About The Talk
There has been a lot of energy and buzz lately in the alcohol and beverage industry. What has been a pretty stagnant industry filled with regulations is now being disrupted by entrepreneurs launching brands that capitalize on new drinking trends – a rise in hard seltzer, a focus on natural ingredients, and changes in distribution to name a few.
On September 1st, we’re excited to chat with the founders of Volley, a new tequila seltzer startup. Join us as we chat with Chris Wirth and Camila Soriano, Co-founders of Volley, about how they’ve developed Volley, what it’s been like since their launch, challenges and opportunities in the space, and more!
Co-Founder & CFO of Volley
I started off my career in the banking world doing sales at Wells Fargo. After studying international relations, I had never worked in finance and wanted to challenge myself. It definitely was a challenge as I decided to also study for the CFA exams, which took me 3.5 grueling years to get through.
After 4 years at Wells Fargo, I realized banking was not for me and left the industry not really sure where life would take me. Chris and I were already dating at the time and I knew he needed help with American Cocktail Co, so I jumped on board as part time help. I started off learning how to book keep and organized all of the company’s books. As ACC continued to grow, I took on more of a role as an operations manager and helped to grow our monthly subscription box business.
One summer, my sister advised that I read a book called The Dorito Effect by Mark Schatzker and this changed everything. I began to read labels and understand what really was in our food and realized that no, “natural flavors” do not come from nature but are created in laboratories. It fascinated and angered me that as consumers, we have to be really educated about each ingredient in order to eat or drink things that are actually good for you. This happened around the same time that I transitioned away from my go-to gin tonics and began to enjoy sipping tequila or making a tequila soda with a splash of actual juice at home. And what I mean by actual juice is squeezing a lime, lemon or juicing ginger into a glass, the old fashioned way – none of these flavors that companies these days are referring to as “real juice”. Using just 3 real ingredients, 100% blue agave tequila, sparking water, and organic juice, you can have the most refreshing cocktail out there!
I began making these drinks for my now husband, Chris, and this is where it all began! After an extensive branding agency search, we were lucky enough to meet the Red Antler team and began the process of creating the Volley brand! During conception, we realized that we were creating a brand that advocated for enjoying drinks outdoors, something we all love to do but also something that also worried me. I am the person that goes for walks on the beach with a trash bag to collect trash, and I even started a secret Instagram account that posted photos of trash around NYC, hoping it would start a grassroots movement. That went nowhere but we did decide to partner with Leave No Trace, to actually give back and help clean up the beautiful world that we will hopefully all be enjoying Volley in! It’s been incredible and I feel very privileged to be able to start a family business with my husband and the incredible team we have built. We hope you come along this journey with us and love our product and brand as much as we do.
Co-founder & CEO of Volley
I discovered my passion for the beverage world while working in the front office at The Jefferson hotel in Washington DC. After tasting the cocktails designed by the bar’s mixologist, Massimiliano Matté, I started to wonder, maybe there was a way I could make this exclusive experience from one of the best bars in the world available to people in the comfort of home. Long story short, Massi and I became business partners soon after and began an amazing journey together building a premium cocktail mixer business, the American Cocktail Company.
We had zero experience in consumer products or manufacturing but we were set on figuring it out. The first batches were made out of my parents’ home kitchen in New York much to their chagrin at the time. Every component was hand squeezed and bottled by yours truly (not by choice but simply out of budgetary constraints! We couldn’t afford to pay anyone). Through that experience I learned first-hand how to delegate and scale and ask for help when I needed it and focus on my strengths. I had a ton of devastating ‘learning experiences’, but each one made me hungrier to get it right.
American Cocktail Company can today be found behind the bar of numerous restaurants and high-end retailers including Whole Foods, Macy’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, Bloomingdales and has a thriving cocktail of the month business servicing thousands of customers across the country. I realized one of my core strengths was putting together supply chains, processes, and developing high quality flavor profiles.
As time has passed, my hangovers have gotten worse and I found myself avoiding sugar more and more. My wife, Camila, and I started drinking tequila sodas as our go-to drinks for the lack of sugar and lower likelihood of a bad hangover. That’s about when these spiked seltzers started appearing everywhere. We asked ourselves what was in these low calorie, low sugar drinks? Turns out alcohol companies aren’t required to share ingredients or nutritional facts. The ones that do list mysterious ‘natural flavors’ and fermented cane sugar as their ingredients. From my experience, I know that ‘natural flavors’ are the food industry’s dirty secret and can have up to 100 ingredients in them. We wanted nothing to do with them and decided we could do spiked seltzer the right way.
We put every lesson we’ve learned over the past few years to work to build Volley, the cleanest spiked seltzer available. The recipes were developed in our home kitchen, not in a lab. We brought it to life with the world’s best branding team at Red Antler and partnered with the non-profit Leave No Trace to support a cause that we’re passionate about – the outdoors. Volley is about transparency, authenticity, and fun. We list our ingredients in large letters on the front and the back of the can along with our nutritional facts. We chose 3 ingredients for our product: premium 100% agave blanco tequila from the highlands of Jalisco, Mexico, sparkling water, and organic juice – that’s it. I get enjoyment from creating high quality products that play a part in the fun parts of your day. I hope you enjoy it and share it with friends and family. Cheers.
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