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Having Strategy, Tactics, and Timing Come Together with Chris Boyd - Honest Ecommerce Ep. 195

Chris has spent the last 21 years passionately creating high-impact wins for organizations that improve lives across a broad set of industries (Pharma, Biotech, Hospitality, Live Event, Mgmt Consulting, and Consumer Packaged Goods). 

The common threads from his deep experience includes transforming complex problems into tangible plans and deliverables, building effective teams that execute at a high level, and creating products / services that make a difference. 

Chris is fully dedicated to realizing the mission and vision of Monday: Monday Boilerplate. 

Founded in 2019 by six San Diego based entrepreneurs and friends, Monday was created to serve people proper adult beverages without the alcohol. 

Their flagship products are Monday Gin - a London Dry, juniper forward spirit and Monday Whiskey - an American style spirit created by an award winning Bourbon maker. 

Monday’s spirits provide the look, feel, and most importantly - taste - of a top-shelf cocktail minus the alcohol many are increasingly trying to avoid. 

Monday’s spirits are not only alcohol-free, but support a wide variety of healthy lifestyles with its zero-calorie, no carbs, 0 sugar, Vegan, gluten-free, and Big-8 allergen-free profile. 

Monday’s spirits were created with the mindset that products should delight, not displease - made for those who want an adult beverage experience with zero downside. Monday pleases your palate and squashes social stressors, even on a Monday. 

It’s the option to enjoy when you want to take on life how you see fit, with no barriers and no excuses. 

In This Conversation We Discuss: 

  • [00:00] Intro
  • [01:18] What are Monday’s products
  • [03:08] Why Chris went non-alcoholic
  • [04:23] The start of founding Monday
  • [05:45] Executing on the idea
  • [07:32] The adventure of the first 85 phone calls
  • [08:57] Forming a “super team of founders”
  • [09:50] Formulating and tasting the first batch
  • [10:38] Proving the concept through crowdfunding
  • [11:43] Launching in the midst of the pandemic
  • [13:31] Idea to taste test to final formula
  • [14:31] Sponsor: Electric Eye electriceye.io
  • [14:51] Sponsor: Mesa apps.shopify.com/mesa
  • [15:40] Sponsor: Loop loopreturns.com/honest
  • [16:33] Sponsor: Klaviyo klaviyo.com/honest
  • [17:20] Customer acquisition after Kickstarter
  • [18:31] Did Monday get labeled as a “vice product”?
  • [20:24] The experience of working with 6 co-founders
  • [24:16] Ecom is fraught with challenges
  • [26:24] Where to find Monday’s products

Resources:

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 Transcript:

Chase Clymer  

Before we get started, if you're enjoying this content, you can do us a favor by subscribing to our YouTube channel and ringing the bell.

That will let the algorithm know that you like this content and it will help us produce more.

Chris Boyd  

You're producing something [that] people love and you yourself are doing something that you believe in: building your brand and your company. Keep going, it's definitely worth it.

Chase Clymer  

Welcome to Honest Ecommerce, a podcast dedicated to cutting through the BS and finding actionable advice for online store owners. I'm your host, Chase Clymer. And I believe running a direct-to-consumer brand does not have to be complicated or a guessing game. 

On this podcast, we interview founders and experts who are putting in the work and creating real results. 

I also share my own insights from running our top Shopify consultancy, Electric Eye. We cut the fluff in favor of facts to help you grow your Ecommerce business.

Let's get on with the show.

Hey everybody, welcome back to another episode of Honest Ecommerce. I'm your host, Chase Clymer. And today we're welcoming to the show, Chris Boyd

Chris is the co-founder and CEO of Monday, a pioneer brand in the non-alcoholic beverage category for the mindful drinking movement. Welcome to the show, Chris. 

Chris Boyd  

Hey thanks. Appreciate it, Chase.

Chase Clymer  

Let's break down the products real quick before we kind of dive into the backstory. Explain what you're actually doing here with your products.

Chris Boyd  

Yeah, so we made non-alcoholic spirits and on its head, that may sound a little strange. Why would you have a spirit without alcohol? I thought alcohol was the spirit. 

So really, the idea is this concept may be born out of what a lot of people know is "Dry January." It's like people taking a break from alcohol. And when you're taking that break, you're like, "Taste buds don't want to take a break." 

They still want complex adult flavors, they still want their favorite go-to cocktail. "Why can't I have that when I'm taking a break from alcohol?" So really, that's the impetus of the product. 

And that's honestly why we got into this space because we wanted this for ourselves. So right now, we make a London Dry Style Gin, a Bourbon-esque Whiskey, and we just came out with the very first Mezcal in the non-alc space.

So it's a new and interesting category that's really growing by leaps and bounds. I believe it's the fastest growing segment in all of [the] adult beverages. So it's a lot of fun.

And I think as awareness starts to grow in the space, I think a lot of people gravitate towards some of the new non-alc beers that are not O'doul's. They taste amazing. 

And once they get there, get a taste for that they start to migrate into like wines and sparklings and cocktails even so it's been a fun adventure, just like welcoming in new people to the space.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. So take me back in time. You alluded to it a bit there. But what was going on, where did the idea come from, and how did you decide "You know what, there might be some market for something like this."

Chris Boyd  

Yeah. Just very much like an entrepreneur's path of "We were feeling this." And I think it's 2019. It's my birthday, early January. It's like a Sunday night. So I'm out with some friends. 

I have one gin drink, I have two gin drinks, and buddy wants to buy a round for my third. And, I'm just like, “Yeah. I'm gonna switch to water. I gotta get up at 5 AM.” 

I was a consultant at the time in biotech and healthcare, I had a plane to catch Monday morning, I had to pitch the next contract extension, and all that good stuff. I had to be on top of my game the next day. And that's... I caught some shit for that. 

And they're like, "Hey, it's your birthday. You can drink as much as you want." And I was just like, "I have shit to do tomorrow. And I want to do it well. I don't [want to] show up hungover to a board meeting." You know what I mean? 

So I think that moment of like, "Why can't I have another gin and tonic, just without the effects of alcohol that I'm trying to avoid right now?" 

So it was just that "aha moment". Maybe I just tucked away a little bit, just went on with the rest of my night, went on with that whole quarters contract. And I'm done with that space. 

It's about March now that year, and I'm just like, "What's next?" So I'm actually at the gym and I ran into my co-founder, Ben. And then he's just like, "What are you thinking about? I know you're not going to just sit around and just do nothing." 

It's like, "Well, what about gin without the alcohol." And that's a strange thing to say to somebody and just blurt out. And it was this really interesting moment. 

His eyes lit up and he's like, I've been thinking about non-alcoholic adult drinks and he happens to be a gin drinker of 15 years, too. So we're just in this place of he's a serial entrepreneur. 

He's got like four kids. He's got his hands in so many things. And the last thing he can be is like hungover for 2 days, right? And it's like, as we approach getting into our 40s, that's literally how long it takes to recover from a hangover. 

So it's just like, "Why can't we have this drinking experience that we love without the effects of alcohol or at least just have the choice?" 

"Hey, I'm gonna drink alcohol today, because it's Friday night." 

"Oh, it's a Sunday. It's a Monday, it's a Tuesday and I'm out at a company happy hour, maybe I would reach for something else if it were available." 

So we just decided right then and there. We're like, "Maybe we'll become consumers because something like this exists." 

We tried a couple of entrants. They're mainly from Europe. We have them imported. They have a nice look and feel to them. A couple of them are better than others. But all of them, for us, just did not hit on flavor. They were just disappointing, quite honestly. 

And we're just like, "Ah. Why can't this be made?" And it was just this "challenge accepted" moment of "Let's go and do this." And I think we teamed up and said, "I had a background in my 20s in nightlife here in San Diego. Bar/Hospitality." 

So I was just asking bartenders, and bar managers like, "Hey, are you being asked to make lots of mocktails and non-alcoholic drinks?" And they're like, "We get asked for that so much." 

And it's one of these things where if I didn't ask the question, they would never say that. And it was just like this wellspring of knowledge that you just like, "I dug a little bit under the surface. And I found these gems." And I was like, "Huh, that's interesting. I didn't expect you to say that." 

And Ben is kind of this online guru, D2C and digitally-focused entrepreneur. and II seeing the keywords out there. And he's seeing like this being a white space. And it sounds like if we were to do this, we would be a little early before the trend hits, at least in America. So we just did it. 

We just took the plunge and we're just like, "Let's make like a London-Dry style, very juniper forward, non-alcoholic gin. So we're like, "Hey, what are we going to do?" So we got on the phone with distillers, trying to describe this story to them. 

I think the joke is like, I got laughed off the phone 85 times and call 86 was our go-to today who's like our master distiller, strategic partner... He owns his own distillery. He's from Southern California. He's an entrepreneur. [It's] just like hitting the mark. But those first 85 phone calls were so much fun, because it's like... 

It was literally getting laughed off. Some were death threats. Mostly, people were just like, "Why would you take the coolest thing about a spirit and remove it? How dare you? I'm offended." And as an entrepreneur, you're just like, "This is so great." 

Because if I took 85 phone calls and every one of them was like, "Yeah, we can do this. It's cheap, it's easy, it's simple. And I get asked about this all the time." I'd be like, "Yeah, this, this probably isn't for us." 

So I love that there was a challenge there. And we eventually found somebody who was like, "I'm into what you're doing. I don't know how we'll get there. But I'm willing to take the ride." And that's all we could have asked for. 

Because it's like, we know where we're headed on the flavor profile front, no idea how to make it. And he very much was in line with that. So we don't have a company. At this point. We wrote him a personal check. 

And we're just like, "We're moving." So now the clock's ticking. He said, "Give me three months to make something palatable to try and let's just... Let's go." 

So I think in the background there, in those 3 months while we're waiting for some juice to try, it's like, "Let's stand up this super team of founders." 

And you don't really think of San Diego or North County, San Diego is like this hotbed of entrepreneurship in California, but it really is actually. And we managed to cobble together this great group that could really be like... 

"Can we do everything in house to a certain point and just create a minimum viable product quickly? Can we stand it up online digitally? And can we just prove the market and prove our product quickly? And then if we can do that, can we scale it quickly right behind that?"

 So it was really the challenge there on the business side while we're going to make good assumptions that the product is in motion and doing everything that it can. 

So fast forward to summer, we taste our first 3 tastes of what is now Monday Gin. Few were god awful and one was above expectation. 

It was 85% there and we're just blown away because it's like, on first tasting, if you hit 50%, you're in a good spot. So, we celebrated with alcoholic gin and tonics. A lot of us still drank alcohol, just not as often. 

And 10 minutes later, we lost track of which was which on the table and you really couldn't tell between the 2. And it was just so eye opening, because we didn't think we could get that close to the real thing. 

And that was just this moment of "We gotta go. This thing is real. Let's do this." So that just motivated us, accelerated us into the fall, which going through the... 

Just staying aggressive, but being risk averse at the same time. "Let's take this baby out on Kickstarter. Let's make sure we're proving the market here, that there's just a small but really,  interesting group of people willing to take the plunge with us here." 

Rather than just going like balls to the wall, "Let's mortgage our houses and go right out of the gate." So deciding Kickstarter hits the spot. 

Luckily, we hit our goal in less than 24 hours. People were really super excited at the prospect of this. And they're so amazing too because it's like... 

We're just describing what it tastes like and they don't have that. And then for them to take the plunge with us and believe in us there, that's massive. 

So, we were able to send bottles to people just in time for Christmas, got some really great feedback, really high on the liquid, which was the key. 

So we had a couple updates to our labels, to the look and feel, and then we're ready to basically take this guy out to market in March of 2020. 

And that's right, when COVID hit too. So that was an interesting time for us. And, I think I get asked a lot like, "What's it like selling in the pandemic?" And I was like, "That's normal for us. That's just pretty much standard." So it was an interesting time, right? 

It was great in that we're a digitally-focused company, so more eyeballs than ever on the internet, at that time. People are hunkered down and they're just surfing. 

So we got a ton more eyeballs, and that gave us like our first stock out, I think, within 3 weeks of being online, which is great. 

But I think probably like others in the product space during that time, it was really hard to get your hands on more raw materials. 

So, the supply chain was going through massive shortages and issues. So we went through this up and down of in-stock, out of stock. 

And we probably stocked out 5 times that year, all towards the really good idea of people who were interested and liked our product and kept coming back for more. 

But we really just couldn't keep up with demand. And, you know, I think closing out that year was just such a good... 

We definitely proved the market, we proved that our team knows how to reach people, and explain a new category and a new product online. And we were grabbing customers back time and time again. 

So it was a really good, I think, case study to show and 2021+, it's time to really grow this thing, expand, and accelerate it.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. That was a great story. So how long did it take from ideation of this when you were taking it seriously with a co-founder to having, tasting that first sample?

Chris Boyd  

Yeah. So I think we decided on this like what... That was March 20. The first taste was in July. I think we finalized the formulation though in December of that year. So almost a year's time, from end to end. And that was... That's... 

I'd say now we're three spirits deep. That was one of the easier spirits to really focus on because it's just... 

You're really going from the essence of a juniper to like one star ingredient. Our next spirit was an American style whiskey. It has dozens of flavor elements and it was just infinitely more complex. So it took over a year and dozens of iterations to get right.

Sponsor: Electric Eye

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Chase Clymer  

You guys launched on Kickstarter, you were funded, that was successful. When you made the transition over to your own direct-to-consumer store, I believe it's on Shopify, how were you driving new business to the site? 

How are you acquiring new customers online? Because during the pandemic, that's the only place you could?

Chris Boyd  

Yeah, so paid social [and] paid media was our primary means. So [my] co-founder Ben was actually one of the very first employees of Facebook in Australia and he actually helped develop the ads engine that we all use today as digital marketers. 

So [it was] a massive edge for us. And I think as people were starting to hunker down, and that was early, ads were... This is pre iOS 14, too so it was like... 

It was easy pickings in a brand new category, because you're just not seeing a ton of activity in the space [and] that we weren't competing with a lot of other ad sets so they were cheap and easy to grab and it was a mad dash for eyeballs. And we were lucky to... 

It was great timing for us to acquire customers then.

Chase Clymer  

We've interviewed a few other true traditional alcohol brands here. And anything in that traditional vice product category can't do paid ads. 

Do you ever experience those issues aligning you with what you actually aren't?

Chris Boyd  

That started a bit early. So I think we got kicked off the platform, Facebook and Google 2 or 3 times. Amazon wants as well, just when we tried to sell there. And they're just like "You're alcohol, you can't do that." 

So, I'd say we were down collectively for less than 2 weeks combined on that over a nine month period. Now it doesn't happen because the category I think has gained enough traction to where they can tell between alc and non-alc. But, I think you hit on a key mark. So standing up this business... 

Yes, it was definitely about the product and finding flavor without alcohol. But strategically, we very much understood that alcohol can't do a lot of things that non alcohol products can. 

And that was one of our, in our opinion, one of the superpowers of standing up a business like this. It's like we can go online quickly. 

We can do it fast, we can advertise in ways they can't, and we can tell our story digitally to a new category of people as opposed to I think of traditional alcohol store shelves in liquor stores. 

You can't tell a story with a brand new product on that store shelf. You get about 3 seconds. And with the time, if we had just gone that route, people are going like, "What is this? Why would I do that?" 

And it's like, online, you get to tell that story and get a little bit more time with those folks and help them reason with the "whys" behind it. So it was a beautiful place [where] strategy, tactics, and timing all came together.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. Now, we've had a lot of interviews on the show with people with co-founders, it's usually like one other person. But there are 6 total co-founders. 

Can you talk about how you guys make that work and what are some of the strengths that people are bringing to the table?

Chris Boyd  

Yeah. Yeah. Definitely. So just mentioning. So we really wanted to, to create this super team, and everybody brings their strengths to the table. So just starting with me, Chief Executive. 

So I run the show, I keep the business moving but I'm also the face, too. So just coordinating all the resources, running my own team, but then also keeping co-founders in their lanes doing their best work. 

Because most of them are very, very much specialists where I'm a generalist, if that makes sense. 

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. 

Chris Boyd  

So I'll go down the line, right. So I talk about Ben a lot, too. 

Ben's, really our digital marketer. He stood up a lot of the strategy, had a lot of the help with paid media strategy, especially just getting minimum viable product up on the internet sellable. Then we talk about... That's mainly Shopify. 

So then we talk about Amazon, the other beast you have to feed when your in Ecommerce.

We have Brad and Ryan on our team. So they actually come from one of the world's most successful Amazon selling agencies. 

So a lot of product brands come to them and say, "We want to sell on Amazon. Don't show us how. Do it for us and do it better than we could do it ourselves." 

So having them in house means we essentially have all the tenants of one of the best agencies in that space for free. So that was a huge gain just getting us there and we continue to scale daily on that platform. 

So we have, Marcelo also is our chief, I'd say, Chief Design and branding officer. So he's responsible for the beautiful bottle label and everything you see associated with the Monday brand that's visual. And I think one of the... We're just starting to see... 

I think people are starting to appreciate how much he brings to the branding and design table. 

We were just at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. It's like the Oscars of the spirits world and we just won double gold medals for design on all his beautiful branding [and] bottle labels. 

So that was amazing. And I think it's just... We're just getting started with what's in his brain, it's just... It's like next level stuff, I think it was... It would easily be a 6 or 7-figure bill, if we were to go grab that from the street. So having him in-house is a definite superpower there. 

And then rounding out the team is Tonya, who comes from Quest and some other 7-figure exit-type groups that really knows how to sell omnichannel and to really explode sales, once you have a set of products that's definitely delighting people, that's high quality. 

So we're only starting to tap into her resources as our category of going beyond just online and moving into retail, and brick and mortar. 

So trying to bring that whole group together and say "How can these superpowers combine and unite and scale and grow?"

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, that's fantastic. Having all those key team members on there to help you take things from 0 to 1 and then 1 to 10. I'm excited to watch your guys' journey. 

Is there anything I didn't ask you about that you think would resonate with our audience?

Chris Boyd  

Chase you were telling me a lot of your listeners are fellow founders and execs and all that good stuff. Entrepreneurs... 

I'd say, hearing my story, it sounds like this was easy And we had great timing and everything was hunky dory. It is definitely fraught with challenges and I don't want to be overly optimistic and say, "Hey, it's going great." We've definitely had our share of challenges. 

I think that the key thing that I would say is if you're out there grinding and constantly pivoting, just know [that] we're there with you. Every turn of events just requires the next set of "God, what do we do now?" 

There's really just no playbook on what's going on with the world. So just constantly having your head on a swivel and just looking at the landscape and saying, "Cool, what do we do now? What do we do now?" 

And just being okay with being so flexible, and just of moving forward no matter what, because I think standing still ensures you're dead in the water. So, always be moving. 

And always be thinking and I hope you'll take away more than this isn't a grand story. We have a ton of challenges in front of us, too. It's a brand new category. 

I think just trying to still get people to understand the “why” of it is there on top of everything going on with supply chain and always capital raising and all that good stuff. 

So it's just like this: If you're doing something, people... You're producing something people love and you yourself are doing something that you believe in; building your brands and building your companies, keep going. It's definitely worth it. 

And I'd say that's from somebody who's been through corporate, that's been building businesses for other people. And I think now here building something for myself and for the customers that reach out to us every day, I'd say, stick with it. It's worth it.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. Those are some sage words. Awesome. So Chris, we've talked so much about these awesome products. If I'm interested in checking out these awesome non-alcoholic beverages, where do I go? What should I do? 

Chris Boyd  

Yeah. So hit us up online at drinkmonday.co and we'll take care of you.

Chase Clymer  

Awesome. Chris, thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing your story. 

Chris Boyd  

Thanks, Chase. I appreciate you. 

Chase Clymer  

Alright. I can't thank our guests enough for coming on the show and sharing their knowledge and journey with us. 

We've got a lot to think about and potentially add into our own business. You can find all the links in the show notes. 

Make sure you head over to honestecommerce.co to check out all the other amazing content that we have. Make sure you subscribe, leave a review. 
And obviously if you're thinking about growing your business, check out our agency at electriceye.io. Until next time.