, is this really important note, let's just get it out and move on. Something I'm always curious about and I feel like I don't ask this enough on the show, but you're the first person I've spoken to in spirits and kind of in this side of the industry. So I'm interested now, you were telling me about this three tier system where, you know, people aren't able to buy directly from you, which obviously changes your margin significantly. If you were, you know, doing DDC versus a retail approach, whether it's this three tier system, how does it work? Like for the economics, like do you aim to be profitable? Do you aim to make money from this? Only when you sell, like, what's the financial side of building a business like this?
00:38:16 That has these challenges. That's an excellent question. So I do not aim to be profitable on a unit basis. I think it's very hard to be an independent spirit spread and actually to make money on it. So my goal is to break even, but then eventually to to sell this or one of the other brands in my, in my mind to a largest strategic and I think that that is that's my entire investment thesis. It would be extraordinarily difficult to make money on a unit by unit basis because the margins are so despite how what consumers think the margins are so thin in fact, so it's a long term play for sure. It's I am not making money selling individual bottles of rum but hopefully in creating a brand, there's a lot of value there. And also in creating the distribution network that's also something that's very important When strategic Sar considering different companies to acquire, they look at how many cases we call it cases cases typically a box of 12.
00:39:19 How many cases did you do in the last year? And that's an indication of both. How wide was their distribution and how large is the consumer demand? But very rarely do they actually look at profitability because it's nearly impossible to make money on a case by case basis. And so in that kind of regard, essentially the plan would be if your if your goal was, you know, I know you're thinking like whether it be this brand or another brand, just say it's this brand for argument's sake, does that mean the strategy would be just grow at all costs, be as many places as possible, have a really loyal customer base. He was buying through these stores or potentially through your website, but through these other stores and then aim for acquisition. Yes, but I will say I'm still doing it in quite a conservative way. So if I really wanted to grow at all costs, I would raise as much money as possible, spend as much money as possible right now and try to get out as fast as possible. And it hasn't been what I've done so far. So right now I'm still trying to break even trying to invest in things that I think makes sense. I'm really using Kasama, which is a deeply personal brand for me as I explained as a, it's almost a sort of guinea pig to learn about what works, what doesn't work and then take those learnings and keep doing the same thing again and again with other brands?
00:40:40 Yeah, absolutely. And one last question, while we're on this topic of exit and acquisitions and profit or not profit and this kind of thing. And I'm asking simply because as you know, I'm building a brand in the beverage industry, so all of this is super insightful to me when you're building this at this stage early on, are you already thinking like this is who I want to acquire me? Are you already going out and making those connections to be like, hey, what does it take to sell? What do you look for in a brand that you're going to buy or do you already know that because of your past experiences with your family and what's the kind of approach to that that you're taking? So I definitely built it with the possibility of acquisition in mind, but there's still a lot to learn. I mean some of it came from my background in the private equity space, but I am having those conversations, I've had several large alcohol brands brands, companies reach out to me and say, oh, you know, we have, we have venture arms now and we're looking for smaller brands to acquire.
00:41:44 Let's have a conversation. I say sure I'm happy to have a conversation with anybody, but it's certainly useful to speak to them to learn about what, what is it that they're looking for? Some will say, we love that you are and it's a rum, we don't have a rum like this in our portfolio. Some of them will say, oh well we love that you're reaching this niche market. Uh we like the price point. So definitely I'm open to having those conversations, but it's something I'm still learning about. There are a few really obvious companies that may or may not be interested in acquiring me, but there are also lots of still very large but perhaps not household names that could also be potential exits for the brand and I'm very happy to speak to anyone, but I'm not, I'm not interested in selling it just yet. It's still a long way to go. Yeah, absolutely. Gosh, that's so cool. Thank you for sharing that insight. Super useful for me to understand the landscape a little bit better and how it works for other industries. I would love to know what you can shout about about the brand. Where is it today? How big is your team? What fun things are coming up in the future.
00:42:48 All that kind of good stuff. Sure. So we are currently distributed in the US Poland and Lebanon, which is kind of a fun unexpected market in the U. S. Were nearly 2000 stores in I think it's 34 states at last count. So we're still working on reaching all 50 states. Like I said, we're in some really big names like Bev mo Meyer were also in selected total wines. But we're certainly trying to build, you know, constantly build our distribution in Poland were in um, some of the largest european retailers, so assange carrefour as well as in duty free. It's a company called Lagardere Travel retail. They have lots of retail store retail stores and airports around europe and the rest of the world. So that's something we're very excited about is to see that we have had traction in these very prestigious retailers in terms of The team. So I am the only person who works full time on Kazama rum, although I have a lot of support um which is really which is really wonderful.
00:43:52 I'm really grateful for my mom is actually a huge help to me. She was an entrepreneur herself. She ran her own business for 25 years and so she has lots of lots and lots of expertise in this space. And lucky for me, she retired last year, but she's sort of a person who is filled with energy. So I am lucky to be able to divert her energy into helping me with with Kasama and a lot of our daily tasks. So for example if you go to our website, she's the one who is diligently entered every single retailer, almost 2000 stores into our website, shout out to your mom. I know so cool. I lovingly call her my unpaid intern. So I love her so much and I'm so grateful for her help. And then I have a pr team as I mentioned, that helps me. I also have a company that helps me with social media management and content creation. But I actually, I need to build out our marketing capabilities. I know that that's something that we're lacking right now. I'm starting to think about hiring a marketing director to lead this full time.
00:44:57Edit So if any of your listeners are interested or know somebody who might be, I'm very interested in hiring for that role and my email is Alexandra at Kasama rum dot com. If you want to send, send something my way, I'll make sure it goes in our newsletter as well. I'll put a little job job out in there for you. Please do. And then, like I said, we're partnered with the largest retailer uh sorry, distributor in the United States. And so they have something like 20,000 people who work for them across the country. And so that's another way that we, we actually get into individual stores. Got it, wow, that blows my mind that you are the only full time person working on this brand when you're in 2000 stores and you've already had such success really early on in the journey. That's just incredible. Gosh, testament to you and your hard work love that. What is your key piece of advice for women who are also on the entrepreneurial journey, but earlier on, yeah, I think it really depends on where you are in your journey. So if you are quite early and you know, you want to start a business one day, my advice is go work for a company that does something similar and just learn as much as you can.
00:46:10 I always knew I wanted to get into the CPG space. And so when I graduated from university, I went to work for Chobani yogurt in new york and for those of you are familiar with Giovanni, I think it's It's arguably one of the greatest CPG success stories of the last 20 years. And so I went there and I started as an admin, which I was not happy about, but I just went there and I want to learn everything a person could possibly learn in this company and I would just volunteer for random jobs and eavesdrop on conversations and and just try to get as much knowledge as as I could while I was there. And I still keep in touch with lots of my colleagues and managers from kobani and seek out their advice for certain things. So if you have time, try to do that, if you don't have that much time, what I would say is what really helped me was actually putting money behind the idea. So, like I said, when I first had the idea is that I don't want to let this one fizzle out. I'm going to invest some money into this and it's gonna keep me committed and make sure that I follow through.
00:47:16 And so I think if you have a fear of a person who's always wanted to start a business, you know, just never kind of fully went through with it. That's what I would say, investor time, but also your capital and then I think it really helps to make you feel committed to the idea. Mm That's so true. That's so true. And an amount that's like, you know, if you lost it, it would be terrible, but it's not going to ruin you. And also an amount that's big enough that you're not, you know, if it's a small amount that you're just like me, I can move on from that, you know, it was $1,000, I'm happy to lose it. No, I think exactly, it's about striking the right balance of something you can invest, but also something that would, it would hurt if you, if you lost it. Yeah, exactly, Exactly, Gosh, that's so cool, thank you for that advice. At the end of every episode, we ask a series of six questions as I'm sure you know, from listening to the show. So, question number one is, what's your, why, why do you do what you do? So my wife is that I absolutely love to create brands and for me it's not just about a product, it's about sort of dreaming up a world that I wish existed and that I wanted to live in and bringing more people to share in that with me, and I'm just really lucky to be able to do it in a space that I really love, I don't think that, you know, alcohol is not a sector without its problems, but I think that at its very best it's something that helps to bring people together, you know, it's something that people use to help Mark major milestones in their lives and I just feel really lucky to have a product that helps people celebrate special moments in their lives.
00:48:56 I love that question, Number two is what has been the number one marketing moment so far that made the business pop. So we're very new. As I mentioned, we only officially launched in february of this year. So I don't think that we have quite had our Pop yet, but for us, I think one of the best marketing things I've done so far is higher the pr agency that I work with, therefore fabulous women based in new york and we, you know, I still am waiting for my new york Times article but we have had a lot of press since launch and so for us, I think it hasn't been about our Pop, I think our pop is still yet to come, but we've had a lot of smaller and continuous winds over time and that's really helped to drive sales. So for example, in Hawaii we had a lot of local press and it helped us sell out twice and we've already exceeded our yearly goal by forex in the first half of this year. So I think it's about sort of small and successive winds on the marketing front.
00:50:04 That's awesome. Question # three is where do you hang out to get smarter, what are you reading or listening to or subscribing to that others would benefit from knowing about. So like every entrepreneur, I love the podcast how I built this, but I also really love your podcast and I have been a genuine listener for for a while now, I love that you interview women who are really in the thick of it and I think they can give a really honest account of what it's actually like to build a business for me, there are definitely a lot of newsletters that I subscribed to. There's one called the Brown Report, which is a daily alcohol focused uh newsletter. So I get really topical news at the start of every day, but beyond uh you know, books or podcasts, I really call on my network. I like I said, I I I'm still in touch with former colleagues from kobani who give me a lot of advice. I sometimes just sort of cold message people on linkedin and ask them if if they would give me some of their time. So I think the the main place that I I hang out to get smarter is is with my network and asking people with much more expertise than I have for their advice.
00:51:13 I love that and I'm going to use this as an opportunity to plug our private network that we are launching on the 12th of july, it might actually be close to when this episode comes out. So hopefully it comes out before the 12th of july but we would also love to obviously invite you in there and have you as part of the the initial cohort, helping other women who are on the journey looking for insights and additional learnings and things like that. But for anyone listening, if you're looking for community, if you're looking to build your network, if you're looking for mentorship, if you're looking for coaching, if you're looking for an extension of your team and people to help you, then I highly recommend joining as a founding member on the 12th of july. I love that very exciting question. Number four is how do you win the day? What are your AM or PM rituals and habits that keep you feeling happy and successful and motivated? So I got really into walking during the first lockdown, I would spend like 2 to 3 hours a day.
00:52:15 I'm on walks to sort of keep me sane and it's something that I've tried to keep up. Obviously I don't have as much time anymore to spend spent doing that, but if I really want to have a good start to my day, I love to go on a long walk before I start work. Listen to one of my favorite podcasts, which for me is like a very solitary activity and start the day that way. And also recently I've started trying to meditate, I certainly don't know how to do it yet, but the intention is there and I intend to keep practicing and getting better at it. Did. Oh I'm in that same same camp at the moment question number five is if you were given $1000 of no strings attached grant money, where would you spend it in the business? That's an excellent question. I think I would spend it on trying to get the product into the hands of of the right people who could help me grow the business further. So we do a lot of pr sampling for example, or a lot of influence or sampling. So I think if I had $1000 I would probably spend it on trying to get the product to handle the right people.
00:53:22 My mom is the one who is responsible for this at our company. And so I think I would also like strategize with her on how to make the package really memorable and stand out. You know, you know, a lot of people get these sort of Influencer packages these days, but that's what I would do with $1,000. Oh, I love it. And question # six, last question is how do you deal with failure? What's your mindset and approach when things don't go to plan? I genuinely believe that everything happens for a reason and I can think of many moments in my life where I really wanted something to happen and I either failed at it or it didn't work out for some reason and it pushed me in a different direction, which was the one that I was actually supposed to go in. So that's just what I, that's what I think and try to focus on when something doesn't work out. There's something else that you're supposed to be doing with your time. There's something else that's hopefully bigger and better that's waiting for you and don't get discouraged, you know, to be an entrepreneur is very difficult and I think you have to have a lot of perseverance, but also some level of delusional optimism.
00:54:26 So I think you need to combine those two when you, when you experience failure, I love that you really do need delusional optimism. That is so true. Uh This was also thank you so much for taking the time to be on the show today and share your learnings and the insights into this industry. It's been super fascinating and really helpful for me. So thank you so much. Thank you so much for having me.