Creating a Crossover Company with Lucinda Wright
Lucinda Wright is a seasoned CPG executive with extensive expertise creating new businesses, building retail empires and creating meaningful marketing. As the CEO and Co-Founder of Cask & Kettle, she is the leader of the thriving spirit-making company based in Temperance, Michigan. Lucinda talks about creating a crossover between categories big and small and how this approach has impacted Cask & Kettle’s business. From the beverage industry at large to alcohol and coffee combinations, Lucinda shares her knowledge and valuable advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. Additionally, she gives us a sneak peek into what’s next for Cask & Kettle and shares insights into the products they create.
Today’s episode is hosted by Diana Fryc of Retail Voodoo, connect with her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dianafryc/
-How Cask & Kettle Started
-Creating new market opportunities in the coffee and alcohol industries
-The importance of a iron-clad mindset and facing entrepreneurial challenges
ABOUT THE GUEST
Lucinda Wright, CEO of Cask & Kettle USA
00:00 | Introduction
01:00 | About Lucinda Wright
03:21 | What is Cask & Kettle?
06:30 | Discovering New Market Opportunities
07:53 | The All-in-One Keurig Cup for Coffee and Spirits
14:19 | Innovation in the Alcohol Industry
23:20 | Reflection on Becoming an Entrepreneur
30:11 | Overcoming Challenges and Reaching Milestones
37:41 | The Importance of an Iron-Clad Mindset
39:39 | What’s Next for Cask & Kettle?
42:20 | Inspirational Innovators
48:33 | Conclusion
This episode is brought to you by Retail Voodoo. A brand consultancy focused on building, growing, and revitalizing brands in the food, beverage, health, and wellness industries. If you are ready to find a partner that will help your business create a high-impact strategy that gives your brand an advantage, please visit http://retail-voodoo.com/contact to set up a discovery call today.
Produced by Heartcast Media
“When you’re a disruptive innovator like us, bringing a hot beverage into booze, something that has never existed before, the vast majority of the industry is very suspicious.” -Lucinda
“I encourage anybody out there who’s in innovation to probe around in the hybrid area.” -Lucinda
Diana: Hi, Diana Fryc here. I’m the host of The Gooder podcast, where I get to talk with the powerhouse women in the food, beverage, and wellness categories about their journeys to success and their insights into the industry. This episode is brought to you by Retail Voodoo, a brand development firm. Our clients include Starbucks, Kind, RBI, PepsiCo, Nike, and many other market leaders. We provide strategic brand and design services for leading brands in the food, wellness, beverage, and fitness industries. So if your goal is to increase market share drive growth, or I’m going to say crush the marketplace with new and innovative ideas. Let’s have a chat. Give us a call. You can find out more at retail hyphen voodoo dot com. Well, I am very excited to introduce Ms. Lucinda Wright, CEO and co-founder of Cask and Kettle, a brand creating a new segment in the spirits industry. I am not going to give too much away because I want her to tell the story. Thank you. All are going to be pretty excited about this. Now, prior to Cask and Kettle, Lucinda led the Innovation Strategy, marketing, and sales practices at JPG Resources, a consultancy that supports startup and young accelerated growth brands in the food and beverage industry. Hey, we got a little in common there, yo, love that. She was also the director of Private Brand Innovation at Myer. For those of you that don’t know, is a major retailer where she created the R&D, culinary, and global sourcing departments that drove growth via new products across all categories. Lucinda began her marketing career at Kellogg Company in Brand Management. During her tenure, she rose to VP of Marketing and served in leadership positions on large global brands and emerging businesses, as well as led the innovation team and played a key role in the acquisition of Cachet. That’s a big one. Welcome, Lucinda. Hello. Hello.
Lucinda: Hi there. Thanks for having me on the show.
Diana: Of course. Okay. I got to find out where you are located.
Lucinda: So our company headquarters is in Battle Creek, Michigan. So you heard the Kellogg piece of that? Our distillery is in Temperance, Michigan. Absorb the irony of that, given prohibition. And I physically live in a little tiny town near Grand Rapids, Sparta, Michigan. So I was, like, based in a company. Yeah.
Diana: Well, you have been a busy human this last year. I went out and did some homework on you. You’ve been on a number of podcasts. People are talking about you in All In a Good Way. So let’s make sure we’re clear about that. I did notice that you were on the retail perch last summer. I love those guys. They’re hilarious. I don’t know if you remember that recording, but I really left with the work that they’re doing over there on their show. Well, why don’t you tell us a little bit about the cask and cask kettle? Tell us, how did it start? Why did you start?
Lucinda: Well, so you mentioned that my last role was at JPG Resources, which is an innovation company, food, and beverage company. And so we had like all companies had a budget meeting every month. And I’m sure you and everyone listening to this probably share a similar experience with budget meetings, as in they’re not super fun, right? Not on me sometimes. And this was no different. Yeah, not fun. Frankly, everyone was really cranky with each other and the head of the supply chain practice turned to me and asked me if I wanted a coffee because I’m a known coffee diva. Okay? And I said, Not unless it has some alcohol here in it to get me through this meeting. And he looked at me, said, Well, you know, we’ve been working in concentration. And I said, Oh, that’s right. And that broke. That broke the mood of this innovative company. So the minute you start talking about super fun and interesting things, everyone starts riffing off, Well, let’s think about this. How could we take this, you know, a coffee machine that’s sitting in the break room that doesn’t really as a coffee diva thrilled me and incorporate the emerging trends that we see out there and do something unique at the intersection between coffee and alcohol? So that just lit the flame, if you will, or was the spark? And it took us a year and a half to work through the technical difficulties of it. And also, just as I would have advised any other client in the meantime, we confirmed consumer interest. You shouldn’t go off and launch a business just because you think it’s a great idea. In my personal opinion, the first check I wrote out of my bank account was quantitative consumer validation. And as you mentioned, I worked in innovation now for 30 years. I’ve led innovation teams at five companies. So when we validated this idea in all of the thousands of new ideas that I’ve been a part of validating, there’s never been one consumer that we were more excited about than this one. The top two boxes range between 87 and 93%, which just doesn’t ever happen. So we said, okay, we’re at the end of our careers. Who would have thought? But we think we have the wow idea. So we risked it. I stepped out of a paying job and have been leading this startup for the last three. This is our fourth year.
Diana: Wow, That’s fantastic. So interesting what you were talking about because as a firm, the brand development firm over here, we do spend a lot of time in data ourselves, particularly with those brands that are looking for innovation, of course, but as we’re looking at market opportunity. And isn’t it interesting that you tend to find the big ideas where the data isn’t?
Lucinda: Yeah. The intersection and we found that’s coming out of, you know, running an innovation practice of JPG for almost a decade and just a plug for, for my old company we really were three-four years out from anything you would see in the market. So it really does as an organization operates on that front end. And what I know in working with lots of people on launching their dream or growing their own brand or even helping large companies find new space, new white space, is that the intersection between two categories that haven’t intersected ever before is really ripe white space out there, especially if there are two large categories like coffee and alcohol with, you know, trends with taggers and growth trends that have been growing and you expectancy will continue to grow. So, yeah, I encourage anybody out there who’s in innovation and that’s their role and their job to probe around in the hybrid area.
Diana: Okay. Okay. Well, let’s get really specific. What is the product? How does it work?
Lucinda: So here is a standard Keurig style single pod cup 40 ML Cup. And here, I don’t know if you can hear it. Let me show you what’s in here. Is yours, though to try to get this for you. Are liquid distilled spirits so traditional in this case? I’m showing you a Mexican coffee. So this is. Here we go. Tequila, which is like silver tequila, which I pay a lot of money for. When I go to the distillery, I get that I talk to the tequila. So it’s liquid tequila and liquid concentrated coffee. This happens to be Costa Rican coffee. It’s a South American coffee, a little Mexican chocolate. And if your palate is really, really good, you’ll get a little tequila rosé in the end. So it’s liquid distilled with natural flavorings, coffee, and spirits altogether, highly concentrated. So all the brewing system is doing is diluting. That’s all it’s doing. And so it’s meant. So the K-Cup business is about 4.5 billion. About half of the households in America have one sitting at a counter or, you know, in a bar or whatever. And that’s growing. And because it’s liquid, if you have a Keurig is intended to go through it if you want it hot, but you can also go cold, you can put it in a mug or put it in a cocktail shaker with ice, a couple of shots of water, a little bit of clue, and you have a coffee, you have a coffee machine. So it is super versatile. In the U.S. obviously, we talk about it as being a K pod outside the U.S., though, for people who are into international businesses would be a liquid instead.
Diana: Oh, well.
Lucinda: In countries where they don’t have Keurig machines, instant coffee is big, like South America, Asia, and other parts of the world.
Diana: Interesting. Okay.
Lucinda: And AbbVie. The AbbVie, for those of you who are throughout the world of spirits, the AbbVie and each of them runs from 25 to 38%. So these are high standards. Yeah. Now but the time dilute it thought, by the time you dilute it between four ounces and eight ounces however strong you want or what you, what do you want to do with it? It drops it to something that’s like a glass of wine or a beer.
Diana: Gotcha. So this is intended to be a hot or warm beverage.
Lucinda: It is intended. However, the kids out there really like their iced coffees. I don’t get it. I’m a hot woman straight up, although I have been converted over to the coffee martinis. So the size of the opportunity and the idea were definitely born out of a hot coffee.
Lucinda: Okay. Yeah, it was. And as we have progressed, though, other revenue streams have opened up like the cold side, you know, like bars and restaurants versus at home with the Keurig. So the beautiful thing for me as the CEO of this business is that our opportunities have just expanded. Not attractive.
Diana: Yeah, I can imagine hospitality, the hotel industry could. Really benefits me.
Lucinda: What’s interesting is during COVID, they pulled a lot of that stuff out, right? And before COVID, we really didn’t have bars and restaurants that were super interested in us because there were so many bartenders doing all kinds of craft cocktails and going crazy. But now that’s not true given the labor market and the challenges that bars and restaurants face. Our team out of Reno called me today. Actually, they’ve been out selling and one of the bar’s owners said that we’re now a, you know, a bartender’s dream because we’ve already done everything for them. We were layered. All the flavors we wanted combining, the alcohol, the coffee. All they have to do is add water and some cream on top or a froth, you know, like this, froth it, and then you’re set. So you don’t have to know a lot if you don’t have to have hot coffee percolating, which has been sitting there for 47 hours and no one wants it anymore, or try to come up with all of the various flavors to layer in like we’ve already done it for them. So we’re solving a problem because to be clear in innovation, it’s sort of a pet peeve of mine that most of the 99% of the time when we talk about innovation, it’s problem-solving and we really aren’t unless you count it as a problem that you have a cure that sits idle after 10 a.m. and this is a way to work that baby know all night. We’re most surprised and delighted, to be honest. I mean, yes, now, of course, of course, it’s about surprising and delighting and innovation can come from that space. Absolutely. Though in the bars and restaurant world, we are actually solving a problem, which is kind of interesting to me is that that wasn’t the inspiration for the brand, but it’s now a unique opportunity.
Diana: Gotcha. Okay, So. I’m just in. Do you need to have a separate machine for this? You can just use the machine that’s in your home.
Lucinda: You just use the machine that’s in your home. Make sure the mugs are underneath because it’s liquid. So it’s going to come right out. And all the machine does is take hot water, dump it in, and dilute it so it washes the cup out. There’s nothing icky in there because it’s liquid and that’s all you do. So you could have someone who’s not 21 right behind it run a cup of coffee through there. There’s nothing in the system that stays and all the hot water just washes through. And it doesn’t have to necessarily care. You can be any pod.
Diana: Type of machine.
Lucinda: Now it doesn’t work in distress. And espresso is a closed system. Yeah. And that’s a capsule that only 10% of the households have had an espresso.
Lucinda: So it’s not that big of a deal.
Diana: Okay, well, so I have an interview. A few women on the show are in the spirits industry. The beverage in general is so different from other kinds of consumables. Of course, the tactical experience is similar. Of course, you know, running panels and that sort of thing. But when it comes to the community and the. And the world of alcohol brands. I still feel like it’s very much influenced by this prohibited type of machismo. Is that true or is that kind of my sense?
Lucinda: No, no, you’re right. And, you know, before I answer that further, I just want to remind everyone sort of why I’m saying what I’m going to say. As you mentioned, I worked at Myer and I started up our own brand food product development and innovation function. And so I was responsible for every category across all of the grocery, all of it. And so I’ve traveled the world doing deals in every country and every category. And so I feel like I have a strong line of sight to the dynamics, you know, pretty broadly across all of CPG food and beverage. And what I would say is outside the meat industry, which would probably share some similarities, though the alcohol industry in spirits even more in particular is very insular. And let me just answer the prohibition first and then I’ll come back to the House run. What’s interesting to me is that the laws are so outdated. So for instance, we just give an example. Beer and wine companies can sell to you directly. They can ship you directly. You can call them and you can say, I want to order from you and I can come to you unless your state doesn’t allow online shipments. But for the most part, states do. They can do that as a distilled spirits company. We cannot. We can’t. We have to. I can take it on our website. You can order it, but I have to ship the product out to California. That distributor then ships it to a retailer and that retailer just ships it all the way back to wherever you are. We’re not allowed to do that when the fact is the body processes all alcohol the same way. There’s no good and bad alcohol. There is not the body treated all the same way. And yet our laws are structured such that there are good and there are bad. And so there are more rules around the bad versus the good. So this prohibition thing is still alive and well in 2023, and nobody’s changed the law and I don’t even know when. So you’re right, It is frankly crazy to me. But that’s the prohibition side. The other part about the category that sort of was embedded in your question is its insular nature of it. What I find in this category more than any other except me, is that people tend to spend their whole career in this world and they haven’t worked in other categories. So there’s very little cross-category knowledge, experience, curiosity, or cross-pollination in any way, shape, or form. And it is largely dominated by men. I mean, that’s true of most categories, to be honest. So that’s not terribly different. But the insular part of it is. So when you’re a disruptive innovation like us, like bringing something hot into booze that has never existed before in general, the vast majority of the industry is very suspicious. What? What are you? What are you? What are you talking about?
Lucinda: Yeah, as a matter of fact, it is common for the industry, whether it’s a buyer or a distributor or sales are being picked. Pick any key stakeholder, they actually race yourself. Think coffee is a niche. Coffee is a niche. I mean, I can’t tell you how many times I said you do. People do things. Do things. Coffee is niche and people only drink hot coffee in cold weather states in the winter.
Diana: No, they don’t really believe that, do they? Really do.
Lucinda: They do. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had to say no to whatever I fill in the phone book, I will say, Do you drink coffee? Inevitably, they say yes. I say, Do you drink coffee? Inevitably, yes. Did you stop drinking hot coffee last June? Well, no. Okay. Okay. So hot coffee consumption is not, you know, tied to the weather. If anything, hot coffee consumption is higher in warm-weather states because there are cultural reasons and traditions that support it. And I also say so let me just be clear. You wouldn’t want a slice of Starbucks business in that tiny little company called Starbucks. A little up until recently was all hot coffee, which is the majority of the business. Iced is growing for sure, but it’s still tiny compared to hot. And like that little tiny Nishi business. But that, you know, people’s perception is their reality. Don’t bother me with the facts. And so when you have such an insular industry with people, I’ve only ever done this and you bring in something that’s never existed before, which is hot into an Ambien cold industry, they’re like, Whoa. Ian, you don’t come from spirits, which I didn’t. And you’re a woman leading a startup company. It’s like a double, triple, or quadruple wall-up. So you have to break through all that.
Diana: So how do you break through that? I mean.
Lucinda: So our strategy has been to find the buyer’s distributors who get it like that. What I’ve learned is when we present the idea, hey, we have boozy Cape Cod where we’re combining coffee all in one stop. There are all these machines out there. We’re turning them into bartenders. Done. The ones that get it like that, we’re like, Good. I don’t try to make noses change no’s into yeses. I try to find the pockets of people that just get it and are excited about it and sometimes in it. And buying desks At retailers, we do get buyers who came from coffee or snacks or someplace else. It does happen. It doesn’t happen a lot, but it does happen. So for instance, my alma mater, Myer, has been very good to us now because I work from there. By the way, I didn’t get any special treatment at all. But what they did do and Myer has a reputation for doing this. This is not specific to us, the reputation of giving people a chance, letting them prove. Proof of concept and then expanding it and rewarding them for that. And then once someone does that and you’re successful, then you take that strength and you radiate out from that. Yes. And so it’s slower in the world of alcohol for innovation, for those people who are in broader CPG, the gestation curve is a much slower ramp in the world of alcohol than it would be if you were on a cereal or a snack or whatever. Something else plant-based that’s much faster and quicker. But because of the three-tier system, sort of the suspicion, and the insular nature of the category itself, it just means that the growth curve is slower and longer. But when it goes, it goes. And for those of you who are in startups, the multiples within the world of alcohol are much richer. As well. So sort of higher risk.
Diana: Higher reward. Yes. Interesting. Well, I’m curious. You’ve been in multinationals and these really large organizations over time, and here you are leading something new and in a new space. I’m wondering if you find yourself leading or communicating in a different way than you did in your previous life.
Lucinda: Well, it’s interesting that you asked that the jpg years sort of were a transition for me from big because we worked with people from ideas that people would come to us and say, I have an idea. We would help them realize it, develop and commercialize it, and help young brands. And so I had already transitioned to being an advisor, if you will, for a lot of startup CEOs and a lot of women, frankly, CEOs. I’m still on several advisory boards, even though I haven’t worked at GBG now in five years. So that was certainly a transition. And even when you’re running a brand at Kellogg’s, for instance, I ran it as part of the launch of Nutri-grain bars. So even though it’s a large company that was a small startup in our first year, I think we had 22 million sales or something, right? 30 times, right?
Diana: Yeah. Well, compared to the org.
Lucinda: Yes. Yes. So I’ve always run, but to your point, I’ve run other people’s businesses for them, small and large. The difference for me is that now I’m running my own business and I don’t have the safety net out there. And we have investors and people who’ve worked on the business since the start. And I feel that weight, I feel that weight differently. I always felt the weight of delivering and growing and hitting. I have always felt that. But it’s a different weight when it’s my retirement fund and we’re going to, you know.
Diana: And your holiday and you’re yeah.
Lucinda: Your family and friends have, you know, given us money. I mean, it’s a different type of weight. I say this is the biggest difference. The other piece of that is my other co-founders were all out of JRPG, that head of the supply chain that I mentioned who asked me to do this. He’s the active co-founder there. Four of us, two of us are active. I run the business and have the majority share. But she also has been very involved. And I turned 60 last summer and she’s like, I hit 40 years of marriage, 60 years on this earth. And what he says to me is, you know, looks at how those young folks do this is, you know, the degree of difficulty is so, so high is like I feel like we’ve spent our whole career and we’ve gathered the experiences and knowledge that we have, a knowledge base that we have so that we can now use it for this writing, this complicated and challenging but yet exciting and pioneering. And he’s like, I feel like we’ve spent our whole life just so we could do this. So there you go.
Diana: Well, I. I think that’s true for all of us. You know, I. I am in that 51-year mark and heading into 52 here before too long. And really we are only all a culmination of all of our experiences. And it’s funny when people say youth is wasted on the young. I don’t think that’s true. I mean, I think \there are a lot of things that in my twenties I did because I just didn’t know any better and I couldn’t be who I am today, having not done that. So I think every age brings a new way of looking at things. But I marvel. I marvel at the volume of data and information and the rate of change in technology that is happening for people that are in those college years. You know, I think I think, could I handle the rate of change if I was in my twenties or I guess that would be normalized for me because that’s just how everything is. But it’s quite different. I agree.
Lucinda: Yeah. So know that. I mean, my statement was not a derogatory statement.
Diana: Oh, gosh, I didn’t take it that way at all.
Lucinda: Well, good, ’cause that’s because I actually am very involved with my alma mater, Michigan State. Yeah. And I am. I am humbled and amazed. Yes. Spirit of the younger generation. Yeah. Exciting to me. And I am excited for them. And I’m actively involved in that program as a mentor.
Diana: Oh, you are wonderful.
Lucinda: Yeah. So when Pete said to me, it’s like we said, you know, I don’t know how the younger crew does it. He means it from the standpoint of we. It is challenging and we have spent a career developing a network and a knowledge base and all of these things and in and we meet and it’s challenging for us. Yeah. So what we’ve tried to do is go back and make sure we continue to put a handout and help younger entrepreneurs too, because it’s just incredibly difficult. But you’re right, they have a world. It never would have occurred to me in my twenties.
Diana: To start a business.
Lucinda: Yeah. No, Never. No way. Never. No way. Now, I ran other people’s businesses. I mean, I still wanted to run businesses because I ended up doing that. But I’m excited for my 35-year-old daughter who leads the innovation team for a large company and is now this is her second company where she’s done that. So she’s heavily involved in innovation and leading and growing in her own way, and I’m excited for the opportunities that she’ll have.
Diana: Yeah, I think so. And mentorship is such a special gift because it’s definitely reciprocal. There’s a lot of shared learning and growth there. At, but I definitely much prefer to be my age now.
Lucinda: Yeah, it’s. Well, I think, you know, I don’t know. Every decade I did something crazy, right? I started my career in whirlpool and supply chain but wanted to be in a brand. So I left everything, went back to grad school, and worked my way into Kellogg and did that for ten years and then threw it all in the air and then went to the retail side and people thought I was nuts for that. Oh my gosh, your career’s over. And if anything, that was even so, I do believe I have a very strong tolerance for risk. And either that or a high A.D.D., I don’t know. But both. Yeah, both. So I would be the last person to tell someone they shouldn’t do anything. Yeah, yeah. Do anything that they think they want to do and have a dream that they should 100% do. Yeah.
Diana: Well, let’s talk about milestones for a moment. We could talk about career milestones or we could talk about casting cattle milestones. What are you right now wanting when you’re thinking back, you know, what major milestones are contributing to what is happening positively in your world today?
Lucinda: Well. So we just had our third consecutive year of growth at Myer during November-December. And this in the world of alcohol is a big deal.
Lucinda: Yes, it is. So we just came off of our third year of double-digit growth with Meyer, which is hard to do when we’re the smallest brand, you know in the category. Yeah. Yeah exactly. So that’s great. We have strong repeat orders from our distributors out in the Northeast and the Midwest. So wonderful. That is great. I get calls all the time from consumers who are excited about the business. We’re starting to grow more in bars and restaurants because we’re solving a problem that didn’t exist before. Yeah, we’re looking internationally as people are coming to us with some international opportunities. Mm-hmm. So it’s some you know, it’s never dull in my world. Now, you know, I’m a fairly aggressive A-type personality, so would I like the growth to be faster? Would I like things to be bigger? Faster? Sure. Sure. Yes, I would. And what you have to accept if you’re going to do something this disruptive, that it’s just going to be, you know, every challenge you overcome, there’s going to be another hill you have to climb and you have to have a marathon mentality.
Diana: Of course.
Lucinda: Of course. And if something goes wrong and our number one investor said something to me yesterday, which is that what she thinks is key to our success is our ability to when trials and tribulations happen, we face them and we get up and we continue to push out and we don’t let that define us. We problem-solve around it. And we and we and we just push through. That’s if you believe in the idea, if you believe in the business and that it can be successful and you have a great foundation for it. So the other thing about our business, a milestone this year is we improved our internal gross margin by 11 points. How to dramatically re-engineer our packaging in order to get some operational efficiencies. It’s taken us a year to get everything in order, but I think having a strong foundational economic structure, an idea that, you know, consumers and shoppers are excited about and want, and trends that make you feel optimistic in expanded channels. I mean, those are the variables that I think any CEO looks at to say, okay, what’s the health of the business? Is it healthy? Can we make it healthier? What’s the trajectory look like? So those things are all good for us. Our challenges, like every other startup in the world and even some that are not startups, are just cash flow and financing, right? Especially if you’re disruptive and you’re in spirits. You just can’t generate enough cash, even though you know our margins are now great, especially for a startup. You just can’t when you have to drive consumer understanding and awareness of something that is brand new. And what I’ve learned is in the world of investment, the majority of the investment money goes to tech and life sciences. And what is out there for CPG is really driven by plant-based and there’s a very small sliver that is open to their portfolio investing in alcohol. And then you take spirits even within alcohol. And that’s the thing that’s been the most surprising to me, frankly, is given the size of the category and the robustness of our idea, the access to investment has been highly challenging, probably more challenging than even all the technical side and in the insular and in the misunderstandings and perceptions and all of that stuff. So that’s the thing that we’re focused on now, because if you don’t have an investment in cash, then that doesn’t really matter. None of the rest of it matters.
Diana: After we finish recording, let’s you and I talk. I have somebody that I should introduce you to. Let’s make sure that happens.
Lucinda: Same day. Yeah. And then the other thing I would say about the world of investment. Is that? Not only are there those challenges, but a very small slice of investment money comes to women-run businesses very, very, very, very small. Our number one investor is a group called the Bell Impact on Detroit, and they only invest in women-owned and operated companies in Michigan. Hmm. Wow.
Diana: That’s pretty.
Lucinda: Narrow. We’re blessed with that. We’ve been blessed with that, and I’m incredibly grateful to them. And so they spend a real mission around that. But, you know, I don’t know the latest number, but at one point, the investment money going to women-run businesses was less than 5%. So when I say silver, it’s real silver. And then you take it into the world of alcohol when even fewer businesses are run and operated by women. You can just extrapolate from there. So it is, again, never dull to be sitting in my seat.
Diana: But I think in my mind, that’s a good thing. Yeah.
Lucinda: Yeah. It’s sort of this way. All of the years of having those budget meetings, we’re standing up at Kellogg’s and having to justify everything. I mean, it was good practice for being able to answer questions under pressure and frankly, run a business. I mean, that’s the thing that people are surprised by, is that we’re a small startup, but people don’t feel like that. They look at our packaging and our branding or they see something that I’m talking about or the way we think about the business and we think and run it like a CPG company would run, right? Even though we’re small. That’s the way I grew up. And so that’s the way we think about things. Yeah.
Diana: Yeah. Well, so as you are going down this path, I’m sure you’ve probably had a number of people reach out to you, but what do you find? What do you find? What advice do you find yourself giving the most to people that are following in your footsteps?
Lucinda: Proof that that varies depending on, you know, what, if someone’s talking about alcohol versus broader CPG, And since I tend to do more work in the broader CPG and as a mentor, especially with the students at Michigan State and the other companies, I’m on an advisory board with, you know, probably number one is the marathon mentality. Honestly, what I think is undervalued as a key driver is just mental toughness. I think that when you come down to a setting, the other things aside, like, you know, you’ve got a good idea, you’ve done the ABCs of the business side. People want it. You can make money at the price you have to charge. You know you have to operate, I mean, that stuff, you know, setting that stuff aside and I do a lot of. I provide a lot of advice around that when people have sort of the more technical side of it, you know, and that can range between different things. Right. But as it relates to the CEO side or founding a company or growing a company, I think mental toughness. Is probably the thing I rely on the most and a perspective that you’re just not going to let something stop you. You will rise up, you will figure it out and you will move forward just like you did the four other times. And you have to do that because you also have to do that for the rest of the organization. And if you as the CEO don’t have that kind of orientation, then no one else is going to believe it. Exactly.
Diana: Yeah. Yeah. Well, let’s talk about what’s next for the cask and kettle. What can we expect first? Well, yeah, in the next year.
Lucinda: Well. So we’re you know, we’re in a handful of states now. Back to the radiation strategy. Yeah. You know, trying to raise money so we can continue the growth and build off of those strengths. We think we’re close to gaining permanent distribution. A very large retailer. Total wine actually has already done that regionally. Wow. Is a chain level in all five of our SKUs. We have four decaf coffees and one cider because this is nighttime drinking. This is, yeah, kickback. Let the day go. Put your feet up. So it’s decaf. These are decaf coffee cocktails. So total wine sort of does that regionally. But I think we have another that would be a really major. And, you know, we’ve heard I mean, I think we’ve proven ourselves and we’ve earned it. But, you know, you still have to fight. That coffee’s a niche. You’re a small startup. Can you mean, that it will always be a challenge, but that would be life-changing for us? We are having some conversations that are exciting that I can’t talk too much about, but let’s just say that is sort of hardware related, sort of some collaboration there. I know, super excited about that. And internationally, the whole bars and restaurants side of things, You continue to generate recipes and work that angle. So nothing like super cool sounding. It’s the basics really of the business but we have a number of you know opportunities that we’re pushing forward on that could make just a huge difference to us.
Diana: That’s awesome. Lucinda I, I have really enjoyed our conversation. Our time is almost up. We’ve talked a lot about how you’ve dropped a lot of nuggets and all this fun stuff about the industry. So I have one question that I want to ask you that I like to ask everybody, and that is this. Are there any women leaders or rising stars out there in our industry or not that you would like to elevate or simply admire for the work that they’re doing or that they have done?
Lucinda: Well, that’s great I love that question. And I’ll tell you why in a second. I, I find myself giving you an unexpected answer. And that’s because I’ve been insulated now for so many years as a woman leader, I’ve sort of taken my eye off of other women and just been plowing my own ground. But that wasn’t the case before this business as I was coming up. As they say in Fudge was my aspirin’s businesswoman, hero. I mean, she was who I admired and emulated and wanted to be like, you know, I followed what she said, the changes she made in companies, sort of her perspective, the way she carried herself. So for me, she was the epitome of what I would want to do and be for other women coming behind me. So I do think that having aspirants out there is something that’s a gift. And I encourage people because I’m embarrassed to tell you that there isn’t somebody currently inside. It has always been that now she’s retired. But one quick fudge story. When we were involved in buying the business at Kellogg, I led that by and we were in competition with the post office go at the time and ran that she ran our competition she ran the company that was our competition and a separate podcast. We could talk about the M&A world and buying oh.
Diana: My gosh I guess.
Lucinda: I have a strong point of view about women, by the way, and our suitability and our really oh.
Lucinda: Advantage, frankly, in that space. But so cut to make it short, the CACI founders accepted our bid and they told me they called and said, hey, you know, just why I was having breakfast this morning with Fudge. We’re going to tell them the news. And I gasped. I’m like, You’re having breakfast with a fudge. And they said, Yeah, like, Oh, my head. Oh my God, please tell me fudge. I love her. She’s my idol. I can’t believe you’re having breakfast with her. Blah, blah, blah. They’re like, okay, we’ll do that. So the Natural Foods Expo. So for those of you in CPG, that’s the largest trade shop it was going on and I was there for the Worthington business of the Morningstar Farms business, which I was running at the time and working. I was out in the aisle and this tiny lady, I mean, I just never expected it to be so petite. I didn’t know, you know, comes up to me and holds her hand out and says, You must be Lucinda. And I’m like, Yes, I am. And she says, I’m in fudge. I’m just blown away. So they had told her that she was my idol and she had her driver bring her out of how she got into the show. Found the booth, came over to congratulate me on, you know, winning the bet, basically, and securing the cash acquisition. And I was like, nobody, right? Like nobody. I don’t even know if I was a director at that point. And so that just gives you a hint of, yeah, she indicated to I’ve admired her all these years because I did. And then I admire even more for just her graciousness and the human being that she was on top of the business. Yeah. Yeah. So terrible answer is other than to say you now have inspired me to go and start looking around and finding that inspiration again because I have not had that. And I’m sure there are fabulous women from that I could be learning from for sure.
Diana: Yeah. Right now, am I? I mean, I have probably what people would have considered being expectant or I don’t know. I mean, I always like to aspire to be to people who do things that only happen once in a lifetime. So I set my bar really high. But the person that inspires me the most right now whom I’ve been following for years, believe it or not, is RuPaul. This man turned the drag art form into a powerhouse business. Nobody expected it. And he is living it. And I am just like, Can I do that? He only did that in the last few years, and I think he’s in his sixties. So I think I still have time.
Lucinda: Yes. And he looks really great. That’s another thing, you know, So I’m like, oh, you know, all this inspiration. But yeah, I mean, that’s great that’s a great example of yeah.
Diana: Just breaking boundaries and barriers and finding and finding inspiration in the weirdest places.
Lucinda: No, it’s great. I actually thought that at this point in my life, I wouldn’t be sort of pioneering. Right. Yeah. Much to my sometimes disappointment, but mostly, um, my honor is to try to just keep on pushing. Yeah.
Diana: Well, Lucinda, really amazing to chat with you today. Just everybody we’ve been talking with Lucinda Wright, co-founder and CEO of Cask and Kettle. Do you guys just go by cask and kettle? There’s a cask and kettle of hot beverages.
Lucinda: Yeah. Cask and kettle.
Lucinda: Can we? Yeah. The genesis of the idea was to bring the heat.
Lucinda: Yeah. Into, into booze and we do that. That is the opportunity. But now the kids have me all like buying into the ice side and all that and listening.
Diana: To the kids. Don’t listen to the kids.
Lucinda: The majority of our company is young and I’m the oldest. Everyone else is in their thirties or younger, so.
Diana: Oh, my goodness.
Lucinda: They think that that’s true.
Diana: Where can we learn more about you and your company?
Lucinda: So caskandkettleusa.com If you just go to our web. And if you ever want to contact me, that’s my phone number. And contact.
Diana: Oh, you’re kidding.
Lucinda: Now I take every phone call.
Diana: I love it. Okay, listen, thank you so much for your time today. I’m so happy that we met and I look forward to seeing all the shenanigans you guys get into.
Lucinda: Yeah, that’s a good word, Shenanigans. That could be our corporate motto.
Diana: It could be. And I want to thank all of our listeners for their time today. Hey, listen, if you like this episode, please share it with a friend. Other than that, I’m going to wish you guys a great day, and we’ll catch you next time on the Gooder podcast.