SIPP all started with a passion. A passion for superior taste, creating, entertaining and wanting to find MY passion. As they say, when you are handed lemons make lemonade (or cocktails in my case)! When I was laid off from a corporate job, I went back to the beginning. What was my passion? How had I forgotten? Through the years sometimes we forget or maybe we never knew. It was time for me to go back and remember. I LOVE to create and have always had an entrepreneurial spirit. I am one of those people who thinks up a new idea or product almost everyday! It’s acting on one of those ideas that is the key. I could share all my ideas that I think could be winners, but I won’t bore you...although some of the ideas could be very entertaining!
Beth (right) entertaining girlfriends with her delicious & creative cocktails.
Back to when I was laid off...I knew I couldn’t get another corporate job, I needed something more and I was determined to find it. I just didn’t know what I was looking for. Okay, I knew I loved to create, I loved entertaining and making fresh innovative cocktails, but what could I do with that? Have lots of parties? That could be fun, but the purpose was to find something I was passionate about that could make money, not cost money! I was fortunate to have an amazing group of friends and a supportive husband and son. After many inspiring conversations with my friends, I knew there had to be something here...something relating to creating, mixing and entertaining. After researching, I saw a growing niche. A niche that I was already creating in my home entertaining with natural and organic cocktails! Ah ha! That’s it! I will be the one who can help people entertain naturally, but with style too! Eco-chic! I set out to write a book and create a website called ECO-BAR. I designed a logo and built the informational website myself. I wrote my book proposal until the wee hours, sometimes only sleeping 2-3 hours a night. I was on a mission. I lost my job and salary and I only had so long to make something work before I would need to get a job. Not much pressure!
I completed my 100 page eco-entertaining book proposal and was sending it to agents. In the meantime, I was building up my website. People actually found it and were intrigued. They didn’t know there were a growing number of organic spirits out on the market. I was educating people and sharing information that benefited them and I loved it. I wanted to do more. Maybe I could cater events, I thought. I heard of an upcoming “green” festival in Philly and for a brief moment thought this would be cool to go and show off my ECO-BAR concept. Then the reasonable voice inside my head said, “What are you thinking! You don’t even have a business! Do you have a booth, things to put in your booth, business cards, and what exactly would you be selling? Don’t be foolish!” I thought it was my reasonable voice, but it was the negative talk we do to ourselves. When we start to think we can do something for a fleeting moment...there it is, making us doubt ourselves, essentially creating fear. Fear holds us back and if you can acknowledge that and break through even just temporarily, it can help you take that next little step and that’s exactly what I did.
Beth & husband Greg enjoying some cocktails in New York City
The day before the show, I was considering going to the shore, it was going to be a beautiful weekend. As I was thinking about how going to the beach wasn’t going to help propel me, I had this overwhelming feeling that I needed to go to the festival. The doubt escaped me for the moment and I was excited. I called and negotiated a booth space (there was one left) and it was 5:00 the night before. I had nothing to go with. I had a website, but how do you show that? When in doubt, go to Target! There is always something there! I literally ran through the store trying to find anything that looked ECO-BAR...what would that be? Well, first I would need a bar! I found 2 bookcases that could work as a bar...voila! Now, I needed things that looked eco-chic. Target didn’t let me down! I found 2 very cool bar stools, glasses, napkins and a very organic looking bowl that I filled with fresh bright orange clementines - perfect since the ECO-BAR theme was orange and gray!
Read the next part - "Something Bigger"
...continued from "Beth's Story"
Doing this festival was a little scary, but I knew this was what I wanted. We were fortunate to have a great space under a tree and it was a beautiful day. Everyone was drawn to our bar. It was exciting to see so many people interested in what I was doing, even if they were just hoping to get a cocktail! People asked lots of questions, mostly when was I going to open an Eco-Bar. I offered my catering services and promoted my website, but somehow I knew I was onto something bigger. This was leading me somewhere.
A bartender serves Eco-Bar cocktails during an event.
After the event, I was so inspired…it was like an adrenaline rush! So many people wanted to learn about what I was doing. I just needed to figure out what exactly it was that I was doing! I was able to get a few cocktail catering events from that festival, which kept me going knowing I was moving in the right direction. People loved my cocktails and they were the highlight of the event. Instead of being in the background at events, I was part of the event and it was rewarding to know that MY creations were making so many people happy (or maybe it was the vodka!). I loved talking about how the cocktails were made and showing people how they could create them. People loved the fresh flavors saying they have never tasted anything like it before. I created many unique flavor combinations and people wondered how I came up with them. They honestly just came to me. I would hear, “WOW, you are so talented!” It was after a year of hearing this over and over that I had what they call the “light bulb moment”. I could create a bottled beverage! Still not sure if it would be a beverage with or without alcohol, I knew it would be creative, all-natural, organic, lightly sweetened and nothing artificial. First I wanted a name and “look”. Since I love design too, this was fun for me. I researched thousands of beverage bottles online and was drawn to the simple clean designs. I wanted a simple name too and the name “sip” resonated with me. I wanted to create a cocktail people wanted to sip to savor the flavor! Adding the extra “p” was to add a little flair. I started designing a logo and creating flavor names.
After researching costs to create beverages, I knew I had to go in the direction of non-alcoholic brand. The costs were less and I liked the idea of creating a specialty beverage for people who don’t drink alcohol but also offer the versatility as a cocktail mixer. Voila, the idea of SIPP was born! Now to work on the flavors…the possibilities were endless. I liked the idea of adding multiple flavors in one bottle like an instant cocktail. The idea came to me at an event where I was making Blackberry Mojitos. I used organic rum, fresh blackberries, mint and lime. Everyone said they tasted so fresh and wanted to make it at home. When I started to explain how I made this concoction, by muddling 3 blackberries and 2 sprigs of fresh mint I started to get this glazed eye stare, like a deer in headlights look. Then I would hear, “I don’t even know what a muddler is…where can you get fresh mint…you mean I need to buy ALL those ingredients just to make one cocktail?” That was it! My beverage needed to not only be all-natural, but a combination of flavors to make it easy. Needless to say my first flavor idea was blackberry, mint and lime and I called it Mojo Berry based on the mojito. I worked on many flavor combinations and had lots of fun doing it. This is going to be great I thought! I will create a beverage everyone will love and it will be in stores, hotels and restaurants. Sounds easy enough! WOW, what I didn’t know then and what I know now…it’s amazing.
Once I had my concept, I needed to figure how I could go into production on a shoestring. I found a female beverage consultant online and I thought this was going to be great. A woman would want to support another woman going into business. Boy was I wrong. This was one of those moments that you hear people talk about that could have stopped me. When I asked if she could help me for a reduced upfront fee, she said emphatically NO! She had done it too many times in the past and she has been in the business too many years and seen lots of failures. Then she proceeded to warn me that if I didn’t have at least a million dollars I might as well forget it. She then went on to tell me that 85% of all beverage business fail! What? That was not the encouraging conversation I expected. She recommended I go to some beverage conferences before taking the plunge and ended with “Good luck!”. I thought, should I listen to her? She is the expert after all. I don’t want to fail. This is when you have to take a negative and turn it to a positive. I had to believe in MYSELF. I thought, wait, why can’t I be in the 15%? Why did I assume I would fall into the 85%? Then, I got angry! How dare she insinuate I was going to fail. I WILL prove her wrong.
One of Beth's signature cocktails made with Sipp - The Honeysuckle
I worked on my flavors and reached out to beverage experts I found on the Internet. I was lucky to find many helpful people along the way who shared information and advice just because they believed in the brand and ME! They told me I needed a co-packer to bottle my beverage. "What’s a co-packer?" I thought. That’s the beauty of the Internet...you can find out anything! I found a co-packer in PA and learned that they bottle beverages for many brands. I reached out to them to see about bottling my beverage with my 3 recipes. I really had no idea what I was getting into! They told me I would need to run 1,000 cases per flavor, which would be thousands of dollars. THEN, when I explained my little kitchen recipes, I think I almost heard her laugh. She informed me I needed to bring my recipe to a flavor house. Flavor house? What is that? Back to the Internet! A flavor house is where you bring your recipe and they have flavor chemists who can translate your kitchen recipe into a large production formula. More money? But what I didn’t know was how much money.
After contacting a few flavor houses with organic ingredients, I learned how much very quickly, $25,000-$40,000 per flavor. This would have been the end of SIPP. I didn’t have that kind of money. With the loss of my income, we were barely getting by. Would I let this stop me? Would I give up and be in that 85% or would I persevere? I went to bed that night thinking this is too hard and I couldn’t do it. I didn’t even know what I was doing! This will never work and I don’t have the money to fund it. Then I woke up! I am doing this. I am going to spend one week (this was basically the time I had until I would need to start looking for a job) and call every flavor house I could find with organic extracts to see if they would be willing to work with me on the payment. I spent hours and hours researching companies and contacts. By the third day, I got in touch with a business development manager of a large flavor house. Somehow I researched his cell phone number and caught him in the car driving back from the airport. I thought it wouldn’t be a good time to pitch my idea, but he was willing to listen. He heard my story and seemed intrigued. He mentioned there was a big natural products expo in California the following week and his company was going to be exhibiting there. If I could get out there and tell my story and share my beverage concept there would be a chance they would create my flavors at no cost if they believe in it. This was my opportunity, but California next week? Flight cost, hotel, etc…how would I actually pull this off? AND what if after all that it turns out to be a “Thanks for coming all the way out here, but no thanks. We wish you the best of luck.” It’s amazing how we can so quickly see the negative.
Beth mixing up ingredients in her kitchen to create Sipp flavors.
I took the first step of at least considering it. I would have to leave my son, which I hated. Then spend hundreds of dollars on the flight and hotel (which we didn’t have) and it may not amount to anything. However, this was the closest I got all week to a possibility. Maybe, just maybe, this could happen. How would I know if I didn’t go? I would always wonder, what if? I couldn’t live with that. I pushed myself to go. This was one of the hardest decisions I had to make. AND I had to believe in myself again. Once the flight was booked, I continued to second-guess myself, but I was committed to go!
Read the next part, "An Idea Becomes a Reality"
...continued from "Something Bigger"
So off I went! To meet this company with just an idea seemed crazy. But I was following my passion and when you follow your passion sometimes you have to do crazy things! I made some mock bottles with handmade labels and filled them with the 3 flavors concepts I created. Then photographed them and designed a postcard with the photo and flavor descriptions. I also created a website and listed it on the postcard...haveasipp.com.
I went over to the convention center and when I was trying to find the flavor house booth, I saw hundreds, I mean HUNDREDS of beverage companies. How could I make this happen with all this competition? How would my beverage stand out over all the others? I had to put my big girl panties on, as they say, and go pitch to this company. Once I got to the booth, everyone was there and we sat at at a large table and I was on.
I began my pitch and talked about how I started, what I was inspired by, where I see the brand going, the flavor ideas I had, how I am a hard worker, how I will do whatever it takes to make the brand a success, etc…until I was interrupted. A voice said, “Um, Beth…we get it and we think it’s a great idea. You had us about 20 minutes ago! Most importantly, we believe in YOU. What flavor do you want us to start with?” I almost fell out of my chair! This was really going to happen! I tried to act calm, not scream out, “YESSS!” and be professional by thanking them for the opportunity.
They then proceeded to tell me that I remind them of the founder of Honest Tea, who they worked with in the beginning also. This was huge being compared to him and I was so thrilled they believed in me. Sometimes when you just can’t believe in yourself, remember a person or people who have believed in you and go with it. This really helps! Once we were done meeting, I walked slowly down the aisle and once I reached the end I sprinted out to call my husband. “I DID IT!” I yelled when he answered. It was an amazing accomplishment. After all the negative talk I did before I got there, this showed me I need to have more confidence in myself and see what other people see. This is hard and I strive for this even today, but it gets better and better!
Beth at the production facility while Sipp was being bottled & made
I was so grateful to have this opportunity and am very lucky to still be working with them today. I had a great flavor team behind me and they believed in me enough that they weren’t charging me anything. I needed to keep persevering because not many people get this kind of opportunity.
My next step was to decide on the first SIPP flavor and to find a co-packer to make it. Then figure out how we could afford to run 1,000 cases! This would take thousands of dollars that we didn’t have. This would take some creativity…how was I going to get the money? My husband and I decided to talk to his parents about my idea. I created a business plan to present to them and they liked it. More importantly they believed in me and they became SIPP’s first investor!
Their investment enabled us to have enough money to go into production with one flavor and attend a tradeshow. I created a budget to ensure we were spending the investment in the best most cost effective way.
We went back and forth on which one of my first 3 flavors to start with and finally decided on the Ginger, Lime and Vanilla. Little did I know this was one of the best decisions I made. I received our first flavor samples and we received 3 versions to taste against my recipe. We chose the one that was the closest to mine and we officially had our first SIPP flavor and we called it GINGER BLOSSOM.
I worked hard over the next month to plan the production, learn how it all works with bottles, caps, labels, UPC codes, ingredients, sweetener, boxes, etc…it was quite the learning experience! I signed up for a tradeshow and now we had a deadline. We were all set to run the co-packer until they decided at the last minute to raise their minimums to 3,000 cases! How could they do this to me? We were only a few weeks away from the tradeshow. This is another point in time that everything could have fallen apart. But again I had to be strong and persevere!
Okay, find another co-packer in 2 days. I can do this, I told myself and I did. Now could they work with a small minimum case run and could they fit us in on their schedule before the tradeshow? We were told it was going to be very tight but they could see what they could do. I needed to order all the ingredients, labels, caps, and agave to arrive in time. Then we got the email…the only date we could run was the day of the tradeshow set up! How could this happen and more importantly, how could this work?! How could we run and make it to the show all in one day? I thought of all the work I did to get to that point and again I HAD to make it happen. Then the what if came in…what if the Ginger Blossom doesn’t come out right? What if there is a mistake? What if the labels or the ingredients don’t make it in time? I realized that if you let the “what ifs” take over you will never accomplish any of your goals or dreams. The more obstacles you overcome, the easier it gets. I was determined to make this happen, and yes, bad things could happen, but I trusted I could come up with an idea to fix it if it did.
While I was coordinating this, I realized I need a booth design for the tradeshow. As I said I love design and also love to create great design on a budget. The answer was IKEA! I researched all the pieces at IKEA and drew sketches, priced out everything and after a full day at IKEA including swedish meatballs (something just seems wrong about meatballs in a furniture store, but when you are there all day you have to eat!)
One of my favorite memories was when I set up my entire booth in my family room. I had 3 of my best friends come over and see it. The reaction from them is something I will never forget! Friends can be the biggest support and help propel you forward when you might doubt yourself and I was fortunate to have friends who did just that!
I wanted a modern chic booth design and with the help of IKEA and Home Goods I was able to accomplish this. I remember wanting to purchase a beautiful velvet chair for a great price at Home Goods and my husband said, “Why? For the booth?” I said, “You’ll see!” and he did. It is one of the most talked about things in our booth! And I have had offers from people who want to buy it for hundreds of dollars!
Beth & Greg working the Sipp booth at the tradeshow
I couldn’t wait to show my new brand to the world! It was scary but more exciting. I was still coordinating all the components needed for our production run to ensure everything would arrive in time to run and have product at at the tradeshow that we just invested thousands of dollars into. Everything made it the day before we were scheduled to run so we loaded up the Uhaul $19.99/day van and we were on our way. I remember saying as were driving over 5 hours to our co-packer, “Who does this?” I thought I must be crazy. I am driving to a tradeshow with an empty booth with our name on it and we don’t even have a product!
We arrived and it was a great feeling to look up at this huge old brick building knowing they were going to make MY beverage today! When we went in they had already began batching our ingredients. The flavor was good, just as I had hoped, but it needed to be less sweet. Everyone looked at me and asked what I wanted to do. Like I was an expert! I had to think quickly because they were on a timeline. They couldn’t hold production up for me while I made executive decisions. Okay, we need to add more ingredients with the exception of the agave so it won’t be so sweet. Did I know it would work? No, but it did! It was perfect! After we tasted it, it went off to be bottled. It’s an amazing feeling seeing bottles coming down the line that is all your creation. From a little idea to a real product! And it looked good and tasted great! Now I just prayed that everyone else would think so too!
The first bottles of Sipp Ginger Blossom
We had hundreds of cases of SIPP Ginger Blossom, a never before seen beverage and we loaded over 15 cases in our van to try to make it before the end of show set up. The bottles were still hot after being heated up to pasteurize! We made it and set up our booth with the hopes of SIPP being a success.
The next day the show opened and we were a hit! The show was slow, but the people that stopped in our booth and tried SIPP loved it! We made some great connections, people who believed in SIPP and me. Many of those people have helped me along the way and I will forever be grateful!
This has been an amazing journey and still continues to be. I learn something new everyday. I followed my passion and never imagined three years later I would be the CEO of a fast growing beverage brand. It just goes to show you if you follow your passion and trust your instincts, anything can happen! I love seeing my little idea come to life and now on shelves in stores I only aspired to be in, such as Whole Foods, Central Markets, Balducci's, Food Emporium and many more! As I continue to grow my business, my hope to inspire you to follow your passion too!