January 12, 2022

Mixly (Season 4 Ep 2)

Dry January? Sober curious or just looking for great mixes that stand up to Spirits or can be mixed without? Let me introduce you to Mixly.

“There’s nothing quite like a handcrafted cocktail,” said Johnna Rossbach, Founder and President of Mixly. “That’s why we created Mixly — to bring the cocktail experience right to your home. All you have to do is pour, mix, and drink! Our goal was to take down the misconception that a delicious cocktail or mocktail takes a lot of time, effort, and money.”

Mixly’s unique flavors and trend-forward approach make it easy to mix based on your unique taste or what you have on hand. So whether you’re in the mood for a cocktail or a mocktail, Mixly’s flavors will create a delicious drink and are meant to be versatile, pairing with multiple spirits or just soda water. Mixly starts with high-quality, natural ingredients, fresh-squeezed juices, and natural sweeteners, making it a unique and refreshing cocktail experience.

Mixly Podcast Transcript

Stephanie Hansen 0:00
Hello makers in Minnesota friends and fans. We have a whiskey dinner coming up featuring keepers are whiskey made right here in Minneapolis at the O’Shaughnessy distilling company started by cousins and lifelong friends Patrick and Michael O’Shaughnessy. They both had a vision to make whiskies worthy of their rich Irish American heritage helmed by world renowned master distiller Brian nation, they set about building a state of the art distillery in Minneapolis to produce world class whiskies and serve as a source of pride for the Irish community. At their distillery. The magic of whiskey making begins with three triple copper pots, where they make American whiskey and the traditional Irish triple distillation style. Their flagship offering Keeper’s heart Irish American whiskey is the first whiskey that blend the very best of Irish and American distilling traditions to deliver a truly unique and remarkable taste experience. At this dinner, you’ll taste each of the components that make up Keeper’s heart Irish whiskey, paired with food courses prepared by Nicole Leary, the Lexington Herald and chef like makers in Minnesota’s dinners in the past, I’ll be hosting but we’ll be joined by O’Shaughnessy distilleries master distiller Brian nation who will walk us through each course and help us appreciate this American Irish whiskey made right here in Minnesota. So join us February 15. At the Lexington for a post Valentine’s Day celebration. With keepers heart. American whiskey will be the exclusive diners in the restaurant for the evening. And you’ll mingle with me and toast your fellow whiskey lovers. We’ll have a limited number of tickets for this special night. And when they’re gone, they’re gone. So go to the lex mn.com and sign up via Eventbrite for their makers in Minnesota keepers heart whiskey dinner and tasting on February 15. Again, get your tickets now at the lex mn.com.

Hello, everybody and welcome to the makers of Minnesota where we talk to cool people doing cool things. And I’m here today with Gianna Rossbach and she is the owner and founder of something that’s called mix Lee cocktail mixers and I’m excited to have her on I was like dry January we got to get you on because so many people are looking for alcohol free alternatives. And your product is the perfect mix because if you’re someone that wants to have a drink, you can throw a little rum or vodka or gin or whatever your spirit of choices into the mix the cocktail mixer but if you are someone that wants a mocktail they’re delicious on their own to welcome to the program.

Johnna Rossbach 2:52
Thanks Stephanie. So happy to be here.

Stephanie Hansen 2:54
Yeah, I’ve been like telling everyone about your products. I don’t know if anyone tells you this.

Johnna Rossbach 2:59
They do and it’s I so appreciate it. I mean, I think it’s obviously word of mouth that helps a small brand like us, you know kind of get jump started but I really do believe with MCs Lee it is tasting to believing. And that’s been huge for us. Once you taste MCs Lee and you think about maybe other mixers you’ve had or other kind of at home cocktail solutions, you really will believe that we are something totally unique and different than what’s on the shelf now.

Stephanie Hansen 3:27
Yeah, and it’s so there are other cocktail mixes. There are other tonics and elixirs and those kinds of things. What struck me about your product was first of all, it arrived kind of unsolicited, which always intrigued me. So I opened up the box. And right away like the packaging was really professional looking. And I was like, oh, this person knows what they’re doing in this space. And then like the taste of it was much improved over many things I had had like it in the previous two years. I think a lot of people wanted to get into this space, but then they couldn’t figure out how to make the product that was shelf stable. That tastes good. So I’m dying to get your backstory. Tell me how you took this

Johnna Rossbach 4:14
journey? Yeah, absolutely. Well, um, it all started started about I’d say two, three years ago. And my co founder, Megan was also on my team, we work together at another local CPG company, and we were just dreaming of doing her own thing. And what happened is, uh, she comes she loves cocktails, and she’s a little bit younger. So she has all the time in the world to make all these fancy cocktails and I’m like, I love cocktails, but I have two kiddos and I have no time to make you know, fresh squeezed juices. And it just kind of snowballed from there. And so it came from like, a passion of wanting to do business better. And you know, started our own company where we’re values led, but then also create like an amazing product in a category where it was just missing, like something I think the category was missing was missing taste, you know, there’s a lot of just kind of gunk out there. And that’s partially because two of the ingredients like a lot of artificial ingredients, a lot of sugar, a lot of you know juices from concentrate. And so we really, you know, we we started exploring it, we say, you know, we talked about tinkering, like we tinkered for a few years to get this right, brought in our and our other business partner, Stuart, who was a mixologist, and we played with things and what we found is like, it’s really about the quality, especially lime, like you don’t think about how important lime juice is, it makes all the difference between something that is like the right citrus flavor versus something that comes across as bitter. And so that was key. And then the other piece to that makes us unique is the honey. So we honey is just outside of being you know, I think more people are looking at honey as a sugar alternative, but it just adds like a more subtle sweetness it, it rounded out the flavors in a nice way where the sugar, you know, can sometimes linger. So heavy is also a big difference. But I will say the number one thing that separates us from the rest of the products on the shelf is our juice content. So most mixers you’ll find range anywhere from like 20 to 40% juice, all of our products are 50 to 80%. So that’s you know, when you taste mix, Li you’ll see right away, it’s a full flavor experience, obviously, it’s meant to be diluted with whether you’re adding alcohol or, you know, or soda water to me out of my shell. But that’s you know, when you go to a bar, like that’s the experience, you get get more juice, you know, from a great bar, who knows what they’re doing, and they’re squeezing things themselves. And so that’s what we tried to that’s what we tried to create an a bottle, a craft cocktail experience that you can bring home. And to your point to about, you know, the versatility that was also key we talked about, you know, being everyone’s invited to the mix the party. Yep. And so we wanted people whether you drank or did it, we had a product for you. And whether you like vodka or tequila or whiskey, we have something for you. So

Stephanie Hansen 7:17
and you have I think you have Is it five now.

Johnna Rossbach 7:21
So we actually have six flavors seven, including our strawberry rhubarb, which we we put on hold over the winter season. But yeah, and then we will be launching new flavors in spring and summer.

Stephanie Hansen 7:35
So do you think you’ll have some seasonal types of because I would say strawberry rhubarb is so Minnesotan, but also seasonal? Yes. Yeah,

Johnna Rossbach 7:45
no, it is, we definitely want to play into the seasonality of it. And my vision for the brand is really to become like the Ben and Jerry’s of the mixer aisle where we become a place of flavor exploration. And you know, we’re going to have like, what’s their next flavor? Well, that they’re going to do. So that’s our vision.

Stephanie Hansen 8:04
So you say you worked in a CPG company? Did you work at General Mills? No, I didn’t. I worked at Jack legs. Okay, you worked at Jack links, your I could tell right away when I saw this product, would that you or someone from that from that industry, because no offense to people that aren’t but you CPG folks kind of hit the ground running in terms of packaging. And I just it’s very beautifully done. Your labels are great, the ingredients are really clean, too, which I also really appreciated. And I think maybe this is sexist, but I think a lot of women are probably your target. So we look at labels and we study these kinds of things. So I felt like that was really intentional and really smart, too. So you’re made in Minnesota, you get together with your friend and your mixologist. And like how did you have like a pile of money sitting there when you decided to quit your job? Or like what was that progression? Like?

Johnna Rossbach 9:02
Ah, no, well, I wouldn’t say you know, a big pile of money. We obviously you know, we’re still funded at this point. And we are still funded. And part of what’s been great is where I bring the CPG marketing background. So that’s been my whole career has been in CPG you know, marketing and PR. Then Megan, my business partner, other co founder, she’s the graph she created mostly, that’s her work all herself. And so she has the graphic design background and obviously Stewart you know, how it came with the the actual, the technical skills. And so we’ve just together I think we’re other startups, you know, where I feel for them is they’re having to pull in that expertise somehow, whether it’s, you know, whether that’s giving away equity or finding capital, we were able to kind of have that just internally with us three, so that was a huge help. And then, you know, I’d say as so like I said, so far we’ve been self funded I certainly think coming from my background in marketing, you know, able to tap into former colleagues, people I know. But I will say, at this point, we are still part time. So we all still have our day jobs. I was just gonna ask you that. Yeah. So we’re trying to hold on to them for as long as we can, but it’s going to change next year, for sure things are heating up in terms of like, you know, our retail side and where we’re growing, and it’ll really help not even so service the gross growth we have, but then help further growth. So

Stephanie Hansen 10:36
do you who’s doing sales?

Johnna Rossbach 10:38
So right, us? Me, I’m walking into other, you know, walking into liquor stores on my lunch break, um, but we are bringing on a distributor, we’re looking to bring on a distributor partner. And we’re also looking at a spring test or sorry, summer test, with target. So knock on wood, you know, those two things will help really give us scale. But sales that was not that is one area where none of us had a background. And so you really, I just had to figure it out myself. And it is like, I mean, you can email call people all day. But every time I mailed a sale, it’s because I physically walked in, asked to talk to the manager gave him my pitch broad product, and refused to leave until the shelf

Stephanie Hansen 11:22
well, and the other weird thing, or not weird thing. But so first of all, everybody quits their job six months too early. So yeah, well, that is you’re planning your timeframe, but secondarily bringing on a distributor partner, because that’s got to be kind of challenging? Because Are you a grocery product? Are you a liquor store product? Like are? Am I gonna find you on my Kolsky? Shelf? Or am I going to find you on my cirrhotic shelf? And you’re in a bottle? Would you ever be like in a can because obviously canned things are really popular too?

Johnna Rossbach 11:57
Mm hmm. Yeah, those are all great questions. I think, when it comes to where we show up, I do think we’re being very strategic and where we get placed, obviously, focusing on liquor stores, but not just any liquor, we don’t want to land anywhere, the mixer category is very tired. And our target consumer hasn’t shopped the mixer category in a very long time. And you’re correct, it is mostly, you know, women that work that we’re targeting. And so we need to let them know that there’s something there for them. So we are going to be looking at the retailers where, obviously they have higher standards of what’s in their store, they’re going to be open to merchandising us correctly, and not just putting us you know, a lot of stores the mixer aisles in the back of the store, you’d never even know it’s there,

Stephanie Hansen 12:41
there’s no profit margin there. So

Johnna Rossbach 12:43
they hide it, they do they do and that’s part of our strategy too, is like working with the retailers who are going to partner with us and and changing that. Now there’s, you know, the one of the first places that took us in was France 44. And what I love about France 44 is they they’re, they know what they’re doing with their mixer category, it’s on your way to the checkout. And so it’s kind of that impulse purchase, like oh, maybe I’ll grab this or I never thought about that. So it’s a great place to explore while people are waiting. And they just have a great variety. So I kind of you know, as I go in and speak with other retailers I’m trying to get them to just think differently to about this category too. Because it’s not even just about getting us but how do I help them see the category differently overall be more successful?

Stephanie Hansen 13:28
Um, when you get well like you’re probably familiar with a company called Summer Lakes beverage that has fresh juice yet Margarita mixes and I mean, they’ve had to like because everything is so fresh, they have to install freezers and I mean they’ve really had to change a lot of the way that you would see a product like that come to market you won’t have to do that because your shelf stable. But it is interesting to think about like do you think about glass being an advantage versus a can down the road? Yeah.

Johnna Rossbach 14:04
So we’ve gone through like we talk about this all the time, there’s you know, retailers have asked us Would you consider plastic because it’s cheaper, less breakage. And that for us is just at this point, something we’re not going to explore because we are a premium product and outside of having quality ingredients the packaging is really key for consumers this consumer it adds to that premium this and touching and feeling glasses obviously very different from plastic and then in addition to like the environmental considerations, but being mindful there is a glass shortage and so far we’ve been okay, but I think cans are something definitely that we would look at and whether it’s the product format that exists today or if it’s other innovations where we whether we add right like some carbonation to it, or if we ever do a ready to drink, you know, cocktail one day or mocktail so that’s definitely something we’re thinking about.

Stephanie Hansen 14:59
It’s pretty crazy to think about that. Bethenny Frankel was one of the first people in this category with the Skinnygirl Margarita. And you know, she was this real housewives that I kind of admired her because she had this gluten free baking mix and she was kind of a hustler. But if you told me that Bethenny Frankel would have sold this company for a billion dollars, I would have died. So I feel excited for you that that’s the sphere that you’re in, because that’s pretty cool. How do you get people to sample it? Because there’s a lot of interest in this category, a lot of interest in ready to drink, like, are you at farmers markets? Are you in the stores? You’re in? Like, what’s your sampling strategy to get women to buy this?

Johnna Rossbach 15:42
Yeah, the farmers markets and other like Christmas markets have been huge for us. Because we didn’t just officially launch I’d say end of June, early July. Yeah. So we got and we did the Linden Hills farmers market for the summer. And we did and then we did the Excelsior Christmas market and a few other smaller Christmas markets. And that was incredible for us. Not only again, tasting, believing that’s key. But then the word of mouth and I’m going to go tell my retailer, you know, it’s just those events are really they’re they’re hard work. Like they’re Yeah, they’re physically, you know, daunting, especially when it’s the weekends and you have it, we have day jobs. But yeah, they’re priceless. They really are.

Stephanie Hansen 16:23
It’s interesting that you know, that I was talking to someone the other day, and it used to be that, you know, smaller brands would start out at like a farmers market. And it was a two to three year proposition where they’d be testing and targeting and, and then their goal was like to get out of the farmers market. But now because it’s been so challenging with grocery, and they don’t have time to bring in new products, they don’t have time to meet with people, people are back at the farmers markets trying to build demand that way. So that someone goes into the grocery aisle and says, Hey, you should carry this or have you thought about that?

Johnna Rossbach 16:55
Yeah, absolutely. I can’t, it’s so interesting, as, as we, you know, gone on this journey. And I’ve talked to of course, many people who would like to invest in mix Li and you know, people who are interested in whether it’s being business advisors, or you know, wanting to give us their money, there’s definitely I think at a more, there’s a startup approach, that’s very much of whether it’s Silicon Valley, or people you know, in New York, that are like, don’t do these small events, get a bunch of money, and just invest go to town, like focus on retail focus on online, don’t waste your time with this, like, go big or go home. And maybe that works for other categories, or, you know, segments. But I think for us, like, there’s something we have to be strategic here, because we’re disrupting a category, we have something that’s not, you know, currently out there, we’re retraining consumers, and that doesn’t happen overnight. Like, it’s truly I think, going to be a market by market, get it in people’s mouths strategically grow in retail, and, and, you know, work really hard, but like, but take it slow and take it strategically.

Stephanie Hansen 18:06
Yeah, and there’s, you know, you can think of people on both sides of that coin, like, there’s a product that I won’t say that someone I podcasted with in the future, or in the past that’s already out, you know, they kind of did that whole strategy investment people and it blew up, and then it just disappeared, because because they didn’t have any traction and COVID game, and it was just done. They didn’t have anyone that wanted their product that hadn’t built up that demand. And then there’s also people that you know, are have gone mouth by mouth by mouth, and it’s gone, it’s grown. And sometimes, too, it grows at a pace that feels comfortable for you guys, as the makers, you know, you want to be able to grow at a capacity that you can afford, that you can reinvest that feels comfortable. Are there other makers that you look at out there that are not in your space, necessarily, but that you’re like, wow, they’re such a cool product, and they really did it, right. Mm hmm.

Johnna Rossbach 19:06
Um, gosh, you know, I think a lot, I look back at case studies on Chobani all the time. They disrupted a category. And I know that’s cliche, but I really do it’s like I like have some of the articles on their story bookmark, especially how they approached retail. And, you know, current brands, I also really admire Bev through another female owned business wine company. I’ve been connected with her founder, and I love what they’re doing. Those are the two that come to come to mind. And I know it’s so bad because there’s so many amazing local makers, but they’re

Stephanie Hansen 19:45
also great examples. Yeah, those are great examples of people that really made it in the space. So when you think about, I don’t so you have a full time job and I don’t want to jeopardize your full time job here. But when you think about like, going full time into this, like, is it excitement? Is it fear? Is it dread? Because it’s really hard to start your own thing. And, like, I remember being at home my when I started our business and like, even like FedEx is like, Wait, there isn’t someone to just like hand this to that knows shipping and logistics.

Johnna Rossbach 20:25
I know. I know. It’s I think it’s all of it like I, you know, to stay up late after my kids go to bed to package up orders or to reply to emails to work on weekends like that, to me, even though obviously I have mom guilt about not spending time with my kids or whatever. But it I’m so it’s so invigorating like it when it’s yours, there’s just something about it, and you’re passionate about it. It’s like I’m all in and I’m, I’m you know, it’s that’s it’s exciting. But on the flip side, going full time means all sorts of logistical things and financial considerations that are very scary. And I’ve had a nice, cushy, corporate job, like my whole, you know, up to this point. And startup world day is going to be that. So it’s a little bit of

Stephanie Hansen 21:14
both. Well, and I think you’re like a lot of people to that the last two years, most people are working from home. So that has afforded a lot of flexibility. Let’s be honest, some people can do their, you know, 40 hour a week job in maybe 28 hours. And as long as you get the job done, no one knew what happened to those other 12 hours. Maybe in the past, you’d have gone and worked out at lunch and you know, stopped at bellies and got a salad. But now that time is spent on your hustle. So we have all these hustlers out there that are using and maximizing that time. I wonder we’re seeing so much innovation and so much more entrepreneurism. But I also wonder when people get called back to the offices, how that’s gonna work, I feel like we could almost see the great resignation, part two of the entrepreneurs that have been busy starting their companies and the parent companies don’t know. And all of a sudden, you’re gonna get call back and be like, Oh, by the way, I have this other business. And I’m ready to do that. Now, the big thing I want you to think about just because I think people do not think about this is health care. It is such a massive expense. And for a family of four, you’re looking at about $1,700 a month as a freelancer to have a plan that has a $7,500 deductible minimum. And you know, it’s $32,000 just to have health care.

Johnna Rossbach 22:34
Yeah. Yep. Know your exact that is that that is the thing that keeps you know, it’s that keeps me up at night with little ones and all that. So, yeah, it’s, um, you know, it’s that is that is the biggest factor. And in my nice court, you know, cushy corporate job, we’ve great benefits. Yep. But when you look at the numbers when you go, you know, independent, it’s, yeah, it’s

Stephanie Hansen 22:57
yeah, you have to make for a lot of people, you know, a family of four, like, maybe your partner has benefits, but you’d have to make about 60 grand just to have insurance and child care before you even get out of the gate. And for a lot of small businesses. You know, you wouldn’t pay yourself bad or you probably wouldn’t get there until at least you mean the year two, if you’re awesome. You’re three, four or five, depending on what your plan is. I wish that there was maybe this is something we can create someday with the belt, Bethenny Frankel’s of the world like, I wish there would be some kind of an employment pool for entrepreneurs to buy in, like, why can’t we buy into the single payer plan? We’re not asking for handouts, we just want to be able to provide for our families while we’re starting our hustle because who makes jobs in this country? It’s the small businesses. It’s the medium businesses.

Johnna Rossbach 23:50
Mm hmm. I love that. Yes, I love that idea. I am in something that

Stephanie Hansen 23:57
we could do. Alright, so as we’re getting ready to wrap up this podcast, people are doing dry January, and thinking about dry January. Have you ever done a dry January?

Johnna Rossbach 24:10
No, but I feel like pregnancy was like a dry like that was my Yes. No, I have not. I have not, but I know many friends who have I Don’t Have you have you? Do you do and Stephanie. I’ve

Stephanie Hansen 24:22
done it. I’ve done dry January. I’ve also done no November. Like, I’m always doing the latest fad. And usually, to be honest, it’s mostly because I want to just cut back on calories and the holidays can be so excessive between the cookies and the cocktails. By the time I get to January. I’m just like, Oh, I’m so bloated, that it’s kind of a good time to do it. But I think too, it’s really from a marketing perspective. It’s it’s created a lot of these products.

Johnna Rossbach 24:50
Yeah, no, and that’s exactly like I said what we had in mind was we wanted this this had to be a mocktail. This had to be you know, and whether You know, there’s the sober, curious movement that’s, you know, coming, or that’s, you know, that’s very, you know, popular people are interested in that the dry January sober October, you know, whatever it is like the consumers more and more, you know, I forget the statistic, but it’s a significant amount of consumers are exploring ways to cut back on alcohol. So that was key for us. And then, you know, part of, you know, part of it too, as we were developing this when I was pregnant with my second kiddo. And I wanted an option where I could still feel like I was included, you know, and that’s because that’s the thing, especially when you’re early on in your pregnancy, and it’s like these awkward moments of where you’re trying to ask for a non alcoholic drink. And it’s this great thing of you could have mixed li be at a party, make someone an alcoholic one and anon and like no one needs to know any better.

Stephanie Hansen 25:44
Yeah, you’re not like they’re not going well. We have Diet Coke. Or, you know, here’s a Lacroix like yeah, to be when you ask for a non alcoholic drink at a bar. They just looked at you like why are you even here? Yeah,

Johnna Rossbach 25:58
yeah, I know that. Show it. It’s changing. And that’s like to at the farmers markets. And you know, these these events. I heard from so many people that were like, I’ve been looking for this. And I’ve been looking to cut back or I’m not drinking anymore. And the unique. What’s interesting is there are obviously a lot of new non alcoholic drinks out there ready to drink cocktails, like a seedlip. Right, where they’re almost trying to mimic the taste of alcohol. And maybe, you know, there’s probably like a place for that. But what’s great about MCs Lee is yes, we’re fruit forward, obviously. But with our flavors like with the basil, pineapple basil, or like the cucumber, mint lime. You don’t necessarily get like all the fruitiness. We’re not trying to be alcoholic beverage. But there’s something unique that gives it more of that craft cocktail experience. So you don’t feel like you’re missing anything. Yeah, I

Stephanie Hansen 26:50
really, they’re great. I just I think they’re great. I think they taste good. I think they look great. I think they’re easy to drink with alcohol or without so I mean, I loved them when you sent me that box right away. I was like, Oh, this is a winner. I loved it.

Johnna Rossbach 27:04
Thank you so much. That means so much coming from you.

Stephanie Hansen 27:08
Oh, yeah, absolutely. You guys got a winner on your hand. It’s just a matter of how you bring it out to market and how you know much you can get in investment and how much energy you have around it. So it’s really fun to talk to you. Thank you for being on the program.

Johnna Rossbach 27:23
Thank you for having me. It’s such an honor. Yeah, happy

Stephanie Hansen 27:26
holidays and happy dry January sober January or just January and yeah, make yourself a drink. If you feel like it. Everyone can do what works for them these days. Right.

Johnna Rossbach 27:37
I love it. Absolutely. All right. Well

Stephanie Hansen 27:38
talk to you soon. Thanks.

Johnna Rossbach 27:40
Thank you, Stephanie. Bye bye bye

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