How I Launched A Beverage Company Knowing Nothing About The Beverage Industry

When I tell people that I started a beverage company and make a cocktail mixer that prevents redness and hangovers, the first question they usually ask is, "Are you a scientist?"

I generally smile and say no and get ready for the barrage of "But how did you do it?" type questions. My answer is always the same, " I don’t have to be a scientist. I just did it and learned along the way!" 

Two years ago I had an idea for a drink that prevented a problem that affects over a billion people around the world. This problem is called Alcohol Flush. You probably haven’t heard of it, but odds are you’ve seen it in action. Have a friend or seen someone at a bar turn bright red after one drink? That’s Alcohol Flush and it affects about 15% of all drinkers regardless of ethnicity and a whopping 70% of Asian people.

Fast forward to today, I own a beverage company and make a drink called Before Elixir that solves this problem and prevents hangovers. Before Elixir sold over 14,000 bottles in our first year to 1200+ customers all over the world - 39 U.S. states and 17 countries to be exact!

When I started Before Elixir, I didn’t know anything about the beverage industry. But I knew that people who had this problem wanted a solution. And that was all I needed to get started.

To begin formulation of Before Elixir, I used my own personal experience as a starting point. In college I used B complex vitamins to prevent myself from feeling sick when I drank alcohol. These worked well so I knew I was onto something. To find other potential ingredients, I scoured blogs about drinking and Alcohol Flush, and researched supplements related to alcohol metabolism and liver function. After a month I had a list of several vitamins, amino acids, fruit and plant extracts to test. And that’s precisely what I did. 

I ordered all the supplements on Amazon, put them into brown medicine bottles, and created pretty gnarly looking test kits, which I then sent to dozens of friends and strangers, anyone willing to try. Sometimes I’m still amazed that my friends and strangers trusted me so much!

(True story: While out dancing in Austin, I literally asked a complete stranger if she would test my drink. She said yes and now we’re great friends. Love you Gigi!)

I asked my participants to test each ingredient and rate its effectiveness. I took the best performing ingredients and brought them to a beverage formulator. These are the people that supply the functional ingredients in a beverage like vitamins and botanical extracts. By the time I met with the beverage formulator, I had about 70% of Before Elixir made. They helped me optimize dosage levels of the various ingredients and suggested additional ones to add. They also connected me to a flavor house that helped make it all taste and look good. And voila, the first rendition of Before Elixir was created!

This month I’m preparing to produce my 4th run of Before Elixir and I’m still learning as I go. It is a constant work in progress and it will be for a while. I started this journey knowing nothing about the beverage industry and while I still don’t know everything, I know a heck of a lot more than I used to!

Now just by looking I can tell you the names of different types of bottles in the grocery store and where they’re made. I recognize different types of labels and know how they are applied. I understand how alcohol is metabolized and know the solubility levels of various supplements…snoooooze. And I am pretty damn good at guessing the liquid volume of drinks in the beverage section (a game I play with myself and take personal pride in).

I am living proof that you don’t need to know how something is made in order to create it. You need to know that it needs to be made in the first place. The rest will come through testing, and lots of trial and error. What you don’t know you can find out through research and by surrounding yourself with good help to fill your knowledge gaps. You can also outsource skill sets you don’t have.

The founder of GoPro didn’t know how to design a camera when he started, but he’s now a billionaire. He knew that people wanted cameras that could capture their sport activities in a better, cooler way. And then he got to work.

If you are sitting on a business idea, want to start a new sport, or learn a new language, whatever it is you want to do, don’t let your lack of knowledge hinder you. You are capable of so much more than you know. Don’t let yourself or others limit what you can accomplish. Doing so is a disservice not only to yourself but to others because you are robbing them of the wonders you could create!