In our brand spotlight, we feature Abound brands who are ready for retail. This week we sat down with Erin Rose Myers & Kelli Jennings, founders of Lush Wine Mix. Lush Wine Mix sells Organic Wine Cocktail Mixers, is based in Crested Butte, Colorado, and has been in business for six years.
Robin: Why did you decide to start this business? Why this business and not a different one?
Erin + Kelli: It all started with two women, a moody printer, an old Slurpie dog machine, and 5 famous last words. Really.
This is our small business story. Like many other small businesses, the ideas began to spin around a dinner table, between two family members (we are sisters-in-law, and more importantly great friends), and included the words, “how hard could it be?” Let it be known – these are famous last words.
Erin had bought a wine slushy mix at a holiday fair a few weeks earlier, and had saved it for Thanksgiving dinner so we could all give it a try. We had no intentions beyond just having a nice dinner. And the slushy was okay, but way too sweet, and the chemical ingredients left something to be desired.
After drinking a bit too much, we started thinking, “I bet we could make a mix like this, only much better.” “I bet we could make wine cocktail mixes that were less sweet and that had great real food ingredients. Really, how hard could it be? We could package them and sell them. Easy as pie.” We love cocktails. We also love to live our lives as organically as possible and we expect nothing less from our cocktails. We saw a need in the industry and decided we should be the gals to fill it.
R: How did you make your first prototype? What changes have you made to your product since then?
E + K: We started with organic ingredients, tested out a few recipes and eventually landed on the ingredients we have in our Original Lush Frose Mix. From there we knew we wanted to make a Sangria. We continued to test ingredients and recipes until we got it just right. Since then, we’ve continued to test out new recipes with lots of fun real-food ingredients and when we find a new recipe we really love, we move forward with new flavors.
R: How do you make your product? Yourself? A manufacturer? What’s your process like?
E + K: We handcraft every bag of Lush. Although it’s time consuming, we want to always ensure the utmost quality and freshest, real-food ingredients as possible.
R: What’s your day to day like? Do you have any favorite and least favorite parts?
E + K: We’re both moms, wives, avid fitness enthusiasts (mountain biking, skiing, crossfit, & more), and small business owners. It’s always a balancing act that we’re both continually tweaking to get the most out of our business as well as our personal lives.
Our time with Lush is split between actually handcrafting each bag of Lush, improving our online store fronts, working with our clients and customers on orders, and working to grow the business. We are both heavily involved with every aspect of the business.
R: What was your initial investment? How did you get the money?
E + K: About $5,000. We funded it 50/50 ourselves.
R: Where was the first place you started selling your product?
E + K: We started with some local bars, restaurants and stores. We also participated in a handful of Christmas Faires where we sampled our product and sold retail directly to the customers.
R: Where do you sell your product now?
E + K: Bars, restaurants, wineries, Amazon, boutique shops.
R: Where would you love to sell your products in the future?
E + K: More bars, restaurants, wineries and boutique shops! We’d specifically love to expand with specialty wine shops and wineries. We think we bring a lot to the table that our competitors don’t. It’s just a matter of getting our product out there.
We’d also love to get into every US wine market and region. Lush is best suited for large or small businesses, boutiques, wineries, and restaurants whose customers value high quality ingredients and fun experiences.
R: What’s your marketing like? Is social media an important part of your business?
E + K: Marketing is something we have definitely underutilized up to this point. We are continuing to evolve our marketing plan and are working to ramp up more marketing in general.
R: What are some of the most frustrating challenges and/or moments you’ve had with your business?
E + K: The ongoing pressure to stay on top of social media but not seeing a return on our investment of time or money. Also, bureaucracy can be challenging and expensive with organic food products. From organic labeling to obtaining trademarks and other licenses.
R: What are some of the greatest achievements and victories you’ve had with your business?
E + K: We were profitable in just 6 months and we had created a product from scratch with amazing ingredients. Our product gets great reviews and our customers are happy to serve it. Some of our bars’ best reviews are a direct result of our slushy mixes and one got named a top 10 bar in America to drink Spiced Wine, while serving Lush.
R: What advice do you have for people who want to sell a product?
E + K: Be passionate about what you decide you want to sell and then work towards excellence in every aspect of your pursuit. The small things become the big things, so focus on one thing at a time and keep moving forward until you accomplish what you’re wanting to accomplish.
R: Is there any business advice or quotes you’ve heard that you think about often?
E + K: A few books that have been helpful for us: Chasing Excellence by Ben Bergeron. The 4 hour work week by Tim Ferris. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.
R: What’s your favorite thing about being a business owner?
E + K: We love the creative aspects and flexibility. We’re both moms and really value the life/work balance we’ve been able to obtain (although it’s a challenge sometimes too). Neither of us can imagine any other work/life/motherhood life.
In addition, we believe that companies have an amazing opportunity to make a positive impact on the world. We feel called to help with the fight against hunger and we give back with every purchase. We especially try to help foundations that target kids, veterans, and women. We are inspired by companies like Toms in this regard.