In our brand spotlight, we feature Abound brands who are ready for retail. This week we sat down with Justin Durling, owner of Cocktail Kits 2 Go. Cocktail Kits 2 Go sells cocktail kits, is based in New York, and has been in business for four years.
Robin: Why did you decide to start this business? Why this business and not a different one?
Justin: I grew up in a small town at the end of the Alaska Highway. I remember walking in the hills, through the trees, and fishing the rivers in the summer. My friends and I had to travel on foot, boat, or airplane to get where we needed to go.
We took with us pocket-sized tins filled with fishing tackle, fire starter, and other emergency and survival gear. Now, based in NYC, I bring this simplicity and portability to the craft cocktail experience.
R: How did you make your first prototype? What changes have you made to your product since then?
J: I started with an Altoids tin and went from there.
R: How do you make your product? Yourself? A manufacturer? What’s your process like?
J: For the first three years I utilized my small NYC apt floor space, laundry room, and storage room to assemble cocktail kits. Now I have a co-packer that does all that so I can focus more on admin and sales.
R: How did you find your copacker? Any advice for people who need to find one?
J: I researched a lot on Google, by phone and in-person interviews. I was very particular in a co-packer who was close in proximity to my home base, who worked with small companies, and who didn’t mind doing small production for market samples.
Even with my criteria, I found tons of options here around NY. So it really came down to who I clicked with, someone I could easily work with and consider a partner more than just a vendor.
R: What’s your day to day like? Do you have any favorite parts?
J: Research and development. I love making new kits, custom orders, and working with mega brands that inspire me.
R: What mega brands have you worked with that have inspired you?
J: Angostura, Jim Beam, and the guys at Hella Cocktail Co. have been a wealth of knowledge and industry info.
R: What was your initial investment? How did you get the money?
J: Initial investment was about $5,000. This bought me design help, website development, and enough materials to get started. I used savings.
R: Where was the first place you started selling your product?
J: My online website.
R: Where do you sell your product now?
J: Small retail, distilleries, small grocery, online, Amazon, boutique hotel, gift shop and gift box companies.
R: Where would you love to sell your products in the future?
J: Large retail and grocery.
R: Do you have a favorite product? If so, which one?
J: Old Fashioned and Mint Julep, I’m a whiskey guy at heart.
R: What’s your marketing like? Is social media an important part of your business? If so, how?
J: Marketing consists of trade shows, Google, Instagram, and industry advertising.
R: What techniques do you use on Google and Instagram advertising?
J: I’ve tried ads on Facebook and I’m currently running ads on Google during 4th quarter. I don’t see a lot of return on these, but I think it helps spread the good word.
R: What are some of the most frustrating challenges and/or moments you’ve had with Cocktail Kits 2 Go?
J: Some of the best times are working with industry consultants, some of the worst times are working with industry consultants.
R: What are some of your greatest achievements and victories you’ve had with Cocktail Kits 2 Go?
J: When you work in the cocktail business, it’s always happy hour. I get to involve my family and friends (we’re a family owned and operated small biz), we have a great time together.
R: What advice do you have for people who want to sell a product?
J: Love it.
R: Is there any business advice or quotes you’ve heard that you think about often?
J: Nope. I don’t get wrapped up in other peoples’ business; meaning, what works for them may not work for me.
R: What’s your favorite thing about being a business owner?
J: I enjoy the idea of bringing people together over a cocktail, unplugged, and I’m happy to provide an instrument for that.