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You’re listening to biz ninja entrepreneur radio.
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This show was created for entrepreneurs, business owners, marketers and dreamers who want to learn from the experts of today and drastically shortcut their own success to build a business that supports their dream lifestyle. Since 2011, Tyler Jorgenson has been interviewing business thought leaders from around the world a serial entrepreneur himself. Tyler also shares his personal insights into what’s working in business today. Welcome to biz Ninja, entrepreneur radio.
Tyler Jorgenson 0:39
Welcome out to biz ninja entrepreneur radio. I am your host, Tyler Jorgensen and today we get to speak with a young CEO and founder which is always exciting. Have a really cool brand called oza which makes ready to drink cocktails starting with mimosas which is pretty neat for people that love their brunches. Ryan eight Welcome back to the show.
Ryan Ayotte 1:01
Thanks for having me.
Tyler Jorgenson 1:03
So you’re young, right? Like, yeah, 12 years old 15.
Ryan Ayotte 1:08
But I’m 26.
Tyler Jorgenson 1:10
So 26 is young to be launching a successful, like cocktail company. Tell us a little bit about why you even decided that you wanted to be an entrepreneur.
Ryan Ayotte 1:19
Sure. So, you know, I never was looking to start my own business. I thought maybe at some point I would both my parents were self employed, okay, around my own little business, sort of a side hustle in high school and college. So I kind of got a taste of the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur. And, you know, kind of always had that spirit in me. So I figured at some point, maybe I would start my own business but didn’t know it’d be a decision.
Tyler Jorgenson 1:44
So how did so how did this How long ago did you start Ohza?
Ryan Ayotte 1:47
Sure. So we launched the brand in June of 2019. So we’re just approaching a year. Awesome. I came up with the idea because some friends of mine were trying to mix some mimosas on a boat. For those of you in Southern California may or may not know, Cape Cod off of Massachusetts, but that’s where he was. And so they were spilling and I thought maybe there’s a premade one out there that they could get for next time and turn out there wasn’t one. And so that kind of got me thinking that, you know, even though I have no beverage background, maybe I could make one myself. And so that was in 2016. Okay, yep, didn’t do anything with it. Thinking about it. I was working in finance, but circle back to it in 2018. In the summer, when I was seeing all sorts of there’s a seltzer craze but also have these very interesting cocktails popping up. And I was surprised that there really wasn’t a most given how popular of a beverage is right. But I was more so convinced that while you know, having a pre made Mimosa is great and fun. There really should be a beverage out there that’s in between the like healthier, hard seltzer is that our locale, no sugar, but really no flavor and then Like hard lemonade and traditional canned cocktails that are flavorful, but super korek really sugary and not all that drinkable. So I’m almost felt like the perfect vessel to do the in between.
Tyler Jorgenson 3:12
So you’re not too healthy. I like
Ryan Ayotte 3:15
that there is there is some potassium in there and yeah, your vitamin D and whatnot but it’s basically very similar in calorie count to hard seltzer but 30% of the canister juice, so you know, much more flavor.
Tyler Jorgenson 3:28
Yeah, more of a traditional cocktail tastes but with calories so so you have this idea. And like a lot of people kind of incubates for a few, you know, a couple years and you start taking decide to take it seriously. What was your first step in getting this from idea into a real product?
Ryan Ayotte 3:48
Yeah, so when I really circled back to that idea in the summer of 2018, I spent a lot of time just researching. So I talked to one just reading a lot but also reaching out to different breweries and wineries and people in the industry that I could just pick their brain about things and figure out you know how it works and so that’s sort of one piece on sort of the logistical and uncertainty really talking to people and seeing if it’s something that they would even like now I thought it was a good idea but unless other people do you might not have a business there. Sure No, I so that combined with more research made me see that there is a market for it. And so spent a few months building a business plan and seeing if it would financially make sense to do it. And then I jumped in on it so
Tyler Jorgenson 4:38
cool. How’d you get your very first sale?
So like other than family,
Ryan Ayotte 4:44
right, yeah, so it’s a little interesting without costly at the go, you know, we have direct consumer now but before and with most alcoholics through retail, so you have to find distributors to to work with and so I made Got some samples made of the liquid that we’ve had finished not in final packaging. But I brought it to a few distributors in Massachusetts. Yep. And one of them decided that well, they all liked it, but one of them decided that they had to have it in their portfolio and that they don’t carry it. And so that was when we first got our set out, which was before we launch, which was in May or April of 2019. Cool. So you were able to go into that initial round of production, knowing that you had some distributorship already set up. Yeah, basically, my plan was get the product ready, no packaging, formula, everything and then bring it to distributors. Once someone agrees to take it on, then like we get ready and produce our first batch of it. So we have somewhere to actually sell it.
Tyler Jorgenson 5:48
Yeah, so your brand has a very, like 80s Orange Julius vibe to it. How’d you come up with the name oza. And like, you know, what was your what was going on there?
Ryan Ayotte 5:58
Sure. So the name is There’s no real deep meaning to it or anything. But if you just kind of slur the word Momo, so you get a mosaic that goes off the end of that. Just sort of like a fun play on it. You know, it ties back into words somehow. And it’s a very short, you know, like one quick word to say. So that’s where the name came from.
Tyler Jorgenson 6:20
That makes a ton of sense. Actually, I’ve I’ve talked to a couple of my friends late on a Sunday afternoon, and I think I’ve heard that before.
Ryan Ayotte 6:27
Yeah, brunch goes too far.
Tyler Jorgenson 6:30
That makes a ton of sense. And so you’ve started launching some new flavors. Where do you see Is there any concern that when you created a name or a memo says that like you’re pigeon holed and you can’t, you know, change have new products and things that aren’t Moses? Yeah,
Ryan Ayotte 6:43
sure. So ozone is our name. And so we’ve got our classic Mimosa now. And then we just launched two new flavors that are a classic Bellini and then another most of flavor, which is a mango Mimosa. And so our pitch for Rosa has been that we’re like the shampoo Pain cocktail producer. So most of those would fall under mimosas. And so we’ve got class Mimosa, mango Mimosa, the blini is no champagne and peach. And we’ll kind of add some product extensions, but all sort of in the same family.
Tyler Jorgenson 7:17
So there’s a big enough, it’s a big enough catalog big enough family that you’re not worried about. You’ve got a lot of room to grow there.
Ryan Ayotte 7:23
It’s me, I think there is we’ve got a plan for you know, 10 or 12 products and, and in a year or two, so we’ll say okay, cool.
Tyler Jorgenson 7:32
Yeah, that’s awesome. So you’re really new in the process in terms of like, from the big picture, right? You’ve taken from idea, you know, how’s distribution going, you know, where, how many states like give us some fun stats of kind of your growth in this first year?
Ryan Ayotte 7:45
Sure. So our strategy has been to start with a relatively small footprint, and go deep. And so when we launched we launched in Massachusetts, and now we’re in most of New England, or an over an over thousand retailers region. We’re in Whole Foods, and it’s selling out, which is great. And then we also recently launched with with great timing with COVID, our direct consumer business. So that launched just at the end of March. And so we’re we’re really like less than two months in. But it’s been really awesome. We’re able to ship to 46 states with fast shipping and you know, people get the new flavors and everything and so we can really reach much broader audience than our our retail footprint, which is great. Now,
Tyler Jorgenson 8:30
direct to consumer has a little bit of a different different obstacles, right? You’re shipping one or two cases, you’re dealing with different types of customer service than when you’re shipping pallet loads to distributors. What had to change within your business in order for that to be successful?
Ryan Ayotte 8:44
Sure. So adding on top of that, too, you have all the legal restrictions without right. So basically, we had to do is because we were shipping pallets at a time to distributors and it’s one price they pay and it’s easy to get easy to do and now you know we’re shipping people by case at a time or so. And so what we do is one, we had to make sure we had a much better website and system for online ordering to is that we had to outsource the fulfillment to be able to have all the licenses we needed and to keep up with the growth that we’re expecting, you know, as much as I would love to fulfill orders myself or, or hire someone. One, the legal restrictions wouldn’t allow us to do it this fast of a turnaround and two is I’d rather us focus on marketing and growing the brand. So that was big. And then there’s also a lot of customer service involved. So answering lots of emails and trying to answer live chats on the website and things like that. So now suddenly, it can with direct consumer, especially when a lot of times people are coming to your website through social media. Your service is amplified, so you got to make sure you’re really doing the best you can.
Tyler Jorgenson 9:54
Absolutely Yeah, one Yeah, one mistake can send a ripple quite a quite a bad way. Well, that makes a ton of sense. So you know, you’re, again, you’re a year into it. What was the biggest challenge that you’ve had so far in this first year? And how did you overcome that?
Ryan Ayotte 10:08
Sure. I mean, we’ve we’ve definitely had our fair share of unexpected delays and issues and things like that. You know, I think one hard thing for us is this balance of inventory management, it’s a perishable item. And so if you make too much, and it’s too long, you gotta get rid of it. You don’t have enough and you can’t fulfill orders, and you’re losing on revenue on that, not to mention that we have everything outsource, so we don’t have our own warehouses or production facilities. So managing all of that can be hard, especially when you’re brand new, and you don’t truly know what the demand is innovate. But luckily, we have come away with a pretty good grasp of sales and have only run out a couple of times and for relatively short periods of time. So we’re learning as we go, but that’s probably the biggest thing. obstacles so far is that supply chain management projections, that sort of thing? What’s your advice to somebody who’s getting into anything type? Anything related to manufacturing on how to deal with that as a start up? Yeah. So I think one really important lesson I learned is that cash is king. So never produce too much inventory. It’s better to go out of stock for a little bit than to be sitting on way too much. Yep. You’ll find that, especially early on when we were just going through retail, you’re much more at the mercy of distributors and retailers and you can’t just like crank up your advertising and on social media and get immediate sales online. And so I think that’s a very important thing. As always be cautious with your inventory early on sourcing. You do have all your money sitting in a warehouse, so
Tyler Jorgenson 11:47
yeah, absolutely. It doesn’t. Especially in times like this, you don’t want to be inventory rich, right? You got to you got to be able to move product and have cash so far, like I mean, you’ve done some really smart things. I think it’s really useful. How you started in a local geographic footprint and really with the idea of going deep before you went wide. What are your goals though? Now as you reach this first year milestone, and you move into that, you know, longer term growth? What are some of your next big steps?
Ryan Ayotte 12:13
Sure. So the next big steps for us are one to continue our product portfolio expansion. So additional skews for Cannes, we did sort of, I’d say soft launch now because of COVID. But we launched Mimosa in kegs, which is pretty awesome. So expanding that, and that’s sort of our on premise footprint. And then two is geographic expansion as well. So I think we’ll be coming to California area relatively soon. So very cool. So really being strategic about where we add retail in the US. So that was very smart.
Tyler Jorgenson 12:48
What has been the most fun part of of running a company like this?
Ryan Ayotte 12:53
Well, why is it just fun products, I mean, people when they’re having booze are having fun, and I think most Especially it’s just a, you know, fun a time event product. And I’ve been really thrilled one of my favorite things to do is doing our like sampling events and demo events and festivals and I really seeing people’s reactions to the product and they try it or overwhelming feedback as people have it, which is great. And so it’s really invigorating to see that people like it and are trying up sampling thing and then they go back and buy it and they follow us on Instagram and you can see their orders coming in. Just it’s really cool to say
Tyler Jorgenson 13:31
that’s awesome. Yeah, I think I like how you mentioned that it’s a daytime thing right? It’s it’s a different vibe, right then. Then some of the other beverages out there that are like, night times like they might play a Mystique role. You’re just like, good times with buddies. You know, playing playing a cornhole or throwing die but you know, it’s, it’s a totally different energy which is pretty neat.
Ryan Ayotte 13:53
Yeah, it’s just such a fun it’s such a fun industry generally to be in versus you know, if you’re making medical supplies Whatever it might be, you know, it’s a very fun place to be.
Tyler Jorgenson 14:03
Yeah, I’m sure as you know, a 26 year old, a lot of your buddies are like, and you left finance to start a booze company, right? Like a lot of you guys are probably pretty envious of it.
Ryan Ayotte 14:13
Tyler Jorgenson 14:15
Did you get any pushback from like family or friends as you decided to take this step?
Ryan Ayotte 14:19
Now, I think they’re all very supportive me right from the beginning, I think, you know, I was strategic with my plan. And, you know, I was working on this just nights and weekends up until we’re ready to sell the product. So now it’s kind of hedging my bets there. And still taking income from my full time job smart. And so going about it that way, I think was was great. It also helps that Yeah, both my parents are self employed in the US and so they kind of got a bit of it. And
Tyler Jorgenson 14:48
yeah, that’s, that’s a big shift. Like if you know, they don’t, if you have parents or support group who has never done that, write it to them. It’s crazy, and it’s a big risk. But not only that, but you actually did it. In a low risk style of keeping your day job for the first little while and not just Diagon, ignorantly about it is that a little bit of like your finance background of being very prudent knowing the numbers is do you think that led to that?
Ryan Ayotte 15:12
Yeah, I think it did. And I think part of it is that I was totally fine with working at night and on the weekends for nine or 10 months on it and, you know, really wanting to have the last thing I wanted to do is jump into it, not be able to sell product for 10 months, and then not have budget and my own savings appropriately to do it, then, so I knew that I could balance both of those things at the same time. So it seemed like a reason not to, and I was ready to sell, you know, then I quit and went full time and really give it my all to make sure that we get duplicate. So
Tyler Jorgenson 15:47
very smart balance. You know, as someone who’s been an entrepreneur pretty much my whole life, a lot of times I see friends want to take that jump into entrepreneurship. And a lot of times they’ll do it a little bit too premature. They’re like, Hey, I quit my job like, well, cool, like what’s going on? Like, I’m thinking Hear it out, like, I think maybe you should have, like done the way you did, which is really smart. Hey, get get some momentum, get some things rolling, figure it out, run the numbers, then if you just hated your job, they do whatever you had to do. Yeah, it’s a different, you know, that’s life. Now, one thing that you do that is pretty unique. And I get, you know, it’s happening more and more the concept of ethical entrepreneurship or social entrepreneurship, is that you guys donate a portion of sales to United Way and why, and why did you choose them?
Ryan Ayotte 16:31
Sure. So this was actually I should say, you know, we like that they were good, but we’re not that good. hasn’t been a year round thing all the time. That was sort of in response to the COVID stuff. And so, you United Way, Massachusetts has a great fun setup where they help hourly employees and families in need with food and whatever they might need. And so, you know, we’re also a small business too, that’s just trying to struggle through things and so we thought was the best thing Way to help ourselves help others and about our customers feel good is by donating to United Way from when we started doing it in April till we may just keep the rolling because people, the feedback seems to be great and we’re happy to be giving back. And so, you know, just continue to do it. So we’re basically paying $3 for every online order to United Way which is great.
Tyler Jorgenson 17:24
And we I absolutely love how much you’ve stayed true to this, like we’re good, but we’re not that good. Because we have to make the money. But I genuinely like I really truly mean it too many companies think like, they have to be angels, right? They have to be perfect and they have to do like, we’re not we’re not here to make money. It’s like It’s okay, like, you can make money. There’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s cool that along the way, you’re also helping people and it’s, it’s okay, like hey, you want to not be bad for someone but it’s also okay to not like have to be a health drink. Right? So I just love that you have this cool equilibrium, this balance. I think it’s very healthy.
Ryan Ayotte 17:58
Yeah, to me, the whole business is about striking the balance of everything. And so United Way piece has been a great way to give back, help ourselves with our own sales and have customers feel good about it too. And they get on to by donating. So
Tyler Jorgenson 18:12
yeah, I love that. Yeah. And so that and that makes sense why you pick them. They’re strong locally from where you’re at and doing really nice things. What are some of your advice to other people who are just wanting to get started as an entrepreneur just kind of broad or not necessarily manufacturing or,
Ryan Ayotte 18:26
yeah, that sort of thing. So I think the couple of lessons that I learned were one is you definitely don’t need to have it all figured out before you jump into something. It’s good to do your research, make sure there’s a market for it. But I think once you’re convinced that this has to be an idea that I explore, and that if I don’t do it always wonder if I should have you just go for it. I’m still learning stuff every day and I don’t have nearly all of it figured out. And I think that’s part of the whole journey is is figuring it out as you go. I think that’s an important piece. And then I think the other piece too is that you know, a lot of People, you know, everyone’s different situations, but think that it’s very risky to jump into something, but as long as you’re doing it in the most cautious way you can, you know, the worst that can happen in my mind is that, you know, the company fails, but you gained tremendous amount of experience, and you’re probably better off for it anyways. So that’s the way
Tyler Jorgenson 19:20
it always it’s always fascinated me, people will drop $100,000 for a post grad degree and spend tons of money on things that have very little chance of providing a strong ROI, right. But they don’t consider that a risk because they get a diploma at the end, right? Yeah, risk there. It’s like, well, but really, you’re risking two years of your time or four years, if you’re talking about college, and you’re risking all that cash in the hopes that it’s going to further your career. Like, if you’re talking about your life, and like an idea that you have, to me the risk of not doing that. And I mean, it took you a couple years to finally get the ball rolling, but like can you imagine another five years you were still just thinking I had this cool idea. idea about Canvas is like, that’s a risk to me that like, what if is the risk? Yep. And that’s probably why I’m an entrepreneur. Right. But
Ryan Ayotte 20:07
Exactly, exactly. And my thought has been, you know, worst case, you know, I’m 26, I lost out on probably some better salary that I could have been making in finance. But worst case is I, you know, got a lot of experience and I can make up for it, you know, over however many years I left working, so
Tyler Jorgenson 20:24
Yeah, exactly. So what you know, you’re, you’re a finance guy and entrepreneur, business owner. And you’ve talked about that, like, know your numbers and know what, that’s what it has to happen in order to make sense, is, you know, what? candidate a lot of entrepreneurs I know, don’t have a finance background. And so they really struggle on this piece. Is there kind of some basic finance advice that you can give people? I mean, you guys have you guys have raised some cash, right. Like, you’re not just self funded. Maybe talk on that a little bit?
Ryan Ayotte 20:54
Yeah, sure. So I think um, you know, at the very basic level, I think what you have to do early On is one, make sure that the product, it doesn’t have to be profitable, right out of the gates, but know that it can become profitable. And so just figuring out those like initial unit economics of like, I can make it for this, I can sell for this. And then we can actually make a profit, even if it’s not now but if we can get to a price or get our cost down over the next year, then that makes sense. I think that’s very important is figuring out what your unit economics are. And then I think if you don’t have a background in accounting, or something like that, either taking some of the basic courses about QuickBooks or finding someone who’s a bookkeeper or something, I can do it for you. And we set it up early on to make sure you’ve got things.
Tyler Jorgenson 21:43
Yeah. And that’s part of your early thing of don’t do it alone, right. You don’t have to figure this all out by yourself.
Ryan Ayotte 21:49
Yeah, exactly. If that’s not expertise, you bring in people that that know how to do it and you can find it doesn’t have to be the perfect person or you know, a CFO. That’s been Has 30 years experience to do it, you find the person that works for right now. And maybe you upgrade that person as bad as it sounds, you know, a year or two when you have more money and you want some thing and your business is larger or whatever. So,
Tyler Jorgenson 22:14
yeah, I have a friend whose company grew really, really quickly. And they basically said they had to, they had to upgrade using your words, but had to had to basically cycle through their executive team three times in less than three years. And it wasn’t that the people weren’t good. They were good at the level that they hired him into. But they were growing so fast, they had to continue to evolve. Some of those people stayed on him changed roles. Some of them moved on to a better fit. And so yeah, it makes tons of sense it does not don’t I love your general concept. Like it doesn’t have to be perfect, but you got to be moving right you got to be making the right steps. Yeah, so I mean, really cool company really like neat branding, you’ve got you know, got merge on your site, people can check out oza mimosas calm and discount by using Your name Tyler 15 to get 15% off their off their order. Awesome Tyler 15 we’ll put that out there. We’ll also put it in links and all that stuff on the show notes. What? So I always ask people this business is about building lifestyle. You know, the business is fun entrepreneurs Sometimes though, they get caught up in just the business goals. What is one of Ryan’s personal bucket list goals that you’re gonna accomplish in the next 12 months?
Ryan Ayotte 23:24
Sure, that’s, that is a tough one. I’ve been pretty heads down on this but I think for me, you know, I would love to really be able to iron out my schedule to be more structured. Right now it’s a This seems like a minor goal to have over the next 12 months but no, right now, you know, working from like 7am could be midnight or one or whatever, and seven days a week but really creating that structure by Okay, I got a block off an hour worked out, you know, got two hours to have dinner and relax and watch TV is really important and I’ve been trying To improve that each day, but I think that’s one goal for me that I think I can achieve over the next 12 months, but we’ll say,
Tyler Jorgenson 24:08
yeah, I’m confident you can if you commit to it as an entrepreneur has been around a long time, it’s I see that a lot, right? So there’s that cycle of Okay, other things are gonna sacrifice while I go all in on the business. But it’s a pendulum and it can only swing for so to one direction for so long. And then what often happens is you swing back and then use your attention to the business struggles while you try to get your health back or you try to get other things back. So just some personal on, brother to Brother on Yeah, encouragement. Just be kind of good, man. Just don’t be too bad at that balance. Right? Yeah, just that pendulum swinging the other way. You know, but I really enjoy chatting with you. It’s been great to get to know your company and you a little bit. Any final words for our listeners out there about your brand or entrepreneurship.
Ryan Ayotte 24:52
I think we covered everything I mean, check out our website obviously if you’re interested in some refreshing mimosas, but no other wise in terms of entrepreneurship just go with your gut and know you don’t have it all figured out right away.
Tyler Jorgenson 25:07
I love it. Thank you Ryan for coming on the show my business coaches and listeners all over the world it’s your turn to go out and do something.
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