Center-stage startups may soon become gamechangers; meanwhile their journey could already contain a valuable lesson for us all.
The journey of each start up is unique, yet the challenges they encounter are not.
The ways they choose to overcome obstacles on their path, the creativity it takes to maneuver and prevail along the way and their ultimate recipes for success can all fill chapters in a potential guidebook for new start-ups.
Each company has something to contribute to this vast shared pool of collective knowledge.
Cofounded by Katy Perry and Morgan McLachlan, De Soi, is a line of sparkling non-alcoholic aperitifs made with culinary botanicals and mind-mellowing adaptogens that help unwind. De Soi’s CEO Scout Brisson explains:
“Inspired by the French ethos of pleasure and restraint, De Soi is a range of non-alcoholic apéritifs made with natural adaptogens. Cofounders Katy and Morgan first met at the start of 2020, when they were both pregnant and looking for a way to unwind without booze. Their shared love for a spritz and desire for an elegant alternative to alcohol planted the seed for the establishment of the company. They both prioritize wellness across their lives, so they set out to craft a drink that was fun, relaxing and delicious, but without the alcohol.”
Launched in 2022 in Los Angeles, California, the company announced a seed round of $4M led by Willow Growth, with Creative Artists Agency (CAA), the leading entertainment and sports agency also participating.
What were the first steps you took to realize your idea?
“Katy and Morgan identified a whitespace in the NA market: the lack of a ready-to-drink option that mimicked the complexity of an alcoholic beverage while offering a unique, bold taste for the modern, wellness-minded millennial woman. They spent the better part of 18 months developing the brand and formula, including working with an ethnobotanist on the functional ingredients in. I joined shortly before launch to grow and scale the brand online and IRL, at retail and on-premise alongside De Soi’s cofounders.”
What would you say is your wow factor?
“We’re proud of the amazing taste profiles of our non-alcoholic sparkling aperitifs. Each flavor is super unique and has its own special character that you won’t find anywhere else. We really believe that taste is the key to a great drinking experience, and we’ve put a lot of work into creating flavors that are memorable and delicious.
We differentiate ourselves from others through the unique combination of natural, adaptogen-rich ingredients and a delicious taste. We prioritize functionality and aim to provide a healthy, enhanced drinking experience that goes beyond traditional alcohol-based beverages. Today’s consumers are seeking more refined and health-conscious options for relaxation and celebration without compromising on taste or quality. Our flavors, infused with adaptogens like Ashwagandha and l-theanine, offer a distinctive and enhanced drinking experience.”
What was the turning point for your company?
“Our early retail partners have also been gamechangers for us, starting with our January 2022 exclusive launch with Boisson, a non-alc bottle shop with locations across the US, and other key retail partners. Katy’s involvement as cofounder has also helped us in our marketing efforts and establish brand awareness at an early stage. Education is a major part of the equation, as we are introducing many people to the world of NA alternatives for the first time.”
What mistakes would you say you’ve made along the way?
“I think most new brands run into the issue of trying to do too much at once. We’ve certainly set high goals for ourselves in our first two years and we’re always pushing to hit the next milestone. I don’t see it as a mistake, but more as a constant reminder to pause and check in.”
What did you not know about the market or about operating a startup that you can now teach others?
“Operating a startup requires a special amount of grit. Selling into retail doors doesn’t happen overnight, and we’re grateful for the partners who have embraced our products early on. There are always blips in the road when it comes to manufacturing and supply chain, and even the amount of work it takes to maintain a proper website can’t be understated. But with the grit, comes reward. Just like our brand focuses on celebration, our team makes sure to pause and celebrate wins, no matter how big or small.”
Marketing strategy: how did you pave the path to your clients?
“We launched DTC first in 2022. It’s been incredibly important to have that direct channel of communication to our customer base. We have a lot of consumers building a ritual around our products and signing up for a subscription to receive our products on a regular basis. We are constantly paying attention to our growing consumer base and their evolving interests and needs, and we will continue to innovate through a consumer-first lens.”
How big was the marketing element in your overall strategy and budget?
“Influencer marketing, paid customer acquisition, retention marketing (email & SMS marketing) were significant focus areas for our team and resources in year 1. As we grow, we continue to lean into content creation as a fundamental way to build brand awareness, especially as our on-shelf presence increases in key markets. Influencers and creators have been instrumental in connecting with consumers through dedicated content, storytelling and shared experiences when it comes to their relationships with alcohol, and where non-alc fits into their lifestyle.”
Where will you be in a year from now?
“Hopefully continuing to grow more each day – we’re excited to be introducing a new flavor to our lineup very soon! There’s never been a better time for a non-alcoholic apéritif. As a culture, we’re seeing more people looking for an option that invites them to enjoy the ritual of drinking, while aligning with their expectations for both flavor and wellness. We’re so proud that our products allow people to connect and celebrate.”
What will the industry look like 5/10 years from now?
“The non-alcoholic beverage category is having a major moment – capturing both continued business growth and trendsetting popularity – reaching $3.3B in sales in 2021 and projected to grow +31% by 2024. Statistically, people are drinking less than they used to. Whether it’s the general health and wellness zeitgeist that we now live in, shifts in drinking traditions and occasions, or the fact that people are simply more educated and more interested in what they consume, non-alcoholic drinks as a category are here to stay.”