Hear About the Creation of Leisuremann's Cocktail Mixes and How this Business is Growing into It's Fourth Year
In this episode, Andrew chats with Cliff Couvillon, founder of Leisuremann's Cocktail Mixes that are made in a unique, powdered form so they can quite literally travel just about anywhere with you and are prerfect for camping, festivals, weekend fun and more.
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[00:00:06] Announcer: Welcome to the Stickers on the Mic podcast brought to you by stickergiant.com, where we talk with our customers about how they started their business, how they're marketing their brand, and how they're growing their company. If you're joining us for the first time, welcome. And if you're a regular listener, thank you for your continued support. Without further ado, it's time for the Stickers on the Mic podcast from StickerGiant. Let's get on with the show.
[00:00:38] Andrew: Hey, everybody. Welcome back to Stickers on the Mic. I'm Andrew from the marketing team. I am very fortunate today to be dialing in one of our customers, Cliff Couvillon from Leisuremann's Cocktails, who's going to talk all about how he came up with this brilliant idea. I was able to write up a blog post about him a few months back. I really dug their story. Cliff, welcome, and thank you for joining us on Stickers on the Mic.
[00:01:05] Cliff: Thanks for having me, Andrew. Really appreciate it.
[00:01:08] Andrew: Cliff, like I said, I found you through Instagram. You were tagging us quite a bit back in the day there. I reached out and I said, I want to write about you. Tell me more about this product. I know the story, but why don't you go ahead and tell our listeners what Leisuremann's is, and how you came up with that idea to start.
[00:01:30] Cliff: Absolutely. If you pretty much ask anybody, or if anybody asks me about why I started Leisuremann's, I'll tell you it was out of necessity. The story goes that I was on a hiking trip, kind of a hiking trip I go on every year for Mardi Gras with my buddy, my college buddies, and we hike in the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. We hike up to this lodge on top of Mount LeConte. And that year was bitter cold. I think the temperatures got down to about -17 Fº when we were up there. But in typical hiker fashion, we pack less food and less clothes, and we subbed all that for booze.
Between three people, we had five bottles of whiskey. The thing about whiskey is it's delicious by itself, it's delicious in that case when you put snow in it and water. At the end of the day, you just want a cocktail. We ended up trying to scrounge all these ingredients together. What we found worked best for us up on a mountain was Tang, and we really wanted to make an old fashioned. That's kind of why we use Tang, and we needed a bottle of bitters. We tried to formulate how can we make bitters, and what can we use to make bitters. The caretaker up there found this bottle, and I kid you not, this is the craziest thing.
He found a bottle of Angostura Bitters from 1972, brought it out, so we started making what we called Mountain Gashions. We drank on those for a couple of days. As we were hiking down, and it's in the negatives as we're hiking down, and anybody knows-- You guys say you're in Colorado, when the negative, things just start freezing. Your eyes start freezing, you start getting snow and ice around your feet. Everything just starts freezing up. That entire time I'm having this intense business conversation with myself and with my college buddies about this business that I thought about it. Could we make dry cocktail mixes that wouldn't freeze? They're shelf stable.
You can bring them literally anywhere you can go, and make a cocktail. Fast forward to getting down the mountain, get back to Lafayette, Louisiana, where it's like a bombing 95 degrees, and name comes to me. We bought a website, and we say this is it. We're going to try this out and see where it goes. The old fashion was the first flavor, and it was- man, it was interesting. It really was at first because we were making the flavors, we were sourcing the packaging, we're trying to get it all going, and just making the mistakes. That was the big thing for us, and just literally enjoying the process as we were going through it.
[00:03:57] Andrew: After I wrote up that story, I actually ordered some of the mixes to try them out. I tried the Bee's Knees because I was really big into gin at the end of last year, even though I was really big and old fashions as well. But then the Blood Mary, which was always just nice to have around in a pinch. Now, for folks that haven't tried your product or are not familiar with it, it is a granular sort of like- almost like Starbucks Via for cocktails where you're just adding either a little bit of ice or water in the case of what I had, and then the mix with the spirit, whatever the spirit of choice is.
[00:04:37] Cliff: That's true. We like to say it's like adult Kool-Aid. I don't know if I can legally say that, but we like to say it's like adult Kool-Aid.
[00:04:43] Andrew: Just like, I'm not saying it's Starbucks, but it's like a one stop where you just pour it in and you mix it up, and basically, voila, you have the cocktail. How did you figure out a way to make- like to combine those ingredients and then distill it into that granular--? What does that process look like to make the mix?
[00:05:02] Cliff: A, there's a lot of spreadsheets, a lot of ratios, a lot of numbers involved with it. And B, it's a lot of trial and error. We do a lot of focus groups, we do a lot of test groups. We ourselves go, let's say in terms of the old fashion for instance. We probably went and drank upwards '50, '60, '70 old fashions at places everything from the top of the line old fashion, all the way down to-- We had a guy make it with orange juice and Grenadine in there. Really find your baseline and find what works. When you translate that to a spreadsheet, you have a lot of history, especially in these classics, because we only focus on classics.
There's a lot of history, a lot of ratios of how people create these cocktails. What it boils down to is synthesizing flavors to basically tell your mind, tell your palette that that's what you're drinking. I know it sounds like some mad science, but in the case of bitters, there are a lot of different flavor profiles, dry flavor profiles, that you can use to echo those flavors that you get from bitters or an orange or a citrus, in the case of our margarita, or even in the Blood Mary. We actually use tomato powder in there, and we wanted more of a bright, just fresh tomato flavor instead of like a stewed tomato flavor, which you get from other mixes, like liquid mixes and things like that.
[00:06:20] Andrew: You mixed powders, or what is creating those granules? Like the Bee's Knees, it looks like sugar in the raw, essentially, but it's got that lemon flavor to it. How do you create that actual granules?
[00:06:34] Cliff: The Bee's Knees is actually crystalized honey. We use a crystallized honey in there, and then we use a lot of lemon extract, and lemon oil, and a lot of different other lemon flavors to saturate those granules in a sense, but it's actually honey. A lot of people don't know that about our Bee's Knees. It's legitimately honey.
[00:06:54] Andrew: You start with the old fashion. I've already mentioned the Blood Mary and the Bee's Knees. Talk about creating the original flavors that you started the business with.
[00:07:03] Cliff: We went from the old fashioned through to the Classic Daiquiri. The funny story about the Classic Daiquiri is that came about because we had a failed attempt on the Moscow Mule. I'm not saying that we'll never create a Moscow Mule. It's just hard one to do because of the ginger and the amount of sugar in it. Then from the Classic Daiquiri, we moved on to the Original. The Original is to hark back to the beginning of what the cocktail is.
It has just original cocktail flavors. So very like licorice-y, bitter-y profile, with a little bit of simple syrup to enhance, and not overshadow a rye whiskey, or just a whiskey an inch at a time. The Bee's Knees and then to the Margarita, Margarita to a Cosmopolitan, and then Cosmopolitan all the way through into the Blood Mary, and things like that. We really pride ourselves on sticking with the classics, because for us, there's a lot of history involved with these cocktails, and we didn't want to overshadow that with a Blueberry Margarita or a Berkshire old fashion. There's a reason why these recipes have been this way for 150 years. We really wanted to celebrate that.
[00:08:08] Andrew: You came up with that, you got the website, you get the product out in the world. What did it look like to get that stuff off the ground and start selling and fulfilling orders?
[00:08:21] Cliff: It was super interesting. Our first event, we actually did was a face to face event in my hometown of St. Bernard, Louisiana. We went back and we-- You figured we'd do it back to the community. We did a face to face event. I remember at the end of the event, we sat in there, we were looking at each other like, "We're just selling people a dry cocktail mix. This is the craziest thing." But the look on people's faces when they tried it, and the look when someone said, "Yes, that's an old fashion." It was incredible. It gives you this like almost surreal high, and you're like, "Yes, this is something."
When we started, we actually didn't have the same type of jar that we have now. We started with an actual metal container, and we learned fairly quickly that, yes, that container looks good, but it didn't function how we want it to. That's the thing with being a business owner. You have to go through these motions and you really need to look at things, and you assess it, and say, "Okay, that's not working," and pivot and do something else. Then that led to our current jars that we have now. A plastic jar with the metal lid evokes that vintage look, that shoe shine look that you find like in your grandpa's closet, or this workshop, or something like that.
We found that that jar worked really well for us because it allowed people to see the mix, it's clear. They knew what they were getting ahead of visual representation of what was actually going on. That really helps sell our product for sure.
[00:09:52] Andrew: One thing that was funny when I got the product is that little like wooden spoon that it comes with.
[00:09:59] Cliff: Man, that little spoon. I tell you, that was insanely difficult to source. [laughs]
[00:10:05] Andrew: I can imagine. Then it's got to be the right measuring too?
[00:10:11] Cliff: Absolutely. We literally have one company that we use, and we buy them by the thousands. We'll buy them by 2,000 or 4,000 of just those little spoons. I have a fear one day that they're going to call us up and say, "Hey, we're not making those anymore." I'm going to say, "How many do you have? I'm going to buy every single one of them."
[00:10:30] Andrew: That means there's a few elements, you've got your actual ingredients, you've got your package, you've got that spoon, then you got the labels that go on the top side and the bottom. Where does all that assembly go? Where does this happen for you?
[00:10:46] Cliff: We do it all ourselves. The company's literally owned by myself and my wife, and we do everything ourselves.
[00:10:52] Andrew: At your house?
[00:10:53] Cliff: No, we do not. We actually use a facility here in Lafayette. It's an FDA-approved kitchen, and we make it in there. There's a lot of love that goes into each one of those jars, a lot of long nights and a lot of painstaking weekends doing it. But at the end of the day, it's really cool. It's an interesting thing, man.
[00:11:14] Andrew: This is a full time job in a way, but also, is it working to be a full time business? Do you know what I'm saying?
[00:11:22] Cliff: I'm really hoping it is. Moving into 2020, we're seeing a lot of traction within our business and within the cocktail mixer marketplace. We like to say is we are a small business, and the thing that sets us apart from our competitors in the market, as well as other cocktail mix companies, is we have the ability to adapt and we have the ability to do things that they normally wouldn't do. Last year, it was our first release series mix, we called it RS1, The Gold Rush. I literally put 24 karat gold in a cocktail mix. The buzz you got from that, the buzz I got from that, the blogs people wrote about it, like, "These guys put gold in a mix."
Our competitors aren't doing that, and I said, "Why the hell not? Why wouldn't I do that? It's so interesting." The industry is really growing, and we're finding, like I said, a fair amount of traction, and it's really about getting our mixes in different avenues, and trying to figure out different places for them to go and different use cases, in a sense.
[00:12:24] Andrew: You started this business on the outdoor experience being outside. Is that an industry that you're going after or a target market of some kind?
[00:12:33] Cliff: It is. We were in REI for a brief moment, and we're in a lot of outfitters that are around the country as well. We found that that is a core business for us, the outdoor industry. We've also found that there's a lot of business within the distillery industry. What the distillery industry has taught us, and it's something new for us in 2020, is that it celebrates our mixes, but in turn, it also celebrates the spirits that it's used with, because that's the big thing for us. We really don't want to overshadow the spirits. A lot of people like different whiskeys or different vodkas or different rums, so we really want to celebrate what you like. For us, having our mixes in a distillery celebrates them just as much as it does us, for sure.
[00:13:16] Andrew: Yes, I didn't think about that. Obviously, you want to be in that distillery, with people buying bottles, or in liquor stores. Do you have any liquor store distribution strategies around that at all?
[00:13:28] Cliff: We're trying. We had talks with Spec's and Total Wine, and stuff like that, but at the end of the day, nothing's really materialized, and I would love them to. When we go to Texas, outside of Louisiana, we definitely shop at those places, and we really love to be in their mixer island. It would be awesome.
[00:13:47] Andrew: Okay, so that is a future plan. Like I said, I was seeing you shout us out whenever you'd be putting in order when new labels were to come. Tell us a little bit about your label design and how it functions on your package?
[00:13:59] Cliff: I'll say first how we found you guys at StickerGiant was, A, we saw that you cut labels with lasers, and we were like, "Oh, lasers. That's so awesome." We were just sucked in at that moment. And B, you guys were the only people online, and honestly, anywhere that we found that we're able to do the labels we wanted in a matte finish, and actually have a point person that I could talk to and literally work with me on these labels and make them in the sizes that I wanted and have the three different labels that were all color matched and they were laser cut and they were cut perfectly.
From a label standpoint, we wanted our labels and our mixes to stand out. When you look at our mixes, they're very clean, simple aesthetic, but it really echoes an old world feel. We've been through a few label iterations since we started the business in three years, and that results in boxes and boxes of labels that never got used. We have thousands of them, actually, that are just sitting in boxes that we never use because we assess that we needed to pivot and move on. Throughout that whole process, the label has gotten simpler throughout the whole thing, and really bold, in a sense, to where when you look at it, you see whose mix it is, what mix it is, and how do you use it.
That was a big thing for us, because we also did a lot of focus groups on that. Looking at the label and looking at the jar and saying, "How do you use this? What areas catch your eye first? Where's all the pertinent information? How does it read? How does it function?" That was a big thing for us.
[00:15:33] Andrew: No, I love that actually. Because when I saw the label myself, I was like, "Wow." It's bold, the type is right there, front and center, you got the empty space to hand write with the sharpie, the batch number, which I thought was a great design conceit, and then you have the wrap on the side, and then of course on the bottom. I really loved how you use the iconography for the mix, to actually make each one it's like, "Take your one ounce of spirit. Take your ice, your water, and then the amount of scoops." I thought the visual information design was really clean. That's what struck me. Do you do that work yourself? The actual graphic design?
[00:16:12] Cliff: Yes, all the marketing, all the graphic design, everything was done by me. My background is in product design, so I went to school to learn how to design products, anything from a pencil, all the way up through a car. I took all that knowledge of how to take a product from a napkin sketch, which essentially this was an idea through into market, and know everything associated with it.
[00:16:34] Andrew: You leveraged those skills. That's really cool.
[00:16:36] Cliff: Absolutely.
[00:16:38] Andrew: You're hand-applying these labels?
[00:16:40] Cliff: That we are.
[00:16:41] Andrew: Because each jar has three.
[00:16:46] Cliff: Yes, each jar has a top, side, and bottom label. Now, we thought about creating specific jigs to automate it, but at the end of the day, there's a quality associated with the product too. I think people read into. Because if you go on the shelf and you, at least myself, and I grab something, I look at them like, "Man, the labels are skewered."
[00:17:02] Andrew: This is not centered.
[00:17:04] Cliff: Yes, it's not centered. That's because it's done by a machine and a machine doesn't look at that kind of stuff.
[00:17:09] Andrew: Yes, totally. On your site, you've got travel in general, which is a huge bucket. Travel is a massive industry, camping, rocking, which I assume means like going to shows or seeing a festival.
[00:17:23] Cliff: Absolutely. I go on to festivals and things.
[00:17:25] Andrew: The beach, obviously, this is great if you just pack all that stuff. Home, of course, I was consuming it at home. It always worked for me just fine, and then Earth, of course, which is where we travel. When it comes to doing e-commerce with those really three segments, when you think about it, like travel is like a global thing, camping, and then more like vacationing, which is what I view both festivals and beach stuff, because I could see myself throwing this in my bag just to go virtually anywhere. How do you segment those audiences for e-commerce targeting?
[00:18:00] Cliff: Honestly, it's difficult, to be honest with you. We try and put out a lot of, I guess, marketing on our social channels and our email blasts and things like that. I'm not going to say they're super targeted. I would say that they're more or less not general, but provide a little bit of knowledge associated with the product. There are specific posts. If you look at our social media, we do some posts where for camping, we'll take a bunch of pictures and we'll post that. There's not really a rhyme or reason to it, I would say, but from a targeting standpoint, it's really about creating that one, that the moment they see it, it's like an associative property.
They seeing like, "Oh, man, they're using it at camping, so I can potentially use it at camping," or, "They're using it at the beach, so I can use it at the beach." It's really about making it applicable and making it- like when someone looks at it, they say, "Oh, yes, I've done that. I can totally do that." That's a big thing with our brand. It's keeping it real, I guess, that's the big thing, because you see-- Especially a fair amount of our competitors in the marketplace, it almost looks too fake. Whereas if we're filming a video on top of a mountain like we did with our mixes in Mount LeConte, and I haven't published it yet, but I'm sitting there and a gust of wind comes through and blows the whole container over.
That kind of stuff happens. Really, it's about showing that, and about really- when someone sees it, they say, "Yes, I could see that happen. That's interesting," and they like it.
[00:19:39] Andrew: Have you gone after getting the press or the media to review your products?
[00:19:45] Cliff: In relation to the press, I think what you said, we try and tag a lot of people in our posts and things like that. We also try and give back to the community by going on the local news shows and things like that, because for us-- We're based in a small town here in Louisiana. We're based in Lafayette. We try and do as much local stuff as we can. That's a big thing for us. It's very interesting when I tell you that there's probably more people in Lafayette that don't know about us than elsewhere. There's probably more people.
[00:20:19] Andrew: Same problem in Longmont.
[00:20:22] Cliff: Yes, our own home city and state that know more about us than inside of Louisiana. That's the way the connected world we live in works. It's very interesting.
[00:20:33] Andrew: Where have you noticed most of your orders coming from? What are some popular geographies?
[00:20:38] Cliff: Order geography, it's the most interesting part about the business. I would say that there's a core majority of people that do buy within Louisiana. You know like Baton Rouge or New Orleans and things like that. But what surprises me is when someone in upstate New York, or someone in Seattle, or Oakland, California buys one of our mixes. We're big on finding out that data and tracking that data. When you buy from us online, we have little radio buttons that you can push, and it will tell you, "Yes, I found you on Google search, or I found you on Instagram or Facebook." It's so interesting for us to see when someone buys it from Connecticut, where they actually found us.
We found a lot of good feedback from Google Adwords, and things of that nature, like search engine optimization stuff, versus your Instagram or your Facebook. But from a geography standpoint, I would say we're-- I probably haven't sold anything to anybody in Wyoming. If anybody is listening from Wyoming, definitely buy some jars. That would be really cool, or some single serves. But most other States, I think we've pretty much sold to. We're in Canada as well. We're in Cocktail Emporium in Canada. I think they're in Toronto. That was our first international client, which was really cool.
[00:21:58] Andrew: In our business, we see a lot of California, Texas, New York, so it's always interesting to see how other businesses are figuring out how to scale and reach those different demographics. What is next for Leisuremann's in 2020?
[00:22:13] Cliff: Man, that's a great question. I would say what's next for us is really-- I'd say in 2020, defining where we sit within the market. To me, that's a big thing, and trying to drive the business in a direction where we still hold on to our core of what it actually is. Enjoying cocktails and promoting that history behind them and really promoting the cocktail for what it is. From a market standpoint, there's one side of me as a business owner that says, "Yes, I just want Leisuremann's mixes to be everywhere. I want SpaceX to take them to the moon. I want NASA to take them to Mars. I want it to be in everybody's bar, kitchen, everywhere."
And then there is the other side of me that says, "Okay, well, how do you get to that point? How do you make Leisuremann's a household name?" There's a lot of strategic planning behind that. In 2020, I think that the industries we're probably going to end up targeting-- The distilleries are a huge industry for us, and that helps us promote local business, honestly. We're all about that. If we can be in a distillery, we promote them just as much they're promoting us, and that goes in terms for local businesses as well.
We like having our products in local boutiques, and local men shops, and women shops, barbershops, things like that because it really helps build up that local infrastructure. Because we're a small business and-- Like I tell people, this is a small business. Doesn't put another car in the CEO's garage. It helps us get through it. It helps buy our kids' clothes. It helped us enjoy things. It helped give back to the community in a sense.
[00:24:04] Andrew: I do. Here's a question that I should have opened with. Where did the name Leisuremann's come from?
[00:24:12] Cliff: That's a funny story. I have a good buddy of mine, who also has a good friend of his, so a friend of a friend, and he is in the army reservist here in Louisiana. He was stationed in Korea for a little bit. When you look at the Korean army, they have a division of the Korean army that loosely translates to the leisure man. When we found that out, we said, "Man, that's an incredible name. The leisure man. So how can we turn that into a brand name?" We added the double N to it, called it the Leisuremann's, as if it was someone's last name.
As if it was Cliff Leisuremann's mixes. And I can't tell you how many people ask me, "Is your last name Leisuremann? Is your last name Mann? That's an awesome name." I'm like, "Yes, I know it's a really cool name." That's the story behind how we came up with Leisuremann's.
[00:25:05] Andrew: That’s fantastic. You've told us what's coming next. Where can people find Leisuremann's cocktail online, or in the world?
[00:25:16] Cliff: You can buy a Leisuremann's online, like you said, at Leisuremann's.com. L-E-I-S-U-R-E-M-A-N-N-S.com. You can also find us, like I said, in Canada, at Cocktail Emporium if you're in Toronto, and then scattered around the country. We're in a fair amount of places in Baton Rouge, and in New Orleans, and here in Lafayette. We're also in North Carolina, we're in the distillery out there, and kind of just spattered around these little places trying to figure out little markets within the country. We do have on our website a store locator. So if you want to buy local, which we definitely say, "Support those local guys. Get the mixes from them." Check it out on our website, and type in your zip code, and it'll point you to the nearest one to you.
[00:26:02] Andrew: Cliff, best of luck in your fourth year as a business. We're super psyched to watch your growth and all the new flavors you're coming out with. And thank you for joining us on the podcast.
[00:26:17] Cliff: Man, thanks for having me, Andrew, I had a blast.
[00:26:21] Andrew: That does it for this episode of Stickers On The Mic. I'm Andrew, thank you so much for joining us, friends. Of course, please find a Leisuremann's Cocktail out there. You can order them online. It makes for a great pairing with a podcast. So definitely pick yourself up, your favorite spirit and your cocktail. Sit back, listen to some Stickers On The Mic, and we'll see you next time. Thanks again, Cliff.
[00:26:46] Cliff: Thanks, Andrew.
[00:26:49] Announcer: That wraps up this episode of Stickers On The Mic brought to you by StickerGiant.com. You can download us on Spotify, iTunes, Google Play, SoundCloud, or your favorite podcatcher. If you enjoy what you're hearing, please leave us a review. It helps us reach new listeners and share our customers' Sticker stories. If you're inspired to create your own stickers or labels, head over to StickerGiant.com to check out our options, and use the coupon Podcast to take 20% off your first item. Thanks again for listening to Stickers On The Mic.
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