For Helena Price Hambrecht the abundance of alcohol at every after-work event meant that hangovers seemed inevitable.
“I knew that I had a problem. I knew that everyone else I knew had a problem where we were like ‘god, are we supposed to do this forever and not die?” she said on this week’s episode of the Modern Retail Podcast. “We’re supposed to drink, drinking is part of life, but we all feel terrible. Why isn’t there a better way to drink?'”
She and her husband Woody Hambrecht founded Haus to try supplying that better way. The company’s drinks are alcoholic, but only a bit more than the stuff you put in an Aperol Spritz — the growing popularity of which proves the “demand for something lighter,” Price Hambrecht said — and other aperitifs. Millennials, the thinking goes, aren’t drinking to get drunk. Haus’ concoctions are also on the not-so-sweet (read: sugary) side, and are under the legal cutoff (24% ABV) for mailing bottles to customers.
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Price Hambrecht joined the inaugural episode of the Modern Retail Podcast to talk about founding Haus, focusing on PR at launch and what comes next for the direct-to-consumer industry.
Here are a few highlights from the conversation, lightly edited for clarity.
Big brands don’t want to cannibalize their market share
“Think about it like Luxottica pre-Warby Parker, or taxis pre-Uber — industries that were disrupted. The prime setting for disruption is that the legacy industry has no incentive to innovate because they control the system and any sort of innovation would actually disrupt their existing portfolio. So they just can’t create anything new that serves a new generation. There’s something very similar here. Why would alcohol go really hard on low and no ABV when that would take market share or threaten high ABV?”
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The value of an origin story
“Luckily we had the founder story that just happened. That’s a big load of work off our plate. If we were two Wharton kids who came up with this in class, that’d be a bigger burden. How do you create that story that doesn’t just involve class at Wharton? We had that going for us, but then from there it’s a constant challenge. OK, I was able to successfully convert a ton of people with a Medium post that they could all relate to, but how do you take that and condense it into an Instagram ad? What are the one-liners that create that similar moment of ‘oh my god, this brand was made for me?’ And we don’t know yet.”
Not every DTC company will stick the landing
“I think if DTC is the only thing that makes your product interesting you are in big trouble. And I think we’ll see an adjustment. I’ve seen a couple of threads from investors recently being like ‘wow, all these new direct-to-consumer products that are coming out right now trying to raise, the majority of them? There’s nothing interesting about them and they’re clinging to direct-to-consumer and that’s not enough. I think what originally made direct-to-consumer interesting is it was a challenger brand. It was a brand that was going after an archaic industry that was in desperate need of change, and going direct-to-consumer allowed you to reach a consumer that wanted your product but wasn’t hearing about because all the middle men were disrupting the message.”