OTS 123 | Social Sparkling Wine

Women who like to drink don’t like what happens to them the next day. When they drink beer, the feel bloated. Wine gives them headaches and cocktails make them fat with its sugar. Leah Caplanis created Social Sparkling Wine, the most health-conscious alcohol available today. This sparkling beverage has a low calorie count and 1 gram of sugar. What makes it a healthy drink is that nutrient-based ingredients are fused into it like organic hibiscus extract and organic ginger extract. Learn why Leah picked the wine industry to get her products into big box retails and how she was able to do it.

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Leah Caplanis, The Brains Behind The Social Sparkling Wine

Our guest is Leah Caplanis who’s going to tell you how she did it. This is not somebody that’s wanting to get their products into big box retail, she is doing it. She’s done it and having a great time in the process. She had the opportunity to be on the TV show, Billion Dollar Buyer, and she did really well. She’s going to tell us all about that experience. There are some nuggets of information in there that you are not going to want to miss because they’re amazing. Her story is amazing and her product is showing that by how fast it’s taking off and how people are wrapping their arms around it and embracing it because of the reason that she created it. She’s going to get into all of that with you.

You hear me talk about Jim Rohn a lot and you know how I feel about Jim. If there’s anybody out there that you should take the time to listen to his tapes and read his book, it’s Jim Rohn or his books. One of the things that he could never understand in his life was if you wanted to do something, if you wanted to make something happen and there was somebody out there that already did it, they’ve already mastered it, they’ve already made it happen and they wrote a book, he could not understand why you wouldn’t read that book. You want to do what this other person already did it and they’re killing it, and they wrote a book about it telling you how to do it. It always seemed like a no-brainer to him. 

Occasionally, we like to bring you opportunity to hear from people that are doing it, that have done it, that are having success in it and break down what makes that success happen for them. I feel lucky and privileged that Leah agreed to be on the show. She is super busy with all the things that are happening since she’s been on the TV show, Billion Dollar Buyer. We’re grateful for her time and her willingness to share with you what she’s learned, maybe what mistakes that she’s made so that you don’t also make those same mistakes. Leah, welcome to the program. 

Tim, thank you very much.

Joe has always done a good job. Joe runs into so many people and he’s always done a good job of saying, “Tim, do you want to talk to this person? ” It’s not super common for us to get people on the show that are entrepreneurs and they’d have had some success and we’re able to share that success with our Big Box audience. I’m very excited to talk to you about your SOCIAL Sparkling Wine and everything that goes with that. I appreciate you taking the time to speak with us. Just so everybody knows, what is SOCIAL Sparkling Wine? 

SOCIAL Sparkling Wine is my attempt to create the most health-conscious alcohol available today. What we did was we looked at a concept as to what healthy alcohol would be and we created social from that concept. We’ve got five flavors of organic super locale, super low-sugar sparkling wines.

That sounds strange. Healthy alcohol sounds a little counter-intuitive. What makes it healthy? 

What we’re seeing out there is this raising of consciousness towards being healthier. That’s happened in so many categories, but it has hit the alcohol world almost last. It’s pretty close to still hasn’t hit it. Making things healthier, it’s organic certified that it is low calorie. It’s one of the lowest calorie alcohols out there today. It’s only one gram of sugar. I’ve learned from my holistic journey that sugar is something that we’re learning to avoid. It’s got one gram of sugar, it is gluten and sulfite-free, and it’s made from superfood extracts. Super foods are things that have been known to be nutrient dense. We have ingredients like organic hibiscus extract and organic ginger extract, the straight up juice from these powerful foods.

All these things combined into your drinking. I totally want to know the story. All these cool things in the drink make it taste good and also don’t make you feel bad later. The volume of alcohol in your drinks is what? 

4% alcohol.

OTS 123 | Social Sparkling Wine
Social Sparkling Wine: It was figuring out what are the pain points out there and altering these things to create a product that reduces those pain points.

That’s equivalent to drinking something else like what? 

Domestic light beer.

Do people find that after drinking your product, the next day they don’t feel as bad or is it just a healthier way to socially consume alcohol and understand that you’re not killing yourself with pesticides and whatnot at the same time?

What happened was we spoke with a whole bunch of women, that’s who I’m serving right now, and we asked them, “What do you like about alcohol? What don’t you like?” We found that in different occasions they’re drinking different alcohols and they liked this about it, but they don’t like that. They drink beer, but it makes them feel bloated because of potentially the gluten. They drink wine but the next day, they get a headache because of maybe the sulfites. Let’s say if they were drinking a ready to drink or in cocktails, there’s tons of sugar, so they gain weight. Some things have high alcohol, so they get too drunk. It was figuring out what are the pain points out there and altering these things to create a product that reduces those pain points, whether their experience drinking that night, not feeling bloated, not feeling strong, not feeling like they just blew their diet and feel guilty about not being as health conscious, or it’s the next day that they don’t have the big hangovers, and so forth as well.

It definitely sounds like you’re hitting all the pain points. You went out there and try to figure out what they are wanting. I get pitched a lot of products every single month. People come to me with stuff that they built in their garage or stuff that they’ve already had manufactured. A lot of times, kids out there searching for a problem to fix have this thought and they build this product, but they didn’t even ask the question, “Is this something that anybody wants?” What ends up happening is they have to try to start to create some problems so that they can fix them and hopefully it will sell. It’s awesome that you went out and talked to people first to figure out what it was that they want. 

It sounds like you went even a step further with the superfoods. Not only are you not feeling bloated, not getting too drunk, and not having a headache the next day, but you’re putting some stuff into your body absorption-wise that’s going to make a big impact. That’s cool. The beverage market is not super in my wheel house technically. I’ve done beverages before. I’ve also consulted on a bunch of alcoholic and wine for Costco, but it’s not something I do all the time. It’s super competitive. What made you want to say, “I’m going to go into one of the most competitive markets around beverages.” Why did you pick that? What’s the story? How does it go all the way back to your inception? 

We all have a story as to how we came up with our product and how we knew that it was needed out there. My story is that when I was 26, I was working for a real large food company and I ended up getting diagnosed with thyroid cancer. I decided to heal holistically by going vegan and by doing lots of cleanses and not drinking alcohol for a couple of years. I ended up feeling great and I was getting healthier and more vibrant every day throughout that journey. What I noticed after a couple of years is that I had lost something on the social side. I lost that feeling of connection that I got to experience when I was having a drink with a friend or going out dancing and feeling free and living in the moment.

I started drinking alcohol again, but I had fresh eyes about it. I saw that there were a lot of pros to it and value it adds, but then it also had these cons. It was right after the very first time I drank again after a couple of years that I went into a liquor store and thought, “What the heck am I going to drink that’s more health conscious?” I saw something that talked about lower calories and being all natural. It looked like it was targeted towards women. I thought, “They might understand my needs.” I tried it out and thought that, given everything I had learned in my healing journey, to make something health conscious, something I would want to drink as well, it could be improved upon.

When I was looking in a liquor store, I did not see it as super competitive because I saw if you go to like a big liquor store, there’s thousands and thousands of products. It turns out that 60% or 70% of the industry is made up of the top ten suppliers out there, but then there’s thousands and thousands of small alcohol brands. I’m like, “If they’re surviving, there’s something to this.” What’s neat in the food and beverage and alcohol world is that people nowadays are looking for variety. Everyone wants exactly what they want. They also are always wanting to try something new. There is a space for these small niche brands that can reach their target consumers.

First, let me say congratulations on beating cancer. I’m intimately connected with people who struggle with that, having lost my first wife to that. I applaud you and say congratulations on that. I’m also very in-tuned to you on losing the social aspect of just hanging out with people if you decide to stop drinking alcohol. For me, I had a triglyceride anomaly. My whole family is high in triglycerides, but for some reason, my triglycerides shot up over 1700, which are supposed to be at 170. They shut down my pancreas, which led to pancreatitis. It was a whole scary thing over Christmas a couple or two to three years back. I too decided that on my healing journey to get better that I would stop drinking alcohol because it wasn’t helping anything.

There is nothing about drinking that was going to help me in my recovery. People literally stopped inviting me to go places or hang out, or I wasn’t invited to this party because it made them feel uncomfortable that I wasn’t drinking. I wasn’t uncomfortable, I’ll come to your party. I don’t have to drink, it’s all good. I can have Pellegrino. It made them feel uncomfortable like I was judging them, and I wasn’t. All of a sudden, my wife and my social calendar dwindled down. I can understand where you were at in your interest in trying to create something that could get you back into that. That’s interesting and I’m understanding exactly where you were. 

I hear from people all the time this expression. They say, “I want to go out and be social, but I don’t want to get too drunk. I don’t want to feel bad the next day.” They want to go out and connect. Part of the reason we called it SOCIAL was because of that, to bring back the emphasis on connecting with each other versus going out and getting drunk. Even just the product, it’s about that connection that we’re looking for.

You had the idea. You thought that you can improve on some things that were out there already. Did you go out and get a team of people or did you generate this on your own? How long did the process take from you going, “I think I can improve on this,” to having a finished product that you’re sipping on and you’re saying, “I nailed it?”

I did get a team pretty quickly. I was getting my MBA part time at University of Chicago and they had a business competition. I had done that competition a couple years ago, so I knew a bit of what it entailed and had a partner from that before. He and I and his wife and his best friend, the four of us came together. Within a couple months, we had this new process to make our alcohol that this brew master had invented. It’s a man in his 70s and he hadn’t commercialized it. He didn’t know if the process would work so he signed it over for a couple percent of the company. He became our brew master. That all happened really fast. To get to market and to have a finished product took me a year and a half. That whole time almost, I quit my job after about four or five months working on Social part time. It took almost a year and a half or a year full time without having a product.

When I talk to people out there, one of the biggest concerns that they have is when to make that jump, like leave my day job and do this full-time. I’m sure for everybody, it’s a little bit different. What had to happen for you to feel comfortable doing that? 

At the time, my day job was giving layoffs. I wanted one.

You’re the only one in there with your hand raised. 

Yeah, and they came back and said no. They changed their mind because they knew I wanted to leave. There was some timing around that. We had also gotten accepted into an accelerator program that was free office space during the day and some mentoring. That was going to start and that was like a $10,000 investment. I hear this question from people and what I tell them is that one of the main things that you have to do to leave as an entrepreneur is to learn to trust yourself and to trust your own guidance system and making that more tangible. Every person has a different risk threshold. For me, there’s a different time when something feels logical. At the time, I had around $100,000 in my 401(k). I had a little bit of money from quitting the job and that type of thing. I had this $100,000 coming in for the accelerator program. I didn’t at all have a product or anything else, but to me, it’s summed up as this feels logical to me that I could do this for three, six months. I could find another job. I had enough money to last me a couple of years. It just felt logical. Looking back, we were a year away from launching and we didn’t even have a formula, or a sample and we had a different name. There was so much that we didn’t have that other people might look at where I was at and think I was crazy. For me, it felt right.

I think you’re right. It has to be that. How I answer that for people when they ask me is, in a way, what you said. It’s either going to feel right or it’s not going to feel right. For instance, when people come off at Amazon to me and they want to go to brick and mortar retail, I always tell them, “This is a commitment. When you want to take your product and move it from Amazon to brick and mortar, it’s a commitment. We’re not going to try it or see if we can do it or dip our toe in it because there’s nothing about that that buyers want to hear. You have to either commit to the whole process or don’t do it.”

Building your business and being an entrepreneur and creating a product, at some point you have to, in your own mind, crossover that part that says, “I’m going to do this. It’s not an idea anymore or a concept. I’m committed to it.” Once you’re mentally committed, then that time frame of when you’re going to jump in with both feet becomes more and more clear. It sounds to me like you were or had that tipping moment already. This was something that you absolutely wanted to do, and you were in with both feet, so when all those things started to line up, it made sense. Entrepreneurship is hard, and a lot of people still balk at it. Entrepreneurs are a different breed. We’re not afraid to lose everything for the opportunity to make a difference. 

When you’re working on your own thing and you’re working on something you believe in, you get the energy to work all day and work all night when needed. I do think that entrepreneurs are a group of people that like working so much, maybe more than they enjoy hanging out, sometimes more than they even show joy being with their families because. There are only so many hours in a day and it’d be amazing if someone could just lead a perfect balanced life when they are starting something. I can’t say that it’s what I’ve seen very much or that I did. It’s hard. It’s a lot of time, it’s a lot of energy, but it’s super fun.

I can say with definite honesty that there’s no perfect balance. I can also say that a lot of times I’ll hear, “If I could just do this, then things will settle down a little bit.” There’s no settling down. The better your product does, the work is more. It’s not less. It does allow you to hire some people and to start delegating some things. What I find that entrepreneurs have is a tremendous amount of passion. It’s the passion, to me, that drives. It sounds like passion for what you’re doing is driving you. When you work all night, it doesn’t seem like a big deal because it’s not somebody just saying, “Do this.” You’re not working for somebody. At the end of the day, you still make your $35,000 a year and the person you’re working for is making millions. You have a passion for something and at the end you’re going to benefit from it, so that can be a driving force. 

It can make all the difference. Let’s say you’re working eight hours a day. If you’re doing something that doesn’t excite you and doesn’t feel like you’re making a difference in the world, making it better, for me, that can be a big downer. Life’s only so long, so it’s important to enjoy what you do.

I know that you were on the Billion Dollar Buyer. I want to talk a little bit about sales. When Joe sent your stuff over, I looked at your website. You’re in quite a few retailers. I imagine that you’ve been in your share already of buyer pitch meetings. Who was your first decent sale to? Who was the first person who said, “Yes, I’m going to go with this?”

The very first grocery retailer that said yes was a chain called Mariano’s in Illinois. It’s large. It’s about 30, 40 stores. They’ve been bought by Kroger now, but their focus was on local. They were open to local products and they are also more of an upscale health conscious chain. They were the first ones to jump in. Then after that, I got into Publix, which was our biggest win that are still our biggest customer. It’s like 1,100 stores in the southeast.

OTS 123 | Social Sparkling Wine
Social Sparkling Wine: Tell your story, show your passion and bring it to life for them.

I’m in Florida, so I’ve been down there. I shop at Publix every day, so I’m very familiar with them. Their buying situation I find to be totally different. You can go online and find out who the buyers are, and you send in a request for a meeting. In the realm of calling up buyers and trying to get a meeting published, it’s not that hard to get a meeting. It’s still hard for them to say yes. I’ve been down there several times with several different products. Anytime I’ve sent them something, they’ve always granted me a meeting, but it’s all done through email. I’ve never had success calling the buyer on the phone saying, “Will you meet with me?” When I get them on the phone, they always say, “Send me the meeting request and go through the process.” It’s always been super fairly easy. Did you find that? 

The way it happened for me was in the alcohol world there’s distributors. I had spoken with the distributor and they pitched that one for me. They had a meeting and SOCIAL is part of this new category that they were creating at the time, so it was like perfect timing. They handled that one.

Buyer-meeting-wise, if you’re the buyer realm and you’re face-to-face with a buyer, you’d definitely do what?

Definitely tell your story. Tell your story, show your passion, and bring it to life for them. Who is the person using this? What is going on for them? How does this make things better? Talk about the big picture with them. They see so many things, and some things you can look at it and you can say, “This product doesn’t have the TLC or the detail orientation. It’s not as cared for. It’s not as beautiful. It’s not as thought out.” All that stuff takes focus, time and energy to scrutinize over and make your product the best that you can make it. We’re always improving but showing your passion for it and telling your story is what’s going to bring it to life. Even if your packaging isn’t as great, at least they’ll get what you’re doing and what you’re all about.

So often people don’t have or haven’t curated their story. Everybody has their ‘why’ generally, but curate that into a story of passion and paint the big picture of who’s going to buy this and what do they want. You couldn’t have picked a better thing to say, definitely in a buyer meeting, tell your story. In contrast to that, in a buyer meeting, what would you never do?

I wouldn’t argue very much. People don’t enjoy that. It’s not very fun. The thing is they may not get it the first time, but it’s a small world and they may be a later adopter to your product. They may need to see the innovator down the street, jump on board first, and maybe six months, a year or two years later, they come on. It’s important to make sure that the interaction is pleasant. At the end of the day, we’re all dealing with people. If someone had an amazing product that a retailer wanted, if they didn’t like the people that they were dealing with and they didn’t need to pick it up because the brand presence wasn’t huge enough yet or whatever, they may not work with you. Having them feel good about you and knowing that they can work with you and that you are a good partner and your cooperative and you’re smart, all of that goes a long way. If it gets too confrontational, I’d say, “I understand that. I appreciate your time and just. If it’s all right, I could circle back with you later as we grow.”

I’m not going to argue with you. People want to do business with people they like. I’ve had clients before that every time I talked to them, we argue. I’m like, “You don’t need to pay me for me to give you advice so that you can tell me that you don’t want that advice, or you don’t like it. We should just not work together.” In any interaction, buyer or anything, be nice and have a good experience. Whether they’re tearing your product apart or not, it’s all a learning experience for you. There’s something in what they’re saying that you can take away from and do better the next time. Have you ever found yourself on the brink of arguing and then you have to suck it back in?

Yes, I have argued and that’s how I know this lesson. There have been some customers out there who very bluntly weren’t interested, and some of them I’ve argued with and it hasn’t worked. I’m still not in their stores. It wasn’t even necessarily that we argued so much as we weren’t feeling each other. They may have been having a bad day, I may have just looked like their ex-girlfriend, you never know. It wasn’t a good interaction and we’re still not in some of those stores. Then there are other people who really gave me a super hard time, but I rolled with it and respect them and didn’t take it personally. Sometimes those people end up being your biggest supporters because they’re tough nuts to crack, but once you do, then they’re all in.

Along with not arguing, I always tell my clients and my audience, “Just don’t get rattled. Don’t let anything rattle you in. Pretend like you have ten deals that you’re getting to after this meeting, like there’s ten more deals waiting for you after this meeting.” If that were true, you would be relaxed. If this person said no, you’d be like, “No worries. Can I follow back up with you because technically I have ten more deals waiting for me that I’m meeting with.” It’s just a mindset. Ages ago, there was that when you’re talking in a group of people, think about everybody being in their underwear. I tell my clients, “Pretend like you have ten deals waiting for you and act like that because you’re not going to get anywhere being argumentative.” You never know what they’re dealing with.

If somebody has a question or issue or they think something that’s incorrect, definitely stand up and say, “That’s not exactly right,” but not in an argumentative way. People want to do business with people they like, and buyers are no different. In the end, it’s just a conversation. You’re either going to get it or you’re not, and if you don’t get it, you’re going to get it later. Big boxers, you got to take a minute to remember these two key pieces of advice. One, tell your story. Paint a picture. Make sure they know who you are and who your customer is, how you came to that, why you’re doing what you’re doing, and why it’s important to you. Secondly, don’t argue. It’s not worth it to burn a bridge. When you’re in the room with the Costco buyer and they say something, don’t argue. We all know that Costco buyers don’t change that often. I’ve known buyers that have been in position for ten years. It’s not like some other place where they’re going to be gone in a year and a half and you can start again with somebody else. If you piss off a buy at Costco, you could be down for ten years. Don’t argue. Sage advice, Leah. When you sit back and close your eyes, what’s your biggest achievement?

The biggest thing that has affected my business is being on the television show that aired January 10th on national TV. It told the story and since then we’ve had so many customers reach out, retailers, restaurants, media. Getting some media has taken us to this whole other level that we’re still getting ready for. Showing up and presenting ourselves for that show was an accumulation of who we had been for the last couple years, of what we had built the brand to be, of what we thought we were, and all of that. The way that we were able to show up and be on TV and then share that because of the work we had done to build the brand so far and to know who we are, all of that turned that experience into a successful one for us.

That’s a good segue to jump into Billion Dollar Buyer. You were on there. 

It was quite the adventure.

Tell us a little bit about being on a TV show and what the whole experience was like.

What’s neat about it is the people who do it are pros. They come in, they tell you when it will be there or when to be ready. They pretty much just ask you a bunch of questions and they coach you through it. It ends up you get through it and it’s not as hard as you think.

When you see it on TV, it seems like the whole thing is ten minutes or fifteen minutes, but there’s a lot more to it than that, right?

There’s a lot of getting up early in the morning. We get her hair and makeup done, so it was like 6:00 AM days. We had the whole office. We decorated the office. We had an outdoor area that we did tons of landscaping on. There was just a ton of getting ready for it and then making sure everything was ready in case he just asked a random question, just thinking ahead. It’s pretty intensive as far as how you need to prepare, but once they’re there, they ask you questions and you just act natural. It was less scripted than people think. We shot for probably about five days with them for twenty minutes of footage.

When you finally saw the final cut of the entire show, were you like, “I wish they would have put this in or put that in.” There’re some really good stuff that didn’t make it. They’d always say, “They ended up on the cutting room floor.”

They mostly end up taking footage from two of the five days or whatever. There were some scenes that they totally didn’t take anything from, just completely dropped. There are a couple scenes that I wish they would have dropped. In the moment, there was a part where it got pretty heated where he was mad at us because our distributor didn’t do a great job and whatnot. I was worried that I was going to be super embarrassed when that hit the screen. I was sure that they would just make me look awful on there, that they had that opportunity. They didn’t end up doing that. They showed that part, but they were quite kind about it.

Kind doesn’t make for good TV. Normally, you’d go for the jugular there. If there’s a mistake to be had, then they’re going to go for it. When you’re talking about him, for Big Boxers out there that have never seen Billion Dollar Buyer, who are you talking about?

Tilman Fertitta is the billionaire. He owns Landry’s, which is about 500 restaurants and casinos. He bought the Houston Rockets. What he does is he meets with startups, finds out all about them, does some tests in some of his restaurants or casinos, and places large orders. It’s a feel-good show. They want him to place the order, he wants to place the order. It’s a fantastic show. I highly recommend people reaching out and applying for that.

II had never seen the Billion Dollar Buyer. I watched a bunch of teasers on YouTube. The teasers ran the gamut of him yelling at people and doing deals and being disappointed. You had mentioned that he was upset about something that you distributed. What thing would upset him or make him potentially not want to do a deal? In the five days that you were shooting, what’s the thing that would upset him?

Mainly, he needs to have the product in high enough quality. It needs to get there on time. You need to be able to produce enough of it for national roll out. He needs to be sure that if he goes into business with you, you’re going to have the product and it’s going to be good. If he goes through the whole expense of changing over his menus and executing with his team, which we’ve done since then, it’s a lot of moving pieces to go national with a big restaurant group. We’re talking like dozens of people to work with in different states because there are so many moving pieces. He needs to see that you’re super buttoned up, that you’re well organized, that you’re ready to scale, and that you can meet deadlines and have a sense of urgency.

That’s a key piece right there. You have to be ready. I saw snippet where he was asking some machine gun question at this guy. The guy, he knew the answers, but he clammed up and was shell shocked, or he didn’t know the answers. Either way, he was just a statue. You could see the look on Tilman’s face, he was like, “What need for me to hear the answer?” I imagine you also have to be pretty prepared because you don’t know what he’s going to ask you or do you?

No, you don’t at all. He basically asks you all of the business staff, “What was your sales or your sales the year before? How many stores are you in? How many restaurants are you in? What are you planning to do this year? Your flavors, the quality? What does your team look like?” They wanted us to hire an operations person, so we’ve hired an operations person. As soon as they said things that we should do, we got back to him the next day or the following day with, “Here’s what you said we should do. Here’s what we’re going to do.”

OTS 123 | Social Sparkling Wine
Social Sparkling Wine: You can get into a place but getting it actually sold, you have to have a big call-out on the menu or have it on tap or a POS on the bar, so people could see it.

This is all during when this show is still shooting? 

Yeah.

You’re doing the show during the day and then at night, you’re scrambling to get the things done that you need to get done.

At night, I was creating a job description, posting it on LinkedIn. The next day, I brought him fifteen resumes that have come in that we had screened. It’s an intense time for sure.

He’s not just looking at your product, he’s looking at your ability as a business owner and as a leader to be able to, “If I throw you this huge ginormous order, you’re going to need to be able to handle it. I recommend you need to do this or you might need to do this.” I guess that’s up to you whether you want to make those quick changes in order to make things happen.

Absolutely, you can sleep later.

Sleep is always going to be there. The other thing that’s interesting to me, I’ve talked to some people that have been on Dragon’s Den and then also on Shark Tank. One thing I found consistent between both is that even if you get a deal on TV, that doesn’t mean you get a deal. There’s still vetting. I talked to two people that were on Dragon’s Den that got it on the show, and then the deal fell apart later. I’ve talked to a couple of people that have been on Shark Tank and then the deal fell apart later. When viewers see it, they think they got a deal, but online or mean on TV, you can fudge your numbers. You can say things that aren’t true. In the end, when you have to submit all the paperwork or whatever, it’s not as you stated it was. It looks like he said he was going to purchase it. Now you guys are moving forward.

Since then, I hired someone specifically to manage the business for him. When we met with his team, all of his beverage managers for all of his concepts told them about the product. Then she and I have been working with those individual beverage managers to figure out how to integrate SOCIAL into their concept. Some of them can integrate now, some can integrate on a few months, so there’s still a lot of sales activities that take place after. Even though we remind them that they have a $300,000 commitment, now it’s about how do we actually put that on the menu and get them the graphics. They want some different packaging just for their concepts and different point of sale materials. There’s a ton that goes into executing and then holding them accountable and showing them, “Here’s where we’re at for this month. It looks like with what we have planned for the year, we’re going to come in at $200,000, so we need to figure out another $100,000 worth of planning or programming right now so that we can all meet this commitment.

That sounds weird because from a layman’s, “You sold a canned alcoholic beverage to big restaurant chain or a couple of restaurant chain. We ship our cans in there and then they sell it like a bottle of beer or anything else,” but there’s way more to it.

Yeah, because if you just put something on a menu, SOCIAL Sparkling Wine, by the glass on a menu that has 100 wines, you’re probably not going to do $300,000 worth of business in a year. We have to work with a beverage manager who we can say, “How about using it in this cocktail over here, or how about using it on tap? Over here, let’s do ice bins by the pool at the casinos. Let’s do it in a little split bottle for higher end places.” You can get into a place, but getting it actually sold, you have to have a big call-out on the menu or have it on tap or a POS on the bar, so people could see it. There’s a lot to think about.

I always tell my clients that I know it seems daunting but getting into the retailer is the overall easy part. Getting your product to sell through and getting a reorder, that’s the hard part. It sounds like you’re naming off all these things like, “We could do this,” and I’m like, “Yeah, let’s do it all.” Can your product be sold on tap?

We sell Social on tap.

That sounds dangerous. 

Offering products in different formats for different customers definitely opens up doors as far as just getting placements. Operationally, you have to be organized to manage all of that inventory, manage the different packaging. It’s a good thing to do if you can do it, but you got to be ready to be super organized.

I can see the need 100% to hire one person to manage that account. At some point, you start doing big business with Costco or whatever. A lot of times that’s a full-time job, just dealing with that one account and making sure everything goes smooth. I always tell people there are only two things they can get you kicked out of Costco. One is if your product goes bad. Occasionally, people change the aspect of their product without notifying anybody. Maybe they’ll use a cheaper material or whatever. All of a sudden that product starts having huge returns. Either your product goes bad or it starts getting huge returns. That’s one thing. Then your ability to commit and manage your commitment to the retailer in as far as logistics. Delivering your product is the second thing that can get you kicked out, if you’re not good at it. Sometimes trying to have different people manage all of that, things can cross wires. For big accounts that mean a lot to you, one person just to handle that is worth it.

Even if it wasn’t $300,000, even if it just covered one person’s salary and they broke even, that person now is also available for all these other opportunities coming in. After this Landry’s thing, we’ve got contacted by Levy, which does a bunch of almost 200 stadiums in the country. They would like to do a national partnership as well. It seems that once you have one big break, it’s a small world and people start hearing about it, and it just starts flowing in.

It has something to do with being on TV as well. As far as the Billion Dollar Buyer and that experience, I’m sure it taught you a ton. Can you break it down to the top two things that you personally experienced or tucked away? The huge learning experience you learned in these two things, what do you think that would be?

One, I would say that hard work pays off. By putting in the time and having a good foundation with it and having the product innovation and having the passion behind the story, eventually people do recognize that. People that know, they do see that, so it definitely pays off. It’s a small world and you got to just be yourself. I love that the show gave me an opportunity to share my story and be myself. That gave me the confidence to feel safe sharing that story with a lot of other people and having fun with it.

I’m all excited for all the cool things that are going to happen and all the great things in store for you. Congratulations on that.

Thank you so much. I appreciate it. It’s fun to do these shows and to connect with people out there going through the same stuff. It’s a wild ride but it’s lots of fun.

The last question I generally ask all the guests on my show is a self-serving question because I struggle with this mightily, and that is as a new entrepreneur and maybe even through your whole career, what do you use to it all together? You have information coming from multiple retailers and this and that. It’s all coming at you on email and a multitude of different ways. How do you keep yourself organized? 

Two things. One, I use Google and I use the archive feature. I treat my inbox like a to-do list. My goal, before I leave for the day, is to get it down to ten or less emails. It took a while to get there. I’m sure at one point I had like 600, 700 or something a couple of years ago. Since then, I’ve believed in not having a lot of emails in my inbox so that I can leave for the day feeling like there’s not too much to do for a while. I even had it down to like zero or two emails. My challenge for the team is to have twenty emails or less by the time they leave for the day. Just use the archive function in Gmail. A lot of people don’t know about it. That way you don’t have to file anything. You can just click it, archive it, and then you can search for it by the person that emailed or content. That saves a step there. The second thing is on our shared drive, I use folders a lot. I get clear on our folder system and make sure that when anyone’s working on anything, when they leave for the day, that it goes online and it’s in that folder. When I have new people start, I just say, “Go to this folder. Go through every single thing that’s in there,” and they learn so much about their position just by doing that.

I also use Google apps. What you’re saying is in your email, if you get an email, you read it, you act on it, you complete it, whatever it is that you need to do. You don’t leave it in your email inbox. You archive it so that it takes it out of your inbox and doesn’t create clutter. Then you can always go to your archive folder later and search for something if you need to. Is that what you’re saying? 

Correct.

That’s email, that’s information coming at you, but what about stuff that you create for yourself to move your business forward, to-dos and stuff and goals and this and that, how do you integrate that into your system?

I send myself an email with a task. If there’s something that I need to do and I need to remember to do it, then I email myself, “Email this person or send this thing to this person.” I keep my email like it’s a to-do list. Each day, what I do is we come in and we talk about what are our top priorities for the day and I ask my team, “What are your top three or five things that have to get done today,” and get in the habit of, “This is the number one. This has to get done first, this has to get done second,” and just doing them. Everyone’s just peacefully trying to do the most important first. If you get two or three big things done, that’s how I find that I can do maybe three to five big things. The rest is email communication on short things back and forth, small things. As long as you focus on those big things, that’s what makes me feel good when I leave.

If you have something that you need to do and you’re not going to get to it today, but you don’t want to have a fall through the cracks, you still send yourself an email and then you do what with it? 

I add it to my to-do list. Each day, when I come in I write my to-do list, like five things that I need to do that day. Sometimes those are in an email already reminding me to do it or sometimes it’s just a project I know I need to do. Most of the time whenever I get through those three to five things, I’ve now cleared out a big chunk of my emails.

Thanks for the class. If you were to ask my wife, she would say I have more than enough apps and devices and everything to get it all straight, but I’m always looking for that silver bullet, like what’s the one thing that’s going to click with the way my brain works and make it happen? What I’ve come up with is there is no silver bullet. It’s just picking a routine and sticking to it. I’m always still interested. I interviewed somebody and everything they write down on an Excel spreadsheet and they give it a date, and then they sort that sheet every day. Every day they sort it closest date to furthest, then they start knocking off the stuff off. Everything goes into it. This was an old school guy. I don’t know if you’ve heard of the show, Make 48. It’s on PBS. These guys have created a show where you can apply to be on the show with a team of four people. Then they go to a retailer and ask that retailer, “What problem do you want solved?”

They come back and they give it to these three teams, “You need to create a product that will solve this problem.” They get 48 hours to create a retail product. They have people standing by and three printers and everything so that they can do models and whatnot. The guy that started this still uses just like an old school Office Depot flimsy calendar. It’s always interesting. Everybody does something a little bit different as to how they keep it all straight. The key is maintaining what you do and being consistent so that you don’t lose track of things. I appreciate that. Any last thoughts, any last piece of advice for the big boxers out there that either have a product idea or in the process of realizing that idea, or maybe have a product and they’re trying to get it out there to buyers? Any last piece of advice?

I would just let them know that the world needs what they have to offer. Every single brand started out with someone saying, “This is a product that needs to exist.” If you take baby steps, if you do a few things at a time each day, you’re going to get to where you have something tangible that can provide value. It’s an up and down experience. That’s just how it is for everyone. If you hang in there, it does definitely get better. I wish them all the best of luck.

OTS 123 | Social Sparkling Wine
Social Sparkling Wine: Hard work pays off.

A key piece of advice you’re saying is, see it through. Leah, it has been an absolute pleasure speaking with you. Thank you so much for your time and attention and what you’re doing. Best of luck to your product. I know you guys are already doing awesome, so I anticipate continued tremendous success for you. Thanks so much. 

Thank you so much. You have a great day.

Big boxers, after closing out our conversation with Leah, I hope that you found that as inspiring as I did. It was a boat-load of information, a lot of great nuggets of wisdom in there. I’m super grateful for Leah for taking the time out of her busy schedule to spend some time with us. I took a bunch of notes and I hope that you guys did also. Hopefully, we’re going to be bringing you more success stories so that you guys can begin to learn and formulate some strategies of your own to help catapult you into retail. 

If you’re liking the podcast, if you’re enjoying the podcast, if it’s providing you information that’s helpful in your journey, please let us know. Reach out to us. You can find us on Twitter at @TLBConsult. You can find us on Facebook at @TLBConsulting. You can come and join our closed Facebook group which is called On The Shelf Now. All you have to do is go to Facebook and type in On The Shelf Now and hit Join, so you can join the conversation. You might meet people in there that are doing what you’re doing and you can collaborate with those people. That’s what that’s for, so don’t miss out on that. You can always reach out to us via email, through our website, TLBConsulting.com, and give us a review. Let us know what you’re thinking. Send some questions. What are you guys struggling with? What do you guys want to talk about? What would you like to hear about? We need to up the communication. We want to interact with you more than we have been. We have some tools that are going to be coming your way to be able to help do that. In the meantime, you can simply reach out. You can go and leave some comments and let us know how we’re doing. We appreciate you and until next time, we look forward to seeing your products on the shelf.

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