Taking the Cocktail Industry by Storm with the Founders of Be Mixed

  • Photography by: Claire Esparros for Be Mixed
  • Copy by: Caitlin Timson

When two Harvard Business School graduates were tired of settling for vodka sodas at happy hour, they took it upon themselves to create a solution: Be Mixed. It’s a zero-calorie mixer that makes it simple to create and serve creative cocktails. The brain child of Cristina and Jen officially launched the business in September of this year and have since seen their brand sold in retailers across the country. With press mentions everywhere from InStyle to The New York Times, they continue to see their brand transform the cocktail industry one social event at a time. How did they grow their company in such a short span of time? We had to know!

If you want to learn how these two New York entrepreneurs created brand awareness, set themselves apart from competitors, and evolved the company since its start, keep reading! ​

Full name: Cristina Ros Blankfein
Age: 29
Location: New York, NY
Year you started Be Mixed: 2014 (official launch in September 2015)
Educational background: Harvard Business School, Harvard College

Full name: Jennifer Ross
Age: 29
Location: New York, NY
Year you started Be Mixed: 2014 (official launch in September 2015)
Educational background: Harvard Business School, Dartmouth College

What was your first job out of college and how long were you at that position?
J: 
I worked in a real estate private equity at Goldman Sachs and was operations and marketing at FanVision—a sports entertainment technology company for two years.
C: I worked at Citi’s Microfinance Group for three years.

Tell us about what you were doing before launching Be Mixed?
J: We were both at Harvard Business School.
C: We actually met because we were in the same section (sat in alphabetical order and our last names are Ross and Ros).

What was the catalyst for starting your business? 
J: I am a Type-1 Diabetic and desired a delicious drink option without any added sugar and/or artificial ingredients and of course, calories. We were tired of settling for vodka sodas.
C: Determined to find a solution, we won second place from the HBS New Venture Competition and received the support of the Harvard iLab, which enabled us to work with established bartenders and nutritionists to develop the perfect formula for a delicious, all-natural, zero calorie single serve cocktail mixer made from all-natural fruit, herb, and vegetable extracts.

We wanted to shake things up and do things that were a bit non-traditional for the beverage world.

Tell us about the process of launching Be Mixed from the ground up. How did you perfect the product, and what was the next step toward creating awareness around your brand?
J: We knew that taste was the most important thing so we spent a long time working with mixologists and doing focus groups to make sure that we made something that was delicious, zero-calorie, and all natural.
C: We wanted to introduce Be Mixed to people in unexpected ways. Whether that meant working with other brands that our customers care about like Soul Cycle or doing things digitally. We wanted to shake things up and do things that were a bit non-traditional for the beverage world. Typically a lot of new food and beverage CPG companies start by demoing in store and doing promotions, both of which we definitely do. But knowing that our customers are super busy and have a ton going on, we thought about how we could stand out. We didn’t just want to be the third new drink that someone was sampling during their trip to Whole Foods. With that in mind, we thought about other places that we could sample that would be unexpected yet resonate without customers. We knew that our customers cared about working out, so why not sample at workout studios?! Many people pushed back saying that alcohol doesn’t fit in a workout environment but we felt really strongly that it had its place either as a mocktail or after workout treat on a Friday night.

When you were first starting out, how did you handle marketing for your products?
We just wanted to people to taste it, so we did a ton of events and also gave a bunch away for people to share Be Mixed with their friends. 

Don’t let perfect stand in the way of the good! You just have to get out there and get moving.

What would you say, specifically, sets you apart from competitors in your industry?
J: We are the first to market an all natural, zero-calorie, and delicious cocktail mixer. Be Mixed differs in that we don’t have alcohol, artificial ingredients, preservatives, food coloring, or sugar. We also offer convenient one shot, one bottle “on-the-go” servings and are much more versatile than a majority of ready to drink cocktails and mixers since we promote customization.
C: Skinny Girl is the competitor that comes to everyone’s mind and while they have done a great job opening the conversation about “skinny drinking” but our product is quite different. We do not have alcohol in the product, giving people creative license to dream up their favorite cocktail. We also do not have agave or preservatives. Fever Tree, focused on elevated sodas for tall drinks, underscores that the market is primed for premium mixers to complement premium spirits.

Where was the first shop that sold your products? Tell us about the process of getting Be Mixed into retail stores.
J: Mrs. Green’s, an all-natural market around NYC, was the first retailer to sell Be Mixed. It was a bit of a surreal experience because we went in hoping to get into just a handful of stores and when the head buyer saw the product he placed an order for all of the stores! We were introduced to their local buyer by a friend of a friend of a friend, and when we went in for the initial meeting, to talk about being placed in one just one store, their local buyer brought in their head of grocery after seeing the product.
C: It is all about relationships, so we have developed great relationships with our retailers. Since we are new to the space we’ve spent a lot of time building relationships, which means that we just go into the stores weekly and chat with the whole team and mangers and ask questions and tell them about Be Mixed.

How has your business evolved since you first launched? 
J: Something that we didn’t originally anticipate was how many people are looking for a mocktail option. Whenever we do events, about a third of people ask for a non-alcoholic drink, so we are really excited that we can provide that. It’s been a fun area to explore.
C: We are constantly looking at new recipes and are working on some new delicious summer flavors. We’ve also brought on our first team member, which has been a really fun experience.

Tell us about your workweek as an owner and founder of Be Mixed.
No week or even day is alike! That’s what makes this so fun and exciting. Some weeks we are working on manufacturing the product and others we are meeting with retailers and other partners.

Is there anything you wish you had known about entrepreneurship when you first started out? 
Don’t let perfect stand in the way of the good! You just have to get out there and get moving.

Best moment of your career so far?
J: Winning second place in The Harvard Business School New Venture Competition.
C: Seeing Be Mixed in the New York Times!

What advice would you give your 23-year-old self?
Don’t take life or work too seriously. Work hard, but have fun!

Jen is The Everygirl…

Go-to happy hour drink?
Cucumber Mint Be Mixed, vodka, and splash of soda. It’s my upgraded vodka soda.

If you could have lunch with any woman who would it be and what would you order?
Sarah Blakely of Spanx. I really admire how she took a stodgy and unsexy category and made it what it is today! And I would order a chopped salad.

Favorite way to unwind?
Watching trashy TV

Friday Night in or out?
In, but if you had asked me five years ago, I would have definitely said out.

TV show you wish was still on the air?
Saved by the Bell—I’m a 90s girl.

Cristina is The Everygirl…

Go-to happy hour drink?
Ginger Lime Be Mixed with a peaty whiskey over ice. I love strong, full-bodied flavors.

If you could have lunch with any woman who would it be and what would you order?
My grandmother who came over during the Cuban revolution. I’d love her advice about Be Mixed and motherhood. I try to channel her advice into these new endeavors but her tenacity, compassion, and confidence made for unparalleled advice giving. I’d order a warm veggie soup with hot sauce and toast.

Ideal date night?
My husband and I love to cook together. We put on a great Pandora channel and start chopping and mixing away. I use recipes from my friend’s domesticate-me.com blog where she reimagines hearty comfort foods with lighter ingredients (her dude diet section). After we’d go dancing!! Our new neighborhood is Tribeca, so I’m wondering if Paul’s Baby Grand will become our new spot. Any recommendations?

I wish I knew how to _____?
I wish I knew how to sing! What a great way to express yourself.

Number one on your bucket list?
Travel the Amazon River. I spent some time learning Portuguese in southern Brazil and fell in love with the country’s spirit, foods and music.

 

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