HERmixer makes enjoying flavorful adult beverages cheaper, while consuming less calories, and is ‘pocketable’ so it is easy to take in your pocket or purse. No cocktail mix on the market is this easy and common sense.
Location: Charleston, South Carolina
Product / Service Offering: Concentrated, low-calorie cocktail mixers
Co-founder Interviewed: Terry Peterson
Other Key Management Team Members: Aimee Peterson
This article is part of our Business Startup Spotlight series featuring entrepreneurs and their companies. We hope that these founders’ interviews will inspire and motivate you as you undertake your own entrepreneurial journey.
Tell us a little about yourself with a focus on what motivates you.
We both enjoy creating things. In 2012, we bought a laser machine and quit the corporate world to start a jewelry manufacturing business. We then sold that business in 2016. That whirlwind of four years taught us so much about business, how things are made, how different B2B is from B2C, and how tradeshows work. We learned more in those four years than at any other period of our lives.
When did you establish your company and where did the idea originate?
HERmixer operates under Peterson Limited Co. LLC, which was established in 2005. The idea for the concentrated cocktail mix came from a date-night in 2015. So often you find yourself ordering happy hour drinks because they are cheap, but would much rather have that $12 craft, a flavorful cocktail which is usually full of sugar. Some put MiO in vodka tonics, but it is very limited in what liquors it is actually effective in as a mix since it is intended for water and not liquor.
What need or needs does your company seek to fill for its customers?
HERmixer brings personalization to your gathering, whether it is at a local dive bar, a neighbor’s BBQ, tailgating or hiking. It allows you to enjoy a flavorful cocktail at a much lower cost and with fewer calories than you find in traditional cocktails.
What is the one thing that sets your company apart from its competitors?
HERmixer makes enjoying flavorful adult beverages cheaper, while consuming fewer calories, and is ‘pocketable’ so it is easy to take in your pocket or purse. No cocktail mix on the market is this easy and common sense.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while getting your company up and running, and how did you overcome it?
Firstly, food-based products come with regulations and red-tape attached as you would suspect. It took many nights studying the FDA’s website and local regulations to ensure we were keeping things legitimate. Secondly is supply chain. When you are small you have to try much harder to get a supplier to return your calls or actually ship your order in a timely manner. Ordering in smaller quantities also means you miss out on economies of scale and end up paying multiple times higher for your bottles, labels, and supplies as compared to what bigger companies pay. Finding the right suppliers to work with is critical and can feel like an impossible task at times.
Are there resources you have utilized that other founders might find compelling or useful?
For our first startup, we did everything ourselves and did not reach out to anyone for guidance. Once we moved to Charleston, we discovered a huge network of people who want to be a part of the entrepreneur scene, from successful executives who want to mentor, to suppliers willing to offer special deals for small companies. Involving ourselves in these networks, particularly getting to know the people who run The Harbor Entrepreneur Center has made all the difference for us. We have also become very close to our city’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC), which is staffed with retired professionals wanting to provide guidance wherever they can. It was through one of these programs we were introduced to our SCORE mentor who happens to be the co-founder of Woodchuck Cider. We could not have found a better fit.
What steps have you taken to secure funding for your company and what, if anything, would you do differently if you had to start over?
We used the funds from selling our prior company to fund HERmixer so far. We tried too early to reach out for seed/angel capital before having traction. A number of start-ups want money first then to prove themselves later. We thought our previously successful business would have taken care of that vetting process. Our backstory got us in the door, but the lack of traction at that point got us back out the door. Having come to know a number of investor networks and those that operate them, I have begun to get a better understanding of what type of investments and risks for which the market has an appetite.
Have there been any questions you have had as an entrepreneur of a fledgling startup that you had a particularly hard time finding the answers to?
During some pitch events, the panel would ask questions such as “How would you overcome X if happened tomorrow?” Perhaps that is a good academic question, but the life of an entrepreneur is to figure out how to overcome a challenge every day. You never stop to meditate on what all could go wrong in the future and how you would handle it. You become an entrepreneur in part because you have the confidence to know you will figure it out when the problem presents itself.
What challenges, if any, are you grappling with?
When do you stop? Always pounding ahead, trying to find the next buyer, trying to build the next best widget. At what point do you call it quits on an idea? When is it time to say either “time to work on something new” or “time to take a break from this crazy entrepreneur thing and just get a job”? It is more of a rhetorical question, as it is generally grappling with that question that makes you want to throw even more of your time and energy into your idea to will it to success. There is no right or wrong answer, just a matter of how much grit you have to keep pushing.
What is the most helpful tip or “hack” you’ve ever learned, stumbled across, or been given?
Do the work for your suppliers and they are more willing to work with you. I know this seems counter-productive at first until you understand how to put it into practice. When we were looking for a display box to be made for our product we started calling packaging manufactures. We told them we wanted to order less than 1,000. They did not want to even consider working with us or wanted to charge us so much per box that we could never make money.
We then designed our own box die-cut lines by poaching die-lines off the Internet with Google Images. We printed them on paper and cut them out by hand until we got the right dimensions. When we reproached these packaging manufacturers saying, “Here is our die-line file and here is our graphics file, can you make me 500 of these?” they would respond immediately and with a reasonable quote.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your company?
After four years as entrepreneurs running with profits, we thought we knew everything. We have learned something every day with HERmixer. We know that we will never know everything or that we will never know “enough”. Keep an open-mind for more experiences to come. It humbles to be looked up to by many entrepreneurs because we have traveled the path they look forward to going down. We are now at a point where we have something to give back to the community in the form of guidance for early-stage startups.
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