HomeSocial Impact HeroesBeth Ann Shaeffer On 5 Things You Need To Create a Successful...

Beth Ann Shaeffer On 5 Things You Need To Create a Successful Food or Beverage Brand

An Interview With Martita Mestey

Perseverance: When you are passionate about your product and what you’re doing, even the smallest of wins will feel amazing. Keep going, even if the process is incremental and painful in the beginning!

As a part of our series called “5 Things You Need To Create a Successful Food or Beverage Brand”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Beth Ann Shaeffer.

Beth Ann Shaeffer is the Owner and creator of NOPEBeverages, a premium cocktail alternative with 0% alcohol. Beth created the brand in her kitchen when her ex-husband — whom she is still great friends with — became sober and didn’t want him to feel left out. Her carbonated, ready-to-drink cocktails are crafted with the same natural fruit and herbs that she used to create them in her kitchen. NOPE has a line of four flavors currently, including: strawberry basil smash, rosemary vanilla lemonade, raspberry lime ginger beer and mango margarita with jalapeño. The mango margarita with jalapeño is her top selling cocktail.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

I grew up in a blue-collar, midwestern family– with steel at the center of our economy and world. Like Detroit or Cleveland, Sharon, PA ran on manufacturing, introducing me to the nuances of the industry early. My Mother was a connoisseur of odd jobs while my dad was a delivery person for Wise Potato Chips. Hard-working people were my example, and watching him, I became comfortable with warehouses and stocking shelves from a young age.

I also had a front row seat to great work ethic!

Directly after College, I moved to Maryland where I’ve stayed since. My career began as a special education teacher turned principal until I departed to raise my own family and be a stay-at-home mom. When my twins were diagnosed with autism, I knew I’d make the right choice. Anyone who is a mom knows the work is demanding and the hours long– I went on to have 3 more children when I realized my husband was an alcoholic. Not only that, but our marriage was in shambles. Until that day, I’d never realized the deep, problematic issues because of my family’s own relationship with alcohol.

My Uncle was both an alcoholic and a drug addict. As a child, I never knew or found this strange. From my understanding, people would always bail out and cover up substance abuse.

But, with my children, I deeply wanted their father to improve.

We tried therapy, but none of the intervention strategies made a dent. He simply wouldn’t pay bills. We made the decision to have a collaborative divorce to save money: a decision I made when I was 8 months pregnant, while I begged him to go to rehab. It’s in those moments I started to develop and find my inner strength.

Co-parenting with an alcoholic is challenging, something I’m glad to say is behind me. Today, my ex-husband has been sober for 5 years and serves as one of my biggest support systems after attending rehab after an intervention.

Can you share with us the story of the “ah ha” moment that led to the creation of the food or beverage brand you are leading?

The constant barrage of questioning why I wasn’t drinking led to the creation of my company!

On Christmas Eve, I watched my family busy themselves making drinks, completely engrossed in the time-consuming process.

A light-bulb went off and I realized that non-alcoholic beverages needed to be as easy as opening a beer, but varied enough to include options that were not just soda.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I first started in Business, I was not remotely familiar with the jargon and acronyms. In many ways, it was like reading Greek, especially the foreign financial terms. Quickly, I learned to be successful I would need to be honest about the parts of business I needed support in and be transparent with the places I needed clarification. Asking questions and an unwavering willingness to learn is the best advice I can give.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they start a food or beverage line? What can be done to avoid those errors?

Building a food or beverage line is unique in the way that it’s multi-layered. There are so many aspects of production and creation to put money into, and so many of those end up being a waste of time.

I invested heavily into branding, because I wanted to do it once, but brands naturally shift and change as they grow. If you are not 100% positive that you have landed on the right messaging and palette, hold off on the branding investment.

Secondly, using it as a hobby.

Entrepreneurship is a sacrifice, from your time to your pride, you have to commit to it again and again, regardless of how things are going that day.

Thirdly, being afraid to ask the questions truly on your mind! If you have an idea or want input, make it known and network with people in the industry.

Let’s imagine that someone reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to produce. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?

Be intentional and curious about the market. Do your research. Understand the current market saturation and what unique value proposition or hole your product can fill. If you are passionate, do it. But incorporate your unique flair and do so with conviction, regardless of your short or longer goals. Take detailed notes about your dreams and then network! From suppliers to distributors to copackers, spend time on the phone asking questions, getting curious about their processes, and building a relationship. It will come in handy down the line.

Many people have good ideas all the time. But some people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How would you encourage someone to overcome this hurdle?

In entrepreneurship, letting go of your pride and realizing there are people who know more than you do, and those who can do it better than you can do it is key. The old saying holds true: you cannot do and be everything, so define your priorities. What can you outsource? What needs your personal touch? Once you realize that you simply can’t be good at everything, you are light-years ahead of the game.

It all goes back to networking too: seeking out people you trust who hold similar values and unique perspectives. Once you’ve found them, create an informal advisory board.

There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?

To be honest, I have never heard of this! It wasn’t a part of my journey. I wanted to nail down the formula and branding in the beginning, and that is where my investment went in the early stages of our company.

What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?

Midwesterners are known for their boot-strapping, grass-rooting efforts and I am no exception. I bootstrapped in the beginning and I still am. Every penny made goes back into the company, even today, but I don’t take a salary yet. I believe in proving my concept.

Can you share thoughts from your experience about how to file a patent, how to source good raw ingredients, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer or distributor?

I’d love to share experiences on all of those things! Manufacturing is a difficult subject to demystify because there are so many moving parts in the process. Let’s break it down.

Understand what you want to trademark and find a well-trusted, skilled lawyer to advise you throughout the process. Their advice and support will be invaluable. In our case, we couldn’t use a patent because of our ingredients.

Look for a manufacturer that is a co-packer: someone who will answer your questions and once you think you’ve found your person, take a visit to the factory to understand their processes. Ask about their minimum order quantities, their policies, and be open to absorbing their knowledge.

For retailers, I knocked on doors and wrote emails! I even went to the store owners and inquired about who the distributor was. A trick I’ve learned is calling up a distributor and telling them about your product after you have a business who wants to sell the product works wonders!

As far as brokers, when the timing is right and your company feels stable, they will help you take it to the next level and break into major retailers. Like all things, ask questions, be curious, and ask for references about their past work.

Here is the main question of our discussion. What are your “5 Things You Need To Create a Successful Beverage Brand” and why?

Grit. In this world, you need it. So many people will tell you that your idea is terrible, will struggle to see the value, or question whether there is a need. Be humble and tune out the negativity despite how loud it gets.

Perseverance: When you are passionate about your product and what you’re doing, even the smallest of wins will feel amazing. Keep going, even if the process is incremental and painful in the beginning!

Do the Research: Get to truly know your competitors and what makes them tick. Be creative in ways that you can stand out from the competition and find opportunities to try new things. Even if they don’t work, you never know when you’ll stumble across a company-changing idea.

Have a Plan: Keep records! Although it’s tempting to work by emotions, strategy will create a structure for your company. Know what you have spent, know your costs, and be consistently organized, so that when you need to find numbers from 13 months ago, they’ll be there!

Prepare to Sacrifice: When you have an idea that you know can change the world, you are willing to hustle. You’re willing to grind. Be prepared for that, and know that you’ll have late nights, early mornings, and days where you question your sanity. The only thing you never want to sacrifice is your family, but everything else is fair game.

Can you share your ideas about how to create a product that people really love and are ‘crazy about’?

Everything has a purpose. In my company, I never want you to feel like a number. I do the research to know what people actually want to taste, what flavors excite them, and that component is vital. The consumers are why I create this product and their feedback drives each decision.

I feel that everyone should be included, especially in social settings. The courage and conviction to say “No” to alcohol should be celebrated and I want my drinks to be a reflection of that.

Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

I don’t ever want money to be a barrier as to why someone can’t get help– whether they need recovery or rehab, I want people to get the help they need. Insurance doesn’t cover rehab or recovery when your urine comes back clean, and after watching my younger brothers face opioid struggles, I want to be the person who pours into people that want to change.

You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

The Sober-Curious Movement– giving people an option and not blindly assuming that everyone wants to drink. Give people the autonomy and agency to make decisions for themselves without questioning why they’re not drinking. We never know someone’s story. So be kind, and support each other along the way.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

Beth Ann Shaeffer On 5 Things You Need To Create a Successful Food or Beverage Brand was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.