Bridget Connelly, Luna Bay CEO and co-founder.
Illustration: Rachelle Baker
Some folks drank extra during the last 12 months; some stop ingesting solely. Personally, I discovered myself placing extra thought into how and what I used to be ingesting — “conscious sipping,” as they name it. That led me to Luna Bay, a hard-kombucha enterprise based in 2019 in Chicago, Illinois.
Arduous kombucha is a beer alternative for me. I’ve a gluten intolerance, so I’ll drink one 6.5 p.c ABV can as an alternative of a pale ale. It provides you a lightweight buzz, nevertheless it feels more healthy. Like common kombucha, the laborious stuff is made via a fermentation course of that produces probiotic micro organism, which can assist reset your intestine well being and stop dangerous micro organism from taking on.
A hippie-ish alcohol model in a aggressive, male-dominated enterprise, Luna Bay is run by a principally feminine workforce whose members have backgrounds in holistic well being, gross sales, advertising, manufacturing, and microbiology. The brewers use complete substances and pure yerba mate, which give the product a taste that makes it stand out from different booch in the marketplace. “We use all non-GMO substances, which I feel is even higher than natural,” says CEO and co-founder Bridget Connelly, 34. “We work with a farmer in Michigan to get the non-GMO and high-quality actual substances. We use actual blueberries, actual hibiscus, actual lavender flowers — they’re not extracts.”
Connelly believes she’s on the cusp of a brand new period of alcohol distribution. “You’ll see increasingly more ladies in locations of management inside alcohol corporations. We’re already seeing it within the distribution world,” she says. “Issues are altering, and it’s a very enjoyable time to be part of this.” Under, she talks to the Reduce about entering into the booze enterprise, studying find out how to increase cash, and the second she lastly felt like her firm was a hit.
On how she obtained into the booch enterprise:
The concept of laborious kombucha match every thing that I used to be fascinated about: well being and wellness, bringing folks collectively, storytelling, content material creation. I began serious about it after I was dwelling in Australia. Individuals actually prefer to have enjoyable there, however even on this health-conscious group, beer and wine had been the one choices. Then I moved again to San Diego three years in the past, which is when [hard kombucha brands] JuneShine and Boochcraft launched. Seeing different manufacturers take off with this mannequin, I used to be like, This is smart. It’s a health-conscious drink — better-for-you booze. I noticed folks doing it in Southern California, and I needed to take it residence to Chicago, the place I’m from.
On the facility of getting a accomplice:
Claire, my co-founder, is a really optimistic and hopeful individual, so at occasions after I would simply be like, Are we ever gonna determine this out? she’d be like, Sure, we’re, we imagine in it, and we saved pushing one another alongside. As soon as we discovered Pilot Challenge, which was the brewery that first incubated our model, it felt like, Okay, that is taking place. Then, the second that we obtained Complete Meals onboard and we noticed the product on the cabinets, we knew we had been onto one thing, as a result of not solely did we imagine in it, however firms, large shops, and retailers needed it as nicely.
On studying the ropes:
It’s humorous — you have a look at any CEO and also you’re like, They know all of it, however nobody is aware of what they’re doing. Everyone seems to be simply figuring it out as they go. For me, it was like excessive enterprise college. I needed to discover ways to make a deck, make a pitch, all these items. Claire and I, at first, had a shared doc and we’d take notes. I discovered different manufacturers that I aligned with on LinkedIn and reached out and requested for 15 to twenty minutes of their time. Individuals are often variety as a result of everybody’s been there. You simply must ask and be okay with getting a no.
I keep in mind one in all my associates began an alcohol firm in New York. He was three or 4 years forward of me, with a really profitable firm. The day that we obtained on the cabinets of Complete Meals, I known as him simply so excited, and he mentioned, “You’re on the primary excessive of the curler coaster, nevertheless it’ll come crashing down.” Not that he was attempting to deliver me down — he was blissful for me, however he needed me to know that is what it’s like. It goes up and down. It was a humbling second, like maintain your pleasure shut and, you realize, buckle up.
Even earlier than beginning Luna Bay, I’ve at all times tried to study various kinds of methods to boost cash. Upon getting an concept or a marketing strategy, you’ll be able to construct it out and present your trajectories, after which you’ll be able to return to beginning to increase. It’s lots of networking, lots of understanding who’s within the shopper packaged-goods house, and who’re strategic traders. As soon as we had the product, the plan, and Complete Meals onboard, the subsequent step was discovering the correct traders. Networking, and seeing who has invested in manufacturers that you just admire, are key to the educational course of. You possibly can look lots of that up on-line.
On how she defines success:
There have been simply so many laborious issues the primary 12 months, attempting to get folks to imagine in us, looking for the correct distributors, attempting to know how any of these things works. So I didn’t really feel prefer it was actual till we obtained retailers and distributors onboard and we noticed the product on the shelf at Complete Meals. Once you truly see different folks ingesting it and having fun with it, that’s a particular second.
Success for me is creating one thing that I imagine in, and bringing folks collectively on my workforce that additionally imagine in it. I really feel so fortunate that I’ve the workforce that I do. That’s what makes me probably the most proud and enthusiastic about what we’re constructing.
On work/life steadiness:
I’ve lived in lots of totally different locations. I’ve an enormous household, and relationships are every thing to me. Since I began Luna Bay, there’s been this strain of “The place are you?” and “When are you coming again as a result of we wish to do enjoyable stuff with you?” Getting comfy with the truth that I can’t see everybody has led me to lose friendships. A few of my relationships have grown distant, romantically and emotionally.
All you have got is your organization, your workforce, and your self. I’m undoubtedly attending to a spot now the place I’ve more healthy boundaries and sufficient infrastructure in place that I don’t really feel like I’m carrying every thing alone. I’ve had lots of self-doubt, and simply being mad at myself for not displaying up for folks on a regular basis. In a means it’s been good to go inward and notice what’s most necessary and that are the relationships I must prioritize. Relationships have undoubtedly been probably the most tough half, however I do know the individuals who perceive what I’m doing will at all times be there for me.