This is a follow up story for Eli Mason. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published almost 2 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
My name is Christopher Thomas. I am the managing partner and co-owner of a cocktail mixer brand called Eli Mason. We make premium cocktail mixers and syrups using real ingredients like cane sugar and premium bitters in Nashville, Tennessee.
Our flagship product is The Old Fashioned Cocktail Mixer. Just mix it with your favorite whiskey and you have a delicious Old Fashioned in less than 30 seconds. We have two main customers. Our first customer is someone who enjoys a delicious cocktail, but they don’t want the hassle of figuring out the right ratios of sugar to bitters, should they muddle fruit or not, we make it super easy for them to make a consistent and delicious Old Fashioned in less than 30 seconds. Our second customer is the cocktail enthusiast who loves making cocktails from scratch in their home, but sometimes they just want EASY. We give them that EASY option for a solid drink made with real ingredients.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
We have been growing! We have grown the business from $70k in 2018 to $200k in 2019, and almost $600k in 2020. We are profitable for the first time with a net profit margin that is 20%+.
We assure them that we don’t take orders unless we have the product in stock and ready to ship, we ship fast, and we follow up to see if they like the product.
We moved fulfillment to a company that holds a very lucrative contract with a major shipping provider. This allowed us to ship our orders faster with a more reliable service AND reduce our shipping/fulfillment costs. We were able to reduce our flat rate shipping charge to customers from $7.99 to $5.99 which has helped us increase orders as well.
In 2021 we are launching our first new product in more than 4 years! Eli Mason Cocktail Cherries should be launching in the first quarter of 2021. We are super excited about these because our customers have been asking us for them for quite some time, but we just couldn’t dial in the recipe. We’ve finally done it, they are delicious, and we can’t wait to offer them to our customers.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
We have worked hard to make the most of a bad situation this year. We saw two trends in April and May that we decided to take advantage of. First, companies were cutting their digital ad spends, so Facebook and Instagram ads were basically on sale. And second, with lockdowns and restrictions, a lot of folks weren’t able to visit their favorite restaurant or bar for drinks with friends. So we decided to INCREASE our marketing spend in April and May because we knew that even if we broke even or lost a little on the customer acquisition, in the long term it would work for us if we delivered a great product with great customer service. New customers would try the product, love it, and order more when their bottle was empty. That decision paid off because our returning customer rate is up more than 50% over last year.
We were able to add a new member to the ownership group. His background is in finance for a multi-billion dollar company, so his insight into accounting and cash management has been incredibly valuable.
Also, we were able to pay owners a distribution this year for the first time! That was a lot of fun.
The last thing, we ran the math and our customers served up over 1 million Eli Mason cocktails this year! That’s insane.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
We want to keep delivering a great product with great customer service, add new products to the line, and keep working to reduce our costs.
We also want to roll out a subscription business that makes sense for our best customers who are using the product consistently.
Finally, we really want to develop our brand voice. We are non-pretentious cocktail guys. We don’t care how you drink your cocktail as long as YOU like it. And there are so many folks in this business who are the opposite of that. They think less of you if you drink your cocktail a certain way. Those people need to be knocked down a peg or two in a funny, somewhat snarky way, without being mean. We never want to be mean.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer is one of my favorite reads in a long time. It’s made me rethink how I design my life, and that certainly flows over to time management in the office.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
Keep your customer promise.
I’m seeing a competing brand get hammered right now because they take orders from customers and don’t deliver their product for months. We get their angry customers commenting on our FB ads all the time asking us if we’re going to take their money too! We assure them that we don’t take orders unless we have the product in stock and ready to ship, we ship fast, and we follow up to see if they like the product. We are gaining a ton of customers right now that way, just by delivering what we say we’re going to deliver.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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