What’s the inspiration behind Drink Monday?
Chris: The idea was inspired on the night of my birthday a few years ago. It was a Sunday night and I was out with my friends sitting at the bar having some gin. The bartender was a magician, but after a couple drinks I stopped and switched to water. Everyone wondered why, and I answered, "Because tomorrow is Monday and I have things to do, and I want to do those things well.” That's when I started thinking... why can't I have proper adult cocktails that let me keep on going tonight and be sharp in the morning?"
A little later, I ran into a friend (my now co-founder Ben) at the gym. We traded updates and I let him know I was thinking about creating a non-alcoholic gin. His eyes lit up—he had a similar story! A few weeks later, Monday was born and we've been serving the sober-curious ever since.
How do you think Drink Monday will reshape what the end of a work day looks like?
As fun as it is to look at wine memes and folks joking about hunkering down at home with alcohol during the pandemic, this only tells one side of the story. Just as many people, if not more, are quietly using this time to reflect on their overall health, including their drinking habits. We’re seeing folks take a more mindful approach to their alcohol intake and increasingly look for alternatives that can scratch their flavor itch and allow them to look like the real deal on Zoom happy hours and social occasions.
For both of you, this is your first company in the beverage & alcohol industry. Have there been any surprises?
The biggest surprise from our Monday journey has been our customers. Early on, we expected this to be a purely millennial generation play, with all the research showing that this group is leading the charge for sober and sober-curious movements. To our surprise, we enjoy a fairly normal distribution of customers across every generation, with regular buyers ranging in age from 18 to 80 and living in all 50 states across rural and urban settings! This is so incredibly exciting because we now know there’s a groundswell of demand for products like ours.
Why gin specifically?
Chris: I suppose like most entrepreneurs we started with something we know and love—gin! We wanted a beverage solution that satisfied our palate while being free of the alcohol we were trying to avoid. That meant coming up with a bold, London Dry-style spirit that we now call Monday Gin.
Gin is also so versatile! With the right supporting ingredients, you can be taken on a number of different beverage journeys—all while using a singular spirit base. This means it has the ability to reach more people in a positive, beneficial way.
How did you get started?
Chris: Ben and I drafted the initial taste profile requirements and marched off to find a distiller who was up for the challenge. After many phone calls, we were fortunate enough find Rob Rubens, owner of R6 Distillery in Los Angeles, who was willing to give it a shot. We tasted dozens of iterations and collaborated internally until we found a winner. As a final test, we ran a successful Kickstarter campaign before opening up sales to the public.
Now that we’re onto our next spirit offerings, we've been able to bring trusted partners closer and lean on their expertise to drive taste profiles forward. Specifically, we’ve welcomed Rob as an equity partner and Head of R&D, with his first project lead being an American-style whiskey. Rob is an award winning bourbon maker (the alcoholic kind), so this is certainly in his wheelhouse. We couldn’t be more excited to share this with the world later this year.
Chris, this is not your first time founding a company —what do you think is the most important skill founders need to succeed?
Chris: In my opinion, becoming a founder or entrepreneur means signing up for an immense amount of pain and struggle. New ventures are fraught with incredible risk; they present challenges at every turn and can face many unexpected obstacles (hello, COVID!) It takes a ton of skill, luck, and sheer determination to keep going, much less succeed.
Knowing this, I believe founders must truly and deeply know their “why” and surround themselves with constant reminders of it. They should understand the bumpy road ahead before they start down it.
If your purpose is in any way unclear, the more you'll be fighting to survive rather than pivoting, moving, and scaling to thrive.
Ben, you’ve worked in the ecommerce industry for a long time. Why focus on the beverage industry?
Ben: Connecting stories to brands within such a new category is critical to finding a market fit for each segment of customer we have. Being digitally native, we can take customers down a “choose your own adventure” type of funnel or flow to find what messaging works best to eventually inspire them to purchase our product. We will forever be a digital-first brand and plan to expand to retail with our same methodologies of data and direct customer feedback—slowly and measured.
How do you handle risk and competition?
If entrepreneurial passion and community are at the heart of Monday, then we can think of our data-driven approach to strategy and planning as our brain. We evaluate all aspects of our business based on facts and information gathered from digital sources and via real live customers, partners, and industry players. From there, we iterate, reformulate, and pivot as often as is required to keep risk at bay while speeding towards the high growth curves we want to see.
What’s been the #1 (or two) top challenges you’ve faced while launching your company?
Like any venture trying to scale during these unprecedented times, we’ve had our share of challenges. Something we battle daily is the combination shell game (finite resources from a bootstrapped budget) and balancing act (navigating a COVID-impacted supply chain fraught with global material shortages and delivery delays) to support our growing demand curve. The other, as many entrepreneurs would likely say, is the time and effort dedicated to fundraising.
This is why we’re so incredibly excited to be raising on Republic! We aspire to be a people-owned brand and want our future success to be shared by members of the community that are willing to take a chance on us and support our cause. If we’re fortunate enough to acquire the funding needed from investors online—real people aligned to our mission and objectives—our greatest challenges will be resolved and we’ll be able to focus on building the business the way we envision.
Have you learned anything new or surprising about yourself through this process?
Chris: I continue to be surprised, or amazed rather, by the power of community. Being part of young groups bonded together by common interests, passions, and pursuits can raise up entire new categories (like non-alcoholic beverages) nearly overnight. With continued fostering, maturity, and just plain care, there’s no telling how far we can go!
Does Drink Monday do any outreach with support groups?
We are active members in sober and sober-curious communities online (Facebook groups, Instagram connections, etc.) and foster those relationships with communication. When possible, we help with products for events, giveaways, or promotions to shine an even brighter light on groups aiming to do good in our space.
We have to ask—what's your favorite cocktail?
Chris: “The O.G.'' is my go-to (included on our recipe card in every order)! Add 2 oz of Monday Gin to your favorite short glass over ice. Then, add equal parts crisp Indian tonic and quality soda water. Squeeze a bit of fresh lime, garnish with a sprig of rosemary, and cheers!
What is your superpower?
Chris: Full transparency: anything that asks about me as a person strikes fear into my introverted heart, so readers should know this is not easily shared.
I’ve been told by people who I look up to that I have a deep skillset that is also quite a bit wider than most, which sets me apart and makes me capable of doing well in many different areas of business and life (their words, not mine—I’m just proud I remember to get pants on before my video calls). Based on my professional experience, I would say my superpower is building strong relationships with key people and organizations that create next level trust and value.
What’s your kryptonite?
Chris: Transactions. Monday is in the drinks business, which means we’re ultimately here to help people connect with one another. So, a polite exchange of products for money isn’t really in our DNA. Instead, we try to lean into and learn about our customers and serve them in ways that keep folks happy for the long haul.
Do you have any unusual routines or habits?
Chris: My gym time is sacred and I try to never miss a day, regardless of what’s going on with work or at home. I’m an avid CrossFitter, which helps take care of my health and fitness goals and stokes my competitive fire when outside the office. It’s hard to replicate the feeling of going at it full effort alongside friends.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Trust in yourself—you’re capable of much more than you think.