At this point in this post-apocalyptic, I mean – “Pandemic” world, we all need a virtual “cheers” with our friends and family to lift our “lockdown” spirits.
Entrepreneur, Chris Yee, shows us that yes you can create delicious drinks in your own home – no mixologist or Kombucha connoisseur required.
We caught up virtually with Chris Yee, the co-Founder of Brew Your Bucha and The Cocktail Box Co. to discuss how COVID has influenced both of his businesses, the rise of the virtual cocktail hour, and the importance of connecting with, and building your community.
Tell us a little about how you got started in this space.
Initially, I started my career in the accounting and finance industry. I decided to change career paths because I wanted to create something that I could call my own. While we were still in the corporate world, my business partner, Derek and I started dabbling in the e-commerce space by private labelling products and selling them on Amazon. We found a bit of traction but wanted to do something that was more creative and engaging so we started Brew Your Bucha, where we offer kombucha home brewing kits. It started out as a fun side project, but as we started to share our products with friends and family, word of mouth began helping us expand our reach. We soon started offering our kits on Amazon, our own website, and other platforms. Since then, we have released our second brand, The Cocktail Box Co. where we offer fun and unique pocket-sized cocktail kits. With our team, we try to stay at the forefront of our industries and engage with our community by providing helpful information on kombucha brewing and cocktail crafting.
How COVID-19 has changed your business?
We created our brands to be natively digital and we have always tried to operate our business as a lean start-up. Our business has been able to adapt to our customers’ demands by offering more products and developing strategies to meet their requests. We spend even more time now trying to get feedback from our customers and engaging with them to learn more about their needs. They continue to be the driver of many decisions we make in our business.
Given our limited resources when we started our brands, our team continues to be adaptable. As we focus our team and our capital toward growing the business, we are committing more resources to training our team members to think more creatively and become capable of thinking critically on how to work together to be more adaptable and versatile.
Do you think repercussions from COVID are going to change your industry going forward?
Yes. I believe more and more businesses will come online. It is hard to believe that a business that does not have an online presence will not be online within the next year. The traditional retail shopping industry will forever be changed and customers and looking for a more personal experience. Whether it be a one on one discussion about a product, learning about a product through a tutorial or the follow up of a shopping experience, businesses will have to learn to adapt to the new ways in which we shop and engage with products.
This is a great opportunity for those thinking about starting a business or growing their business as the barriers to entry have never been as low as they are now. With the resources available, any entrepreneur can acquire and develop the skills necessary to be successful.
What has been the easiest shift to make?
Being natively digital, we have been able to focus on our customers’ and clients’ needs. We love hearing feedback from our customers and we realized they have been looking for opportunities to connect with their friends, family, colleagues and clients. We have doubled down on offering our customers the ability to send cocktail kits to various countries by working with various fulfilment partners. We have also started offering Virtual Happy Hours where our in-house bartender, Andrew, offers a mixology class for guests. It was an easy shift in our business because we allow our customers to guide us to the areas of our business that offer the most growth.
What about the hardest?
We have limited resources. As we grow through the pandemic, we continue to be optimistically cautious about the year to come. We are planning for the upcoming year, and it is challenging to know what to expect as we continue to navigate through COVID. We are allocating our resources to the areas of our business that continue to grow but at the same time, we do not want to overextend ourselves in case we need additional capital.
What have you learned about connecting with your community during this time?
Our community is great! We love hearing from anyone who wants to learn more about our products or wants to learn more about kombucha brewing or cocktail crafting. It’s great to connect with those who have similar interests. We have learned that people just enjoy feeling connected and a part of something bigger than themselves. Whether it’s brewing kombucha or making cocktails over Zoom with friends, people just want to connect on a personal level and that’s what we want to help facilitate with our products.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself (or your business) in light of what’s happening?
Be agile and adaptable. As a small business, we have to be able to make decisions quickly and sometimes without all of the best information. We have to be confident in our decisions but not so set on the decision that it blinds us from pivoting. This has been integral to being able to successfully grow our business. Whether it is an ineffective product release or working with a supplier that isn’t the right fit, we continue refining our abilities to make better decisions.
What is the easiest thing people can do to support your business right now?
How can we get connected?