To Alix Peabody, the alcoholic beverage industry has been long overdue for shakeup. For decades, not only has the industry been run by men, its products have been developed, marketed and sold to a primarily male marketplace. That disparity is a big reason Peabody decided to start her own company, Alixir, and launch the “Bev” brand — “Made by chicks,” the slogan goes.
Goodwin has advised Peabody and her company since their very beginning. She recently shared with us how it all began, what she’s learned, where the company is headed and advice for other entrepreneurs.
What you were doing before your founded “Bev?”
I grew up in New York City and went to college at Dartmouth, where I double majored in Math and English. After that, I went to work at Bridgewater Associates, a hedge fund outside of NYC. I moved out to San Francisco when I was 24 to be an executive headhunter. I figured it would be my job to meet people, and since I was new to the West Coast and had no network there, I thought it was a pretty sweet deal.
What was the inspiration for starting Alixir and the Bev brand?
I joke to people that I took my personality and put it in a can! The Bev brand is something near and dear to my heart — my hope is to build an approachable feminist brand that stems from a sense of joy and stands for social change.
When I was in college, everything centered around fraternity life. When I graduated and started working in a male-dominated environment, and going out in the New York bar scene, what I thought was a college-aged moment in time turned out to be the culture in which we live — one where often times, women are guests in men's social spaces.
What does it say about how we treat women in social situations when you look behind a bar and there isn't a single brand made for them? Whose space is it, really? Very few social spaces are built with women in mind.
I hope that the Bev brand starts to create that space for women and in so doing builds a different paradigm around how we interact with one another in those situations.
How did you arrive at canned rosé? Any plans to expand your line?
The answer here is far less interesting than meets the eye... it was primarily legislative. In the alcohol industry, there is something called the 3-tier liquor law, which prohibits producers from self-distributing, giving the middle man most of the power. I realized that the exception to this rule was for California-based wineries, which had direct-to-consumer privileges in 44 different states.
I figured it would take a while to prove out my concept and attract distributors, so I needed the ability to fulfill myself for the time being. Out of all the wine options, rosé is what I figured to be most likely consumed in a "party" environment, and I wanted to create an option for women in those environments that spoke to them. As for the can — well, it's approachable, and it's far easier to create brand awareness.
What were the early days like?
I'd ask my cat, Harold, or my cousin Charlotte (who is our creative director at Bev). Both have endured many tears and meltdowns. The early days were tumultuous, to say the least! I really just put my head down and tried to get from one day to the next. I managed somehow but I'm not entirely sure I could tell you how!
Is there something unique to LA that you think helped in your pursuit? Access to investors, creative types, talent, inspiration?
Los Angeles is a great city for our product from a logistical perspective, and it's the creativity center of the world in many respects! There is so much inspiration to be gleaned from simply walking (or driving) around. The access to creative talent is unparalleled. And it's a great place to get your product into the hands of big names somewhat easily, which in my industry, matters a lot!
What was it about the alcoholic beverage industry that made you think it was ripe for some disruption?
The alcoholic beverage industry is one that almost everyone interacts with in some capacity, and very few people know how it works. This is because it is in large part still privately held, and family owned. When you think about how far back its ancestry dates — it's to right around prohibition, a time in which women were not really working, and certainly were not owning businesses. As such, a legacy effect has occurred - the entire industry is run by men, which is most likely why most of the products you see are for men. The ones for women often times are speaking "at" them, not "to" them. Disrupting the industry as a whole is difficult and complicated due to all the legislation in place, but bringing voice to women in the space is not only disruptive — it's paramount.
Where do you see Bev in a year – five years, 10?
My hope is to really build a brand of our time. I'd love to build out the company's brand platform and expand it to all sorts of different verticals — the sky is the limit!
What advice would you give to others looking to make a drastic career change – or to those considering becoming an entrepreneur, specifically women?
Just start. You will never have all of the answers and you will never be ready for the jump. It's terrifying, and the best companies have high highs and low lows throughout the course of their existence. As for women... just know that you will be underestimated constantly. Whether that becomes an asset or something that gets in your way is entirely up to you.
Steve Davis (a Tech and Life Sciences partner) has been your lawyer at Goodwin. Is there something he’s helped you learn in the process of launching your company that has been invaluable?
Steve is not only my lawyer, he's one of my earliest believers. He's given me unwavering support and so much advice I'm not entirely sure where to begin answering the question! He's taught me everything from "what is a convertible note" to how to handle letting someone go to giving me a confidence boost when I need it. He's also always extremely patient and never makes me feel like I don't know what I'm doing. I'll plug Steve all day long — I've referred tons of entrepreneurs to him!
How do you spend your time when you’re not “Bevving?”
I'm not sure I'm ever not "Bevving" — my work gives me life and my life helps me work! But I can often be seen exercising, hanging out with my fiancé and my cat, or just getting outside.