Small business owners have seen their companies change overnight due to the coronavirus. In our #openforbusiness series, we're highlighting Northwestern Mutual clients who have been forced to get creative in order to adapt to these unprecedented times and keep their businesses running. We hope you'll get inspiration from their stories and help support them whenever possible.
Business: BOMANI Cold Buzz
Owners: Sam Madani (CEO), Kai Drewry (COO) and Amin Anjedani (Chief of Product & Design)
Location: Los Angeles
After working long hours during the week at our corporate jobs in New York City, my friends Kai Drewry and Amin Anjedani and I would spend the weekends making cocktails using our little espresso machine or sometimes with energy drinks. Either way, we didn’t really enjoy the sugar, carbs and the synthetic caffeine. We figured there must be a better way. That’s how the idea for our company was born.
Our vision was simple: Create an alcohol-infused, cold-brew coffee that’s a healthier, tastier and more convenient alternative to alcohol-plus-caffeine drinks. Coming up with this idea helped us discover a sense of purpose, which is where our name came from: BOMANI is a Farsi word that means “to have purpose.”
All three of us quit our jobs in January 2019 and threw ourselves into researching and networking. We settled on a blend of 100-percent, ethically sourced Arabica beans. The alcohol is made from sugar — the kind you typically see in hard seltzers — so it doesn’t overpower the integrity of the cold brew. We spent hundreds of hours developing the right balance, using our friends as guinea pigs for every new concoction.
We officially launched the business in February — just two weeks before the U.S. started shutting down to deal with the coronavirus. Dustin Lester, our VP of finance and operations, put in our application for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan and we were approved fairly early, so that really helped. But we also had to quickly change our plans. Here’s how we’re gaining back our momentum.
We adapted our business model
Our biggest hurdle was that two weeks after we launched, sampling was yanked out from underneath us. That was huge because we’ve found that when someone tastes BOMANI, they almost always purchase it. We also had to revamp our go-to-market strategy and figure out how to introduce ourselves to the people who were actually putting the product on the retail shelves. I believe our most valuable asset was our team: Our field sales managers, Jack Morgenson and Joe Molinaro, were able to get creative to make connections in California and New York. Meanwhile, Nick Gagliardi, our corporate strategy director, used his decades of experience in the business to provide guidance on navigating the ever-changing distribution channels.
We launched an e-commerce option
The traditional method for launching a new alcohol product is to get it on retailers’ shelves — you definitely have to ride the wave of impulse buys when you’re new. But as people began staying at home, customer traffic was down drastically in small liquor stores and almost everyone started relying on delivery. So we implemented a direct-to-consumer delivery platform on our website, which is fairly unusual for alcoholic products. The online platform can now deliver to 31 states.
We turned to digital advertising
Because people aren’t walking into retailers the same way they used to, we invested heavily in Instagram campaigns and promoted them on our Facebook page. We also launched a radio show on Dash. On these platforms, we have really focused on the authenticity of our brand – we’re not a big corporation with billions of dollars at our disposal, and people can connect with that. On our Instagram story right now, we have many individuals sharing their experiences with BOMANI — and we love sharing this organic content. By showing consumers that we care about them, we are in it with them and this product is made for them, our brand messaging has resonated really strongly.
We look for ways to give back
Our first reaction to the pandemic was to be true to our sense of purpose. We owe a lot of our early-stage success to the bartenders who supported us from the beginning. So we started an initiative in April where we donated 5.7 percent (a tie to our ABV, or alcohol by volume) of our net proceeds to the Bartender Emergency Assistance Program. We empathize with the hardships so many people are having right now so we try to focus on giving people a bright spot in their day.
Sam Madani is a client of Northwestern Mutual — and twice served as a summer intern. He works with Managing Partner Tim Mulroy.