Three years ago I was sitting in MHR 738 (better known as WAVE: Weinert Applied Ventures in Entrepreneurship) waiting my turn to pitch an idea: “I want to create an easy, portable, and delicious cocktail mix.” Unfortunately, I lacked the good looks of Tom Cruise in Cocktail, so my idea didn’t create the impact or interest I was hoping for. Sitting among tech start-ups and medical device breakthroughs, a drink company didn’t excite the class. Luckily a lone idea was enough to get started in WAVE.
WAVE allows a college student to take a business idea from concept to reality by following the go-to-market methodologies of the Lean Startup. I went from product idea, market need, Minimum Viable Product (MVP), customer acquisition, initial product sale and business formation all from this class.
The product idea/market need came from, well, laziness. I enjoyed drinking scratch cocktails but I hated to get out all the ingredients, prep things, and then have to clean up my mess afterwards. When I spoke with my friends about cocktails, they said they only drank them at a bar/restaurant because cocktails were either a pain to make at home or the 1-gallon jug of neon pre-mix wasn't appealing. When I proposed my concept to friends, there seemed to be interest.
MVP caused some problems. Where was I going to get ingredients and who was going to package it? Having spent seven years in the fresh produce industry prior to grad school, I worked with what I knew. I partnered with a good friend in Peru who worked with fruit processors. After quickly realizing a liquid mixture would be a logistical nightmare, we looked into making a mix with dehydrated ingredients. It would transport easily and be shelf-stable. After a few trials we decided on a recipe and package and mocked up some samples.
Now I had a MVP that looked, well, ugly. A good friend of mine (who didn’t even drink alcohol) expressed interest in the concept early on so I brought him aboard to head up marketing. We decided on a brand, he mocked up some attractive logos, and we were off. We brought this finished MVP to target customers and everyone had interest. Success! ...until we were informed that Finch’s Dry Mix would likely be sued over trademark infringement (we were unaware a similarly named brewery existed). Not wanting to go bankrupt in a lawsuit, we pivoted and became Tod’s Natural Cocktail Mix.
People loved Tod’s Natural Cocktail Mix and we were even finalists in business plan competitions; however, having a young family, finishing grad school, and needing to start a real 9-5 job, Tod’s was put on the back burner. Working nights and weekends, and scouring the country to find a packaging partner that would make batches small enough that didn’t require a second mortgage, we finally had a finished product to sell.
I am happy to report that you can now purchase Tod’s Natural Cocktail Mix in both Whiskey Sour and Margarita. These cocktail mixes come in single serve 6-pack packages at www.todsmix.com. My personal favorite is the whiskey sour. While these are our current flavors we will be expanding our lineup to include more in the future. Our cocktail mixes are made with only the finest natural ingredients and allow you to quickly and easily enjoy a delicious cocktail that brings out the flavor of your favorite spirit.
The WAVE program helped me establish a foundation that was sound and flexible enough to launch a business two full years after graduation. I am thankful for the WAVE experience, my partners Todd Hamilton and Jeronimo Castegnetto, and the support from family and friends.
Did I mention you can buy our excellent mixers at www.todsmix.com?