ReCharge COO, Chathri Ali, spoke with Helena Hambrecht, the co-founder and co-CEO of Haus.
What started as a conversation with her husband (fellow co-founder/co-CEO Woody Hambrecht) about finding a better way to enjoy a drink, in two years blossomed into a thriving DTC booze business. In fact, Haus is the first direct-to-consumer liquor company ever created.
We asked Helena about that journey, from idea to execution and also discussed:
- Challenges to fundraise (but why that’s a good thing)
- Haus’ organic marketing approach when they first started out
- What’s next for Haus
- Advice to any growing DTC brands
And there’s also some chat about the dozen or so chickens who call the Hambrecht farm home. Enjoy!
You can read a transcript of the interview below.
Chathri Ali: Welcome, Helena. Thank you for joining us.
Helena Hambrecht: Hi, thank you for having me.
Chathri Ali: For those listening and who don’t know — Helena, can you please introduce yourself and what Haus is?
Helena Hambrecht: Sure. So I’m Helena. My last name is Hambrecht. I’m a co-founder and co-CEO of a company called Haus. We are a booze company and we were created because we feel like people deserve better booze. I don’t think people realize that most of America, most of the world, really, only has access to bad booze. It’s corporate-owned. It’s poorly made. It’s full of artificial and synthetic ingredients. It has no transparency. It’s made in some sort of corporate boardroom, fake branding… the whole thing. It’s bad. And most people don’t realize that better alcohol can exist.
Unfortunately, those brands are very small. They’ve never gotten mainstream airplay in the US and you can usually only find them at really cool, small bottle shops in big cities.
So we’re the first direct-to-consumers liquor company ever, and we really believe that it’s possible to have values and not be made by a corporation, and be made with farm-to-bottle ingredients, and transparent supply chain, and sold online in a convenient way, so that not just cool kids at a bottle shop can have high quality alcohol. You can have it from anywhere.
Chathri Ali: I love this idea of removing the barriers, removing the stigmas and really innovating on, not just booze, but how DTC e-commerce can actually disrupt an industry. So how would you say… What’s the number one way that you guys have been disrupting the DTC alcohol beverage industry?
Helena Hambrecht: Oh my god. The bar was low, right? I mean, truly, if you look around, there was no direct-to-consumer liquor. It’s literally never happened before, and that’s pretty crazy. But that is, thanks to hundred-year-old liquor laws, that would require a whole other podcast to talk through.
But what’s amazing is that corporate alcohol, even if you talked to them today, they would still say, “E-commerce is not the future. Everything should be retail. Everything should be restaurants.” They really want things to stay the same, and the laws have been the same way for a very long time, and they really, really benefit corporate alcohol. The producers are in cahoots with the distributors, and they, basically… People with money in their pockets decide what we all drink.
And so for us, we are… My husband, Woody, my co-founder, he is third generation wine and spirits. And we make aperitifs. And it’s not unknown, it’s not uncommon knowledge that great based aperitifs can actually be sold online. And we just used that to create the first direct-to-consumer aperitif company that sells online to people across America.
Chathri Ali: And would you call the early adopters or the early drinkers, rather, of Haus… Would you say that they’re a cult following? Do they get it? Do they understand aperitif?
It is such a different concept and the way you’re describing it sounds a lot more approachable now that we understand what it is. What would you say about the customers who have bought in to the brand?
Helena Hambrecht: It helps to take a little bit of a step back and talk about the use case for what we even created it for in the first place, which was ourselves. And knowing that me and pretty much everyone I knew was having this problem around drinking, which was we do it all the time. We’re at conferences or industry events or hanging out with friends or dates, or whatever. We’re around alcohol constantly. And me, and everyone that I knew, was feeling horrible. Drinking was making us feel horrible. And we weren’t even drinking to get drunk. Most of those scenarios, we just want to have a drink with our friends and have a nice time, and not get wasted.
But alcohol, generally, the options you see at most bars and retailers are so boozy and it’s just to be expected that drinking will get you drunk, and drinking will get you hungover and drinking will affect your weight, and drinking will hurt your joints and affect your sleep.
And it was just this status quo and being married to a guy who makes really high quality alcohol, there just seemed to be a dissonance there. It’s like, “Okay. I know that there’s ways to make alcohol that take those negative responses away by 90% plus, but no one knows about them.” And that includes natural wine, that includes really, really, clean, well-processed liquor, that includes aperitifs that are lower in alcohol and made naturally. But no one seemed to know about them.
And so our customers, when we launched, the thing that drove the most traffic when we launched was me writing a Medium post, just telling that story. And people being like, “Holy shit. You don’t have to feel so bad when you drink? I didn’t know that,” and “Sign me up for whatever you’re making. I don’t even know what it is, but if I can drink it and not feel horrible for every day for the rest of my life, I’m going to drink whatever you’re making.” And that’s how it started.
Chathri Ali: So did your post, I love that, that background and history. Did the post lead to a surge in signups then on the site?
Helena Hambrecht: Massive. I mean, it literally drove more customers than any of the press we got. I mean, it really carried us in the beginning. It made our launch way bigger than we could have ever anticipated, and it was just that story. It was people seeing that story, being like, “Wow. This is a problem that I didn’t know could be solved, and I’m really excited about whatever it is that’s being made here.”
Chathri Ali: Imagine that. Authentic founder telling a story leading to a surge in purchases. I love that. And then when you think about your own challenges since the founding of the company, I know you have said in the past that it was really challenging to raise your first million, can you talk about what it took to get over that hump and move past it?
Helena Hambrecht: Oh yeah. I mean, it never gets easier. Fundraising is just hard. And running a company is hard. And the longer I’m in this, it’s like it should be hard, right? We chose a path that is difficult. No one should have the potential for upside that start-ups have without it being hard, right? That wouldn’t be fair. So I’ve come to peace with it of just knowing that this doesn’t get easier. The more you grow, the bigger your company gets, the bigger your problems get, so it’s just part of the ride.
But I think for us, what I learned over time was people get pitched good ideas every day. All day every day. And I actually had a very specific moment related to this that I remember. It was the week that we launched, and a particular investor who hadn’t invested in us yet reached out and said, “Hey, can we get a coffee?” And so I go meet him. And I’ve been talking to this guy for months. And every time we’d catch up, he’d be like, “Cool, cool. Show me the prototype when it’s ready. Show me the website when it’s ready. Show me when it’s ready.”
And we sat down and he was like, “Look, I get pitched ideas all the time, so many good ideas. But very, very few people do what they say that they’re going to do. And you did every single thing that you said you were going to do. And I regret not investing in your earlier. But you’ve totally proven that you’re a person of your word, and that you are actually going to execute, so I would like to give you money now.” And I think that just comes with time. Obviously, you have to do the things that you said you’re going to do. That’s just part of having integrity as a founder.
Chathri Ali: So since the Medium post and a surge in purchases, and since the investment, what’s been the next hurdle that you and the team would have to solve for? You obviously now have a proof of concept. You have sales. You have a brand. You have a following.
What’s been the hardest part about the journey since that point?
Helena Hambrecht: Oh god. I mean, it’s a new thing every week. It’s like growing pains. We’re fully vertical. We own our production facility. We make the product ourselves. We ship it ourselves. We fill the bottles. We make the recipes. We do everything, so everything’s a challenge. Like someone doesn’t like the way the product tastes. Okay is that just a one off or do we need to reinvestigate and do we need to reiterate on the process? Luckily, it ends up being the former. The week or the day before we launched, we lost $20,000 of product that night because a hose broke.
I mean, it’s just everything. And now, the biggest problem that we’ve had lately is a good problem, which is we’re growing so fast that there was moments when we had a really hard time keeping up, and realizing like, wow we need to hire more people in the warehouse ASAP, during a pandemic, which is really difficult to hire and maintain safety.
And how do we put all these processes into place really quickly so that we can continue to scale in a way that doesn’t jeopardize the quality standards that we have for our process? And so part of that was moving slower than we’d like to in normal circumstances and having to have moments where we had to apologize to some customers for product getting to them a few days later.
And what’s funny is that, that is actually pretty common. I think we’ve learned that there’s a lot of companies that end up shipping stuff late right now, or they’re not meeting expectations but we don’t want to be that company. And so we just have really high standards.
Chathri Ali: Even during this pandemic?
Helena Hambrecht: Yeah. You know, I think for us, it’s just like we want to hold ourselves to the highest standard possible. And it’s fine to make mistakes, but the reality is, today’s customer has high expectations even during a pandemic. And if we can meet them, then we should. And if we can’t, then we should let them know as soon as possible. But we should always strive for the best.
Chathri Ali: I love that. Absolutely. If you can, you should. And speaking of fulfillment and the fact that you guys do everything yourselves, which kudos to you, that’s very hard.
And speaking of it being very hard, the last time we chatted, I got a little glimpse behind the scenes of the operations at Haus and it includes your family. Your husband is your co-founder. I see your daughter, obviously, running around in the background. How has it been as a mom, launching a company? I know you previously were traveling a lot, now you’re grounded, and so one would think it’s easier, but how has it been managing it all?
Helena Hambrecht: Oh man. I mean, we had the idea for Haus when Sophie was three months old, and we were tired, but it was one of these moments of, “Wow. This is a big idea.” No one’s made an alcohol company for this generation and we found a way to do it and we’re the people to do it. So we better just go for it. It was hard. I mean, Sophie came with me to many venture capital pitches. She’s been on probably a hundred flights with me, flying with a baby and a toddler is not fun. But I’m also really grateful, you know what I mean?
What an amazing life that she’s lived already. So I feel really lucky that she gets access to two parents that are entrepreneurs. How amazing of an opportunity that is. She’s done more in her first years of life than I did in my first 25 years of life, so that’s cool. I really like that.
But it’s hard. There was definitely… Sophie’s back in day care now, a really small day care that’s really safe, which I appreciate. But there were about six weeks of quarantine where she was with me, and we were particularly busy during that time. Woody was doing 18-hour days in the warehouse. Literally, going in at 8:00 in the morning and staying til 2:00 in the morning. And so it was just me and Sophie for six weeks, and I’m trying to CEO, but my toddler is not making me work for more than 90 seconds at a time. That was a low point, for sure. That was really, really challenging.
But you also just have to be patient with yourself and know that nobody’s operating at 100% right now, like that situation wasn’t unique. All of us with kids were dealing with some version of that at a time. And I think that, generally, is just helpful for me to maintain that perspective.
And be like any sort of challenge that I’m having right now, whether it’s being a mom during a pandemic, and a CEO, or whether it’s feeling lonely because none of us are seeing anybody or just generally going crazy, it’s like, “That is not unique right now.” And just maintaining perspective. And just trying to take care of my own mental health as much as I can, because I owe that to my team. If I don’t have my shit together, how are they supposed to have any confidence in us and what we’re building?
And so I’m just trying to remember to take care of myself. Encourage the team to take care of themselves. Do what you need to do to make that happen, and give yourself a little bit of a break.
Chathri Ali: Absolutely. And one of the things we talk about at ReCharge is this concept of resilience. You can have endurance, but at the end of the day, it’s how do you bounce back?
We can all have 18-hour days Woody has, we all have, my team has. And some days, it seems really hard. But it’s what defines you, and what already has defined you, is your resilience and your ability to manage all of the very challenges that you already mentioned. And so I just want to celebrate that. At this point, you can technically do anything you can do the last four months.
Helena Hambrecht: I mean, it’s definitely… I have moments where, even I surprise myself and I’m like, “Wow. Okay. I thought I was at my max, but I guess I wasn’t because here’s a new frontier of being stretched thin. But you know, it’s like again, like I said really early on, it’s supposed to be hard. Why else would you be able to raise millions of dollars from a bunch of rich people to build the thing that you love and maybe, even make a lot of money from it. Of course, it should be hard. Otherwise, that just seems silly. You know what I mean?
Chathri Ali: Absolutely. There would have been 10 other companies at this point if it was easy. And we’ve seen this across the board from the various brands that have launched and scaled on ReCharge, where it’s literally a team of two people, three people. Their mom-in-laws are doing the fulfillment. It’s really scrappy and you see those who lead with integrity like you mentioned, those who have endurance, resilience, and truly a vision of what they’re trying to aspire and build.
And for me, I get energized by that and that’s why I used the word “celebrate”. I celebrate everything that you’ve done.
And if you look into the future, what does two to three years look like from now? What do you envision for Haus, and I’m not sure how much you can share, if there’s more product lines in the future? Is it having an inventory in the offline…?
Helena Hambrecht: Yeah. I mean, when we think about our ultimate vision, it’s pretty similar to what I shared earlier of we want impact.
We want to change the landscape of alcohol and we want all of America and the world, really, to have access to a brand that’s big but has values, has modern values, not corporate values. And we’re believers that it’s possible. We’ve already grown faster than… I mean, I talked to a couple of long-time liquor execs and I’m like, “Where do we fit in, in terms of the speed that we’ve grown?” And they’re like, “Really, you’re the fastest brand we’ve ever seen that’s not owned by a celebrity.”
Chathri Ali: That’s incredible.
Helena Hambrecht: And we did it by having values. And we did it by building a business in the right way, and not pandering to the expectations of the old industry. And so we want to continue growing and we want to do it in the right way. And we want to maintain our values. And we’d like to be the next big alcohol company, that competes the Pernods and the Diageos and the AB InBevs of the world. And that includes being a portfolio.
Building trust now, and do what we’re really good at, and continue to expand and build new products that have the same values, so that three, four, five years from now, every customer, every drinker, every beverage director, every buyer is like, “Oh, I’m going to go buy from Haus, because I know their values. Why would I go buy from these old school guys, who are making crappy corporate products? Of course, we’re going to buy from Haus.” Whether it’s an aperitif or whether it’s some other product and we just think it’s possible. It’s not that crazy and we think that we could do it.
Chathri Ali: I love that. And then before I go into more of the tactics of the how for the next few months, I have to share with everybody listening that the Haus team has a team of chickens, also helping with the operation that we should probably discuss.
So can you share how it’s going with the chickens? How many of them are there now on the farm? And how are they contributing towards Haus’ success?
Helena Hambrecht: You know, they’re not really pulling their weight right now. They’ve been crowing a lot during things that I tried to record, so I have to… I’m actually amazed that the rooster has not disrupted this session already. They’re really thirsty and hungry, we have to feed them a lot right now.
But no, I mean, we literally live on a farm. I am speaking to you from a farm. We have 68 acres of grapes, we have lemons, we have peaches, we have cherries, we have oranges, we have botanicals, we have a lot of things. And we also have chickens and I love them. They’re like dogs. They run up to me in the morning when I open up the door, and they love us and they’re very cute.
But yeah, it’s pretty… the cliches that you would maybe expect from living on a farm are very real.
Chathri Ali: Do they have names?
Helena Hambrecht: Four of them have names. We have about 14 babies right now, that are all in the coop right now. They’re like teenagers, they’re getting their feathers and they’re getting a little confident, they’re jumping around on things now. But my mom named three chickens. We have Millie, we have Nutmeg and we have Choco. And then we have a rooster that I named, named Chuck. And then TBD on the babies, like that’s a whole… I like… That, to me, is more daunting than the next quarter, it’s like naming 14 new chickens.
Chathri Ali: I love that. I love that, which is why I had to ask.
So coming back down to the day-to-day, your day probably looks very different Monday through Friday. For your team though, what are they focused on right now? So it’s July 2020. We’re not quite in the holiday season where usually, as you are very well aware, that’s where the surge of alcohol sales happen. So before that goes down, what are you guys doing to prep for the next few months? Or is it, you’re focused just on the next month ahead?
Helena Hambrecht: It’s a combo. I mean, right now, we’re in the middle of a website redesign. We also have another product coming out in August, so we’re prepping for that launch. We’re trying to look forward to the holidays. We are preparing for whenever we’re going to fundraise for our Series A.
It’s like 10 things going on at once all the time. And it really is this combo of staying really focused on what we have coming up. And we do… We’re planning to do roughly one new product launch per season, so making sure that all of our buttons are tight up there. But also, not losing sight of the future, and being really strategic and thinking about, “Okay. As we expand, what are all the things we need to consider? And it’s not just product, it’s fulfillment. It’s logistics. It’s compliance. It’s like… We’re about to move into a new 11,000 square foot warehouse. How do we build that out so that it lasts us for the next five years?
It’s like all of these bigger puzzle pieces. So it’s very much like making sure that we are really, really focused on what we have coming up, but also, you just can’t neglect thinking about the future, because we just own every component. And so we have to just make sure it’s all accounted for.
Chathri Ali: In terms of the product launch happening in August, what are you going to change about how you approach acquisition, compared to the original product launch?
Helena Hambrecht: Well, our first six months were all organic. I mean, we didn’t spend any money on paid our first six months.
Chathri Ali: No way.
Helena Hambrecht: And we grew a lot in the first six months.
Chathri Ali: Wow.
Helena Hambrecht: And so… I mean, that was a very unique approach, right? I don’t think I’ve met any company who has done that.
Chathri Ali: I’m really surprised to hear that, generally. Wow.
Helena Hambrecht: Yeah. I mean, it grew a lot. And I think we made a bunch of bets. Because we own the infrastructure, we needed to put the money that we raised into that. And we needed to put it into product. And so we didn’t have money to spend on paid. So we needed to make some big bets on how we would grow without it.
And we made a big bet on word of mouth, and investing way more than most companies into the initial product and the initial packaging and the customer experience, and hoping that word of mouth would carry us, which it did. But also, really believing in press. I used to run comms for start-ups a long time ago. I have a very calm mind and I’m a big believer that we can tell people things all day but it means a lot more when it comes from somebody else, and that includes the press.
Chathri Ali: What about influencers, in terms of word of mouth? When you say word of mouth, is it influencers speaking or is it genuine organic?
Helena Hambrecht: No. I mean, we, literally, didn’t spend any money on anything like that. It was all just word of mouth. And I think today, in the landscape that we’re in today, people are really skeptical of things that don’t come from people they know.
We could go pay influencers all day, but if it doesn’t feel genuine, then it’s just kind of another paid ad. I think it really was this amazing thing where people would buy the product, they’d either heard about it through me or the Medium post or friends of mine or people that had stumbled upon it on the internet and they buy it and they invited their friends over, they shared it together, they all had an experience together, and then all of those friends went about the product.
And that wouldn’t be possible if the product wasn’t good. So shout out to my husband for making really good product. But it was really that culmination of putting the work in on the brand and the packaging, and it caught people’s eye. And a message resonated with them and they were convinced to try it. But the product delivered, and then people bought it again or they shared it with their friends who loved it and they went and bought it. And it just kept spreading and spreading.
Chathri Ali: Do you anticipate the current subscriber base that you have switching to the new product? Or are you thinking that… because we don’t even know what the product is, so I guess we can’t tell if it’s going to be an add-on, a supplement, or just something entirely different. What do you anticipate in terms of your current customers gravitating towards a new product? Or do you see it just being a completely different audience, in general?
Helena Hambrecht: So what we’re releasing in August is nothing different than what we’ve released before. It’s another flavor of an aperitif, and we release one roughly every season, with the exception of the Restaurant Project, which was like 13 new flavors in a month, which is crazy.
But yeah, I mean, it’s actually something we’re building right now, specifically to ReCharge, is giving the people the ability to very quickly change between flavors. Because what we’re seeing is that people… The more flavors that we release, the more people want to try. And so maybe people love Citrus Flower, but if something new comes out, they’re like, “Well, I want to try that. And I want to be really easily toggle between whatever flavor I feel like,” or “If I subscribe to six bottles from you, I want to be able to have six different bottles, instead of six of one flavor.”
We just surveyed our members recently and got a ton of amazing insights, some of which were expected and some of which were surprising. But for us, it’s very clear that people want to just be able to switch between whatever floats their boat, whether it’s getting into the winter months and they want flavors that feel more reminiscent of a winter vibe, or whether they just feel like switching it up. It’s just important for people to be able to do that.
Chathri Ali: Yeah, and I was going to say and I talk about this a lot, actually, that we’re all human, and to be subscribed to the exact same product for 12 months in a row is probably not prudent. And so to give customers or subscribers even, the ability to customize what goes into their next delivery, has actually really helped with, not only beverage companies, but food companies combat churn, in terms of having that fatigue of the same product.
So for yourself, what does turn look like for you? And what beyond obviously offering more flavors, what are you doing to reduce that number?
Helena Hambrecht: Yeah. So generally, we have an amazing repeat rate for a DTC business. When we launched subscriptions… I mean, we just launched subscriptions in February. So we’re super, super early and we really launched an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) to be like, “Okay. Let us just throw this out into the world. We’ve made some hypotheses of what could work, what could not work, and let’s just see what happens.” So churn right now, for subscriptions in particular, is higher than I’d like it to be, but I’m not surprised by that, because what we launched was super MVP.
It’s like you can subscribe to receiving one flavor, over and over and over again, and I knew that that would be unsatisfying for certain people. So it was good to just get it out and actually get real feedback, versus just sitting here and hypothesizing.
But membership, that said, has grown a ton. I mean, when we asked Woody, “What do you normally see in the wine industry?” Because you know, wine clubs are a thing. People subscribe. And he was like, “It would take three or four years for the average winery to reach this amount of subscriptions this quickly.” So that’s always nice.
But when we did a survey of our members, not surprising, they want to see more customization. They want to be able to easily toggle between flavors whenever they want. And what was surprising is that they do not care.
And this is not totally related to ReCharge, but in terms of membership and what we offer, they don’t care at all about events, whether it’s in person or virtual, which, I think, is really interesting, because obviously, COVID doesn’t allow for events to really happen right now, but it probably is indicative of some greater fatigue around just like, “Yup. I have too much content right now. I don’t want your virtual events. I’ve seen enough of all the virtual events in the world.” And so that’s actually kind of a relief, because if you don’t want it, then let’s not do it.
They do want to be… to feel closer to me and Woody. When people do subscribe to Haus, it’s because they really love the brand and they love the product. And so they want to get to know the farm better, they want to know the chickens, they want to see more of that. But I think the greatest thing is, truly, the ability to have control, to customize, to be able to pause for a moment if you can’t afford it. And all of that’s good news, right? Because it’s so easy to build upon.
Chathri Ali: I love that, in terms of recognizing that churn is okay, if you only have one product. And then also realizing that the MVP, let’s just get it out the door, let’s just try to see what happens, and at this point, you’re iterating on that. And in the event side of things, yeah, it makes sense why put energy into an activity that people aren’t bought into at this point, right? You can use that energy towards something else. So is it going to be content from you all that is the next phase? Or how would they get to know you and Woody better?
Helena Hambrecht: Oh yeah. I mean, the internet is magical. It’s like there’s plenty of opportunities for us to get to know our customers, whether that’s sending a monthly update, whether that’s doing a video diary, whether that’s just giving them a tour of the ranch, or helping them figure out how to make cocktails and new products or doing virtual tastings. There’s so much opportunity there. So that doesn’t feel hard either.
And I think for me and Woody, the reason why it doesn’t feel hard is because we’ve always thought about customers as people that we want to know. We love the fact that people buy this product that we made and we want to know them. We want to get to know where they’re from or what brought them here or I mean, if we could, we’d have them over for dinner. And we can’t because there’s a pandemic. But in the meantime, we can reach out and we can, at the very least, send them more about what we’re up to and share more of the behind the scenes. And it’s really great that people care enough to want to see more of that.
Chathri Ali: If you were to give advice to another DTC brand starting right now, which, there’s actually been a lot of entrepreneur activity, and we saw this in the last recession, right? ’08, ’09, there was a lot of new businesses that started from that constraint of folks just trying to start their own either brand or business.
At this point, what you’ve learned over the last two years, what’s the one piece of advice you’d give to, maybe not even just in the beverage space, but overall for DTC?
Helena Hambrecht: Yeah. I mean, I think the biggest thing is that you can’t take shortcuts anywhere anymore. You can’t put all of your money into brand, and neglect the product or the customer experience. You can’t put all of your money into product and forget that packaging and shipping is important, too. Everything’s important. Every single touchpoint, the website, the post purchase flow, editorial, what people receive in the mail, how quickly they receive it, how you talk to them after they bought something… All of that matters. And so you really do need to put a lot of thought into all of those things upfront.
And it’s also hard. I know that it’s hard to fundraise, I went through it. And I think, part of that problem solving is figuring out how can you work with people and get them in your court to help you make the best product possible? And that might mean going and recruiting another co-founder, who has expertise in that product or supply chain, or that side of the industry that you may not know as much about. Maybe it’s recruiting a creative partner and giving them equity to help you build an incredible brand and customer experience.
If you can’t raise the money, then there are probably other ways to incentivize people to want to work with you and give them skin in the game, but you just, I just don’t think you can compromise on those things anymore. It’s such a crowded market, in general. There’s so many brands out there, and there’s also a general distrust because so many brands have cut corners in certain places. And so people are really skeptical. And you just have to be bulletproof from the start now. And so you just have to put it all in up front.
Chathri Ali: I 100% agree with what you were talking about in terms of bringing either another co-founder or even having an adviser in an area that you’re not strong in. We’ve done a lot of that here at ReCharge, where there’s roles that we’ve never hired for before. And for us to go out blindly in this search for talent, how do we know what questions to ask for this position we never hired for before?
So we literally go out, talk to the 10 different people who have hired for this role before or were in that role, and you can quickly really learn what the right questions are. And more importantly, how to spot a bad hire for that role, and again, dodging a bullet.
So for yourself, in terms of what you’re thinking about in terms of building your own team, as you said, you’re constantly thinking about this as a CEO, and you have high integrity, what’s the one aspect or attribute for the next new hire at Haus that you’re looking for?
Helena Hambrecht: I mean, thinking long-term, even thinking about investors we want to work with in the future, that sort of thing, we’re less interested in bringing in more expertise in the consumer, CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods), even liquor or brands, we have that stuff covered. We feel good about the team that we’ve built. I think what’s really exciting for us, in terms of building the next alcohol company of the future is all the stuff under the hood.
It’s supply chain, it’s logistics, it’s building out a warehouse that’s incredibly efficient, building proprietary software that’s supported, because there’s very few software out there in the world that adequately supports what we’re trying to do. It’s like figuring out how to optimize logistics, maybe it’s building inventory hubs in different parts of the country so we that we can own last mile. And it’s like building out all these infrastructure that we can theoretically support other brands under our portfolio.
And that is going to require talent that we can’t even fathom. Who are they? We don’t know. But we think that who we end up working with in the future, whether that’s the right kind of VC firm that focuses on logistics and building up the future backend of food and beverage, we’re going to… We don’t know that person yet.
And that, to me, is really cool and really exciting. That it’s a frontier that luckily, Woody knows so much about and was able to get us to this place and he’ll continue to get us further, but there’s going to be someone who could help us get to a billion dollar future. And we don’t know that person yet.
Chathri Ali: Based on what you just said, would you call Haus a DTC brand company or technology company?
Helena Hambrecht: Right now, it is a direct to consumer company. But eventually, I think it will become more about IP and more about infrastructure and more about technology. But it would be… both have to exist, right? The brand would be nothing without the backend. Like Haus literally wouldn’t exist if we didn’t have the incredible backend of the business that we’ve built. People just don’t even know. But also, the backend doesn’t matter if the brand and the product don’t sell. So they both have to co-exist.
Chathri Ali: And then final question, what physical goods are you subscribed to?
Helena Hambrecht: Lots of canned water right now. I have both Liquid Death and Ugly delivering all the time. I’m actually, I’m just buying a ton of beverages right now. It’s funny I have my Sanzo subscription. I have my Recess subscription. I’m just enjoying buying beverages because I don’t know, one of my favorite things to do is to go out and buy a beverage.
I want to go to a coffee shop and I want to go to a bar, and I want to go to a bodega, but I can’t do any of those things right now. So the closest I can get to that is just ordering a bunch of different beverages. Those are my main subscriptions at the moment.
I’m deciding… I’m starting to get intrigued by the vitamin supplements space. Right now, I subscribe to Gold Mine, they’re like a reishi adaptogenic supplement, which I’ve been drinking with my coffee every morning for a long time. But I’m getting more and more intrigued by the vitamin supplements space, maybe because we’re in a pandemic, and I’m being more health conscious. But that’s the next frontier. I don’t know, it’s like I’m getting more and more curious about… I’m sure everybody’s going through this. But it’s like, “Well, I guess we’re not going to the store anymore so I might as well just start subscribing.”
Chathri Ali: Absolutely. I mean, we’ve definitely seen an uptick in traffic since COVID started and folks subscribing to, not just essentials, but also food and beverage and supplements. Everything you just talked about.
Well, this has been fascinating looking under the hood of the Haus brand and the company and the team and how you make decisions and what’s next. I am so excited to see what the rest of 2020 looks like for Haus and then beyond. And just thank you for your time and thanks for joining us.
Helena Hambrecht: Oh yeah. I mean, thanks for building technology that allows us to do that. It’s really great to work with you guys.
Chathri Ali: Awesome. Thanks, Helena.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.