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Interview: Beverage Brand Founder on Using What You’ve Got to Grow

On a recent trip to the West Coast, we had the opportunity to connect with Fernando Lopez, founder of beer cocktail mix brand I Love Micheladas. As co-proprietor of a traditional Oaxacan restaurant, Guelaguetza, Lopez was no stranger to the food and beverage scene before launching his craft mixer company.

Using the same recipe for michelada mix that’s served in his James Beard award-winning eatery, Lopez began selling his product online and quickly realized that he had a viable side hustle on his hands.

However, being a small fish in a big pond presents its own set of challenges. Lopez realized that he’d have to play up what makes I Love Micheladas unique in order to win accounts and widen his customer base. Hear what he had to say about what I Love Micheladas is doing to grow their brand using the tools they already have:

 

 

Content & Influencers

When asked about his secret to success so far, Lopez shared a simple proverb: “Content is everything.” You’ve probably heard it before, but might not be sure how to capitalize on the content phenomenon.

With over 14,000 Instagram followers, the crew at I Love Micheladas knows a thing or two about how to engage with their audience. Lopez advises not to worry about quality when you’re starting out, but rather focus on consistency. “It will get better the more you do it”, he reassures.

 

 

His thoughts on getting noticed by influencers? “Just reach out.” After all, influencers are people, and it doesn’t take a ton of effort for them to share a post using your product. He suggests being upfront about what your brand can offer in an influencer partnership and what it can’t. You might not have the same budget as a big brand, but you probably can afford to send a case of product in exchange for a social media post that will reach a new audience several thousands strong.

Eventually, influencers will start reaching out to you as your brand gains traction, Lopez explains. He also suggests using the unique assets you have at your disposal to captivate your audience. In the case of I Love Micheladas, the brand has its own MicheMobil, an idea that was born during the height of the food truck craze in Los Angeles. Equipped with four beer taps and a DJ booth, customers can rent the MicheMobil for parties. Here, the possibilities for standout content are endless!

 

 

Persistence & Patience

Another tried and true method for growing a brand in the cutthroat food and beverage space is to practice persistence and patience. Lopez shared a story with us of how his product eventually landed a placement in a California-based pizza parlor chain.

Lopez grew up eating Shakey’s Pizza, and after stopping in for a slice one day realized that the restaurant would be a great place to serve micheladas. After months of unanswered emails, he stopped by the main office to deliver a sample of his product. More months went by, until one day he got a phone call from someone at Shakey’s who he’d left his samples with. The decision maker explained that the company had been looking for a micheladas mix to serve at their restaurants and that they still happened to have the I Love Micheladas mix kicking around their office, unopened. They gave it a try since it happened to be within arm’s reach, and were sold!

 

 

It also pays to be a “professional stalker” (in the best possible way) according to Lopez. He goes on to say, “all managers are people and different people require a different way of talking to them.” Some might want to be your friend, whereas others command a certain level of respect. Gather all the info you possibly can about buyers before you approach them so you can create a bit of a buyer persona for them in your head and plan accordingly. (This is especially true when selling to different types of stores: convenience store managers and buyers for big box stores require different types of sales strategies when trying to get on the shelf).  

 

Fresh Displays

Store-level execution is key to grabbing consumers’ attention, and ultimately driving sales. Take a cue from I Love Micheladas, a cocktail mixer that wants to “be part of every party and holiday.”

In order to achieve that goal, the brand has to keep displays fresh. Sales representative Cirenia Gonzalez told us how hard it is to keep displays in the store; one day she’ll show up for a visit and her display will be present, then another day shortly after it will be gone.

Retailers demand that displays are always relevant to the season at hand. If not, a competitor with their finger on the pulse of the market will swoop in and take that coveted space.

However, time spent checking up on retail displays pays off. Gonzalez commented, “When I first started, the product was always hidden but now we’re getting to a higher part of the shelf.”

 

Curious to hear the stories of other brand builders? Check out this compilation of interviews with beverage founders!

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Victoria Vessella

Victoria is a Marketing Associate at Repsly, where she leads the company's P.R. and social media efforts. You can also catch her prepping for slew of exciting industry events. A New England native, Victoria has spent time living in Italy and traveling throughout Europe before settling back in Boston. When she's not planning her next trip, V is probably tasting wine or brushing up on her Italian.

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