What does it take to run a successful beverage brand?
The beverage industry is a male-dominated industry, so, how did the Founder of Mortal Ventures, Becca Schepps succeed? She decided to be completely unconventional and turn kombucha on its head. Now, Becca’s here to share her journey as an entrepreneur in the beverage industry, the challenges, and the lessons she learned running her business.
In this episode of the Gooder Podcast, host Diana Fryc sits down with Becca Schepps, the Founder and CEO of Mortal Ventures, to discuss her entrepreneurial journey and tips to succeed in the beverage industry. Becca explains the importance of natural brand accessibility, how she balances her personal and professional life, how her history as a creative director influences her leadership style, and her advice to other entrepreneurs.
In this episode we learn:
- Becca Schepps talks about Mortal Ventures, why it exists, and where the idea came from
- Becca explains how to make your natural brand accessible to everyone
- How Becca is balancing her personal and professional life
- Becca explains how her history as a creative director influences her leadership style
- Mortal Ventures’ path in the right direction
- Mentors that helped Becca succeed in her business
- Becca shares her proudest moments with Mortal Ventures
- Becca’s advice to entrepreneurs starting out
- What’s next for Mortal Ventures?
- Exciting trends in the food, beverage, and wellness space
- Women leaders Becca admires
About Becca Schepps
Becca Schepps is the Founder and CEO of Mortal Ventures, a brand that produces beverages that fight death. Becca founded Mortal Ventures after she was diagnosed as a Type 1 Diabetic, on a mission to make kombucha that was low in sugar and high in bubbles. Prior to founding Mortal Ventures, Becca worked as a Freelance Creative Director across many industries, working with clients such as The Feed, Yasso, One Bar, Stages Cycling, Carrots, and more. Becca has extensive ad agency experience across all types of media.
Guests Social Media Links:
LinkedIn Becca Schepps: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bescka/
- Mortal Ventures
- Becca Schepps on LinkedIn
- Becca Schepps’ website
- The Feed
- S.W. Basics
- Adina Grigore on LinkedIn
- Andy Judd on LinkedIn
- Christina Tosi
- Diana Fryc on LinkedIn
- Retail Voodoo
Sponsor for this episode…
This episode is brought to you by Retail Voodoo.
Retail Voodoo has been building beloved and dominant brands in the food, wellness, beverage, and fitness CPG industries for over 30 years. They’ve served multinational companies like PepsiCo. and Starbucks, startups like High Key, and everything in between.
Their proven process guides hundreds of mission-driven consumer brands to attract a broad and passionate fan base, crush their categories through growth and innovation, and magnify their social and environmental impact.
So, if you are ready to find a partner that will help your business create a high-impact strategy that gives your brand an advantage, Retail Voodoo is here to help.
Welcome to the Gooder Podcast where we talk with powerhouse women in CPG about their journeys to success. This episode is sponsored by Retail Voodoo, a brand development firm guiding mission driven consumer brands to attract new and passionate consumer base crushed their categories through growth and innovation and magnify their social and environmental impact. If your brand is in need of brand positioning, package design or marketing activation, we are here to help. You can find more information at www.retail-voodoo.com.
Diana Fryc 0:43
Hi, I’m Diana Fryc here, the host of the Gooder Podcast where I get to talk with the powerhouse women in the food and 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 providing strategic brand and design services for brands and food wellness and beverage industries. Our clients include Starbucks, Kind, Rei, PepsiCo, Highkey and many other market leaders. If your goal is to crush your competition by driving growth in disrupting the marketplace with a new and innovative ideas, easy enough to say, give us a call and let’s talk. You can check us out at retail-voodoo.com.
Okay. All right. Okay, today we get to meet Becca Schepps who is the founder and CEO of Mortal Ventures, who produces Mortal Kombucha, and Mortal XXX Hard kombucha. Prior to founding Mortal, Becca worked as a freelance creative director across many industries, including many CPG and natural food product brands, including Yasso, One Bar, Stages Cycling, Carrots, Pearl Izumi, and more. She helped launch thefeed.com We’ll have to hear more about that. A DTC sports nutrition subscription service based out of Boulder, Colorado. She has extensive ad agency experiences across all types of media. While working at the, I always call them CPB Crispin Porter Bogusky love favorite like dream job in a previous life. Our GNA Saatchi New York and Hal Riney just the big boys the most respected in the community, helping build brands develop campaigns and launch products for everybody from Nike Fruit of the Loom jello, General Mills and more. I could go on it’s really long, but you guys get the idea. Okay. And the really fun part for me is Becca and I, and actually my business partner David, we all got to meet during this really fun thing that BevNet did. Well, was it two years ago or is it a year ago now Becca? I feel like it’s been so long anyways, so it’s been fun to watch what she’s been doing with Mortal Kombucha since then. And we get to learn a little bit more about this awesome brand welcome, Becca.
Becca Schepps 3:20
Thanks for having me.
Diana Fryc 3:21
Yeah, hey, all right, Mortal Kombucha, fun name, tell for most of the people out there that are listening that maybe haven’t heard I have a really a cool tactic audience out there. Tell us about Mortal Kombucha, what does it stand for?
Becca Schepps 3:37
Yeah, so we like to say now, we’ve officially changed to Mortal, Mortal Kombucha was a little small, short sighted as me because we’ve launched some products outside of kombucha now, but so we’re saying we make drinks that fight deaths. So it’s a longevity play, anything with a functional beverage. But it all did start as Mortal Kombucha it was a mortal kombat Pong. I thought it was kind of saw this like whitespace in the kombucha world. Pre 2020, originally they Pong started in 2017 when I was like, man, like, I love kombucha so many people think it’s disgusting and gross. And to me it was because all the brands were like going really into that like hippie namaste vibe and for me I always drink kombucha after a workout I drank it I couldn’t slam another coffee back I needed a little bit of energy I drank it like diet soda when I didn’t want to have fake sugars which I do love a Coke Zero, and it was just this drink alternative bubbles and flavor that was low calorie and had extra benefits. And I just was looking at the market and I was like, I’m gonna make aggressive kombucha one that’s more in line with Red Bulls and rock stars. And I was just like joking, and then I just like on the spot there was like I’m going to make mortal kombucha hashtag finish it. And at the time, lots of computers were always exploding. So I thought it was like explosive bottles. And my background being an advertising as this joke was coming to me, I found the domain I bought the domain bought the Squarespace site, downloaded bobble mockups, mocked up labels made a whole functioning like world, including like what I like to call little squares for social and just started posting about these products. And yeah, I am a creative director copywriter. So I love writing product copy and naming things. So I had flavors I had a fully functioning e-commerce Store. The only thing I didn’t have was products. But no one that bought it knew that. I just thought people would know it was a joke. I was downloading Mortal Kombat fatality wallpaper and photoshopping out blood and then photoshopping in a champagne burst. So they were decapitating one another. Yeah. So I mean, I just thought it was hilarious. And then people did started buying it. And I remember I got home from a freelance job at an agency one day. And I said to my husband like, well, I started a kombucha company today, I guess we should figure out how to make that. And that we did. I was like, how hard could it be to build a beverage brand. You just like mix it up. And little did I know at doing glass perishable, refrigerated distribution, and all these other things, hence why we’ve rolled out some new products that don’t have all those caveats. But so now we do have Mortal Kombucha, which is nationwide and we also this late spring just rolled out a prebiotic sparkling water with added function. So it’s a little different than the other ones out there. It is a sparkling water, not a soda. It’s much more flavor profile. Yeah, in line with Lacroix’s and spindrift, but it has probiotics. And then each flavor has an additional thing like one has magnesium one has caffeine one has electrolytes and one house collagen. It’s called Mortal power because it has power in it. Yeah, a couple of years later, yeah.
Diana Fryc 7:18
Was this like something that you had brewing in your brain by yourself? Or were you socializing this with your friends and family?
Becca Schepps 7:25
No, I literally we were at a freelance project. I was waiting in line for coffee because we were on our like, seventh round of feedback. And I was like, oh my god. I can’t drink any more coffee. Oh, I guess I’ll get this kombucha. And I was holding the kombucha and I was spinning in my hand and in the ingredients profile on this brand. The last ingredient was 100% purified love. And right there, I was like, this is the problem with kombucha. You’re in the creative department. You’ve been worked to death and you’re like, this is the problem. All these brands is so ridiculous. I’m going to make violent kombucha because it is a violent drink. It explodes at you. Why is everyone putting love into this crap? So yeah.
Diana Fryc 8:06
It’s incredibly earnest product category, right?
Becca Schepps 8:12
Yeah. So I decided we were not going to be earnest and so that that joke was late 2017. And then wow. over Christmas break, I made some kombucha and then 2018 we launched in stores, or some local coffee shops, or people I knew. And then 2019 We went into Whole Foods. 2020, we kind of reset. And then 2020 we went from just being like, the Rocky Mountain region of Whole Foods to like, 30 Something states nationwide. So that was cool. Oh, congratulations. That’s a big deal. And I think now we’re in like, 42. So most just not the south.
Diana Fryc 8:47
So a little bit of a reluctant CPG entrepreneur, do I understand this correctly?
Becca Schepps 8:54
No. I think a reluctant national brand, so, the thing for me was I do, there’s a there’s a King Soopers which is a Kroger, within a mile from my house for me to get anywhere else. I have to like make a trip. I’m a new mom. So like, it’s really easy for me to just like, go to the regular grocery store where things are cheaper, and they’re going to have everything I need. And I was kind of just, like, when I would shop at some natural stores, it would just be like, whoa, as I’m trying to grow my family in my life, like this isn’t really accessible. So as we kind of grow the brand, I’m like, we need to make products. Obviously, we’re still, we’re not a Lacroix price for our waters, but they have but it was like, how can you make products that feel like Mountain Dew feel like Coke Zero feels like UPS and fun. And you just feel like they feel as fun as your conventional products, but they’re made with better ingredients and they don’t even have to notch to wholesomeness. I don’t even need to know this is good for me, I just want to trust this brand that it’s going to be fun. And we do that, like our Kombucha is made traditionally, in small batches. It’s flavored with organic fruit, we it’s non GMO, it has a ton of probiotics, but we don’t really talk about any of that. We just want labor like, and for me, like, I just wanted to make less burden on a person, I feel like sometimes when you do buy, you go into like, your natural food stores, you’re bombarded by, like, save the planet with this brand, save this, this area, save this demographic of people, solve this problem. I just wanted to be like, we’ll do that, like, we’re 1% for the planet, we’ll do all that. But just enjoy this one thing, and we’re not going to burden you with the problems of the world, like, especially, I feel like we’re entering a time where obviously, there’s just tumultuous this everywhere, and you just don’t need to be reminded about it. Yeah. So we’re just trying to have fun. And I don’t know how to sometimes I feel like we’re it’s like, you have to be mission driven. And our mission trip, our mission is to like, not remind you about everything else.
Diana Fryc 9:27
Oh, my gosh, what a great, yeah, we’re going to remind you that life is great.
Becca Schepps 11:18
Yeah, I used to always hate when I’d be in a yoga class. And they would be like, okay, forget about the list of things you have to do. And I’d be like, oh, God, why am I in this yoga class? Don’t talk about to just talk about yoga right now.
Diana Fryc 11:31
So funny. Here’s the thing is when I started this podcast, and people have been listening to this show for a while, know this, because it’s now we’re going on over two years. The biggest issue that I have with the natural industry is its inaccessibility, and it’s kind of, I’m not going to say holier than thou, because that’s not true so much anymore. I mean, when we started working in the natural space back in 2011, it was incredibly earnest, right? It’s mainstream now, for the most part. But what’s happening is, we have identified that this industry, or that our target audience is like these white upper middle class women that live up in the Hollywood Hills. And the reality is, is the rest of the universe actually want these amazing products? Like we still want Cheetos, and we still want our, whatever our Pepsi’s or coke zeros or, we still want to buy pampers because of price point, or whatever. And we focus all of our marketing and our advertising to this really small group of people and nobody else in the industry has an opportunity to get this messaging. And what I love about what you’re saying here is you’re saying, not only are you talking about accessibility from a price point and distribution standpoint, but you’re also talking about accessibility in life. We’re going to talk to somebody this is a net new audience, the way you’re describing it, net new audience, people who’ve never been talked to before, that really might like kombucha, they just don’t want to subscribe to this very natural way of living. Right? They don’t want to be that earnest. They want to be sort of earnest, right?
Becca Schepps 11:32
Yeah, I think we say like the kombucha curious. They’re like, I know, I’m supposed to try this or like this, or drink this, but no way. And we’re like, well, would you do it with bright colors and flashy label, and it just feels fun. And we’re not going to be in your face about any of the benefits. And then they tasted in there, like, oh, wait, this isn’t that bad. Like the food show that we were just at it was a conventional retailer, group. And it was funny, so like, it was funny being there, like and having the people come up and we were not at Fancy Food Show, which by its name, we were at, you know, the Meadowlands in a parking lot more or less. And it was cool to see how much it resonates with people. And it’s just, we can do this. And I don’t know why you wouldn’t, outside of the cost of it for a brand. I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to be a Walmart brand. Like someone once said, It will dilute your brand. I’m like, I don’t think those two worlds are shopping together. It’s just the product you put in there, how you put it in there, how you talk about it has to be totally different than how you talk about the similar product when it’s in your shoes. And I think that same product can live it’s just you have to realize that different things are going to hit differently and your forward facing message is going to be different. But also that’s the real consumer in America. So like let’s just do them better. Like you don’t need to do like yeah, Miss La Hollywood knows better. She’s fine. She’s getting good. She’s good. She’s got guasha you know? Yeah.
Diana Fryc 13:32
And here’s the thing and like If we flip the same narrative and look at it from the other side, it’s like, it’s incredibly classist to say that people that Walmart don’t want to live a healthier life.
Becca Schepps 14:10
No, I think it’s not there for them. So it’s not easy. So I don’t know. I mean, I know that we’re not there. But that would be my dream just that could scale to the point where it’s like, hey, this is cool. This is fun. This is as fun as Cheetos and Cocoa Puffs.
Diana Fryc 15:30
Well, Kroger is a great place to start. I mean, yeah, Kroger and Walmart, and like all of it. So I love it. I think it’s super fantastic. And things that I’ve talked about with like, Mondelez, in the past, it’s like, well, how do we get people who were drinking Mountain Dew and eating Cheetos to go to kale chips, and kombucha was a bunch of baby steps and some of its messaging, right?
Becca Schepps 15:52
And I think Mondelez is doing a great job of some of the brands that they’re helping. They’re a great example. But that snack futures platform that they have.
Diana Fryc 16:02
Yeah, agreed. Well, so I’m laughing to myself, because as I was preparing for our time together, I’m like, okay, she’s got this kombucha brand. And she’s a creative director on the side, and you’re a new mom, so you probably never sleep, or you’ve figured out how to add another 24 hours to your day. I’m not quite sure how you’re doing it. And it could be your sheer exhaustion that creates your success. But I’m wondering, like, how are you doing it? Like, that’s a lot. I mean, just to start up, and just a beverage company, in and of itself is a lot of work. And here you are, with all of it.
Becca Schepps 16:45
Yeah, I have an amazing husband, who is an awesome dad. So that’s cool, and super supportive, and lets me sleep in when I can find the hours and just, let’s usually let’s me sleep. So he is amazing. I have an amazing partner that I brought on in 2020, with Mortal who really, his things that he’s good at are all the things that I either was bad at or hated doing. So it alleviates and that’s mostly anything on a spreadsheet. So he dissects things bullet points lists for me. So he handles a lot of the operations and scheduling freight, that’s probably one of my least things, favorite things in the world. So he handles a lot of just the day to day logistics. So that’s really cool. So I can focus on a lot of the relationships stores, a lot of sales and marketing. And I guess on the creative director front, it feels like a hobby, but the thing that I love and I love building brands, from the creative side, I love creating worlds and points of view and differentiation through the creative process, not just the products so when I do that, you know if it’s a freelance project or whatever, it’s fun for me to write scripts and come up with creative solutions and storytelling. So that’s really lucky that I do love the thing that probably pays my mortgage.
Diana Fryc 18:21
I’m curious how your life as a creative director, your history as a creative director influences how you lead and run Mortal Kombucha, so the creative side for me, and probably for anybody and creatively we get it like that for you, easy peasy. Do you feel like you have a unique way of growing this brand more on the business? The charts and graphs financial side? Than maybe other people who have accounting backgrounds or operations background? Like the people that have those kinds of backgrounds have a different way of looking at the business than you do? Do you feel like you have some sort of X ray power or do you bring something different to the leadership table?
Becca Schepps 19:02
I think from the creative side, bringing it into the accounting or I’m always like, well, there has to be if we get a no or that’s not how, I was like, there has to be like a nother way. Right? And that might just be more of a personality trait. I’m like I don’t like no’s I think like no to that. But like, there has to be another way we can like, get this palette of products to that warehouse tomorrow. So I think I’m always trying to like push in, like find a way to uh, yes, in different ways. And I think maybe that comes from, like, being in the creative department where you show 98 ideas and they all get killed and you’re like, well, here’s 99, here’s 100 and that’s precious, it just becomes like, well, if you can’t do that, I’ll just bring you another. I’ll bring you another idea. I’ll bring you another iteration. Don’t worry like we’ll find yes. And I think there’s that. But then I think it definitely, on the other side working with brands doing creative, I have a whole new perspective of when they say no. Oh yeah, because like, you don’t have any stores open because your chicken is delayed, or it mostly makes me I used to work on Miller highlights when I worked at Saatchi. And we would always come to them with like, a great packaging idea. Like, we got a brilliant idea. And they would be like, we’re not changing the packaging. Stop bringing us packaging ideas. You cannot change the can. And now having something where it’s like, oh, yeah, we need to order a truckload, right? Give us a year to go through a truck. And I’m like, oh, and they’re like, cheaper than us, bigger. Oh, yeah, they have a lot of camns. That’s why they didn’t want to like, change a little look on the can. So where I’m like, maybe before my ideas would be more free. Now I’ve create little boxes. That sounds like hinders, definitely my creative process, like, oh, they’re never gonna actually do this. Why are we bringing these ideas? They don’t know. But I think it definitely gives you perspective of when you’re working with some brands. And you’re like, you don’t need me to bring you TV ideas. You want some really cool shelf talkers that you can send to your merchandising teams that are actually like, in a stock because you can’t even afford a dye, we’ll bring that. So I think that has been helpful.
Diana Fryc 21:42
Absolutely. And I think something else, at least the way we look at it. And I feel like there’s like a little bit of a mind meld here, because we both have worked in that in similar roles. So, there’s something about bringing those big ideas to the table, as long as you’re addressing those other needs. Like if you guys bring a big idea to the table, now you’re probably already going, and here’s how we’re going to resolve these 17 other issues that I know you’re going to bring up in order to make it happen right, rather than kaboom, here’s our great idea. And now you’re going into the business and adding a little bit layer of value as a partner rather than just I hate saying just creative because it is a lot of work to do create it. But when you start now we’re going to impact distribution, we’ll do hot conversion near cold conversion here, blah, blah, blah. And suddenly they’re like, oh, okay, now I can think differently in another level.
Becca Schepps 22:43
Yeah, that’s exactly right. I mean, my frustration now with Mortal is, people are like, oh, you’re a creative director, you can do all this cool stuff. And I’m like, we don’t have execution. And we don’t have audience. So there’s no point of doing creative. So and we’re small and we’re bootstrapped for the most part. So people will be like, oh, did you see this brand and I’m like, I can’t pay for media like and the brightest engine in the world. And I’m truly a believer of this. There was like a big debate on Twitter the other day, if you don’t have media dollars, nothing can save great creative. I believe that a little bit like you have to, okay, I do believe that media or like being able to execute, so execute a suit includes placement, and giving it to the audience. So that might be buying your audience, which is media dollars. But because we’ve had lots of great stuff, I think, and but we can’t execute or get an audience because that’s not where we put money at the time. I think there’s breakthrough. And there’s examples for every rule. But I think now you have to be able to amplify it. And if you lost money these days, especially with like all the changes online for…
Diana Fryc 24:05
Facebook is a wreck. You and I will talk offline, I’m going to give you a little Intel on some of the stuff that if you aren’t taking advantage of at least that you can hear about it. I know you’re already stretched on time, so you can do it while you’re sleeping. multitask, okay. All right. Tell me a little bit about how you, let’s lay this go back to your brand for a second here. Let’s talk about how did you know or when did you know you were headed in the right direction with this idea?
Becca Schepps 24:34
Oh, I still don’t know if I am. I think for me, I mean, I was just like why I couldn’t believe that no one had done it before. So from the jump, I was like, how was nobody have this website? How does nobody have Instagram? I thought it was like a no brainer. And I think as you go down you’re like there was a moment where I was like Is it a good idea? Is it a brilliant idea that no one had? Or is it a bad idea? And that’s why no one has done it. It was always this thing. But, I think it was actually this past year, where I think we were a little ahead of the trend, because I think when we launched this in 2018, which is four years ago now, um, there was still a very, I’m calling like, an LA aesthetic of like, Normcore kind of thing, where it’s like palm trees and pastels and I was on braised, gradients. And I was bringing in, like, 90, Santa Cruz skateboards, Scott. And people were like, ooh, like, we had some retailers that said, my consumer wouldn’t want this. This is too aggressive. Those same retailers now carry liquid death, which I think is the violent mosh pit version of our, no doubt Scotland that I’ve created. I think it’s really funny. And there’s an example of dollars to execute. But yeah, so I think, basically, in the last year, a lot of the decision makers at grocery stores and buyers will get on with them. And we’ll show them our pitch deck and for sales deck, and they’re my age now. And that means that big in the 90s, that like that we were bringing forward and it’s just funny, like just over the last four years, this shift in like, whoa, this is crazy to like, oh, God, like the decision makers now are understanding what I’m looking for it and I also think if you walk into a target, and you look at the clothes that are there right now, they’re your psychedelic checker prints. They’re like, what Roxy, Institusi and Quiksilver used to look like at a Pacific Sunwear. It’s like this maximalists design and it’s in your face. And I think now we’re on trend maybe a little bit before we were a little before it. So we have to keep up on our crazy but that’s like, it was this year, like when buyers were just like, oh my god, this reminds me of Tragic Kingdom. A lot is oh, this reminds me of Santa Cruz skateboards and like, as a fifth grader, I’m like, yes. Welcome.
Diana Fryc 27:22
And yes. And check. I love it.
Becca Schepps 27:25
Those are the things I like there. People just want leads to Frank and Trapper keepers now. Yeah. I’m waiting for an elk reboot. Personally, I want elf.
Diana Fryc 27:35
Oh my gosh. That’s awesome. Oh, my gosh. Oh, well, let’s talk a little bit about leadership. Now, in CPG, a lot of bros a lot of guys. Do you have any mentors on the CPG side? Who are they? How are they helping you? And if not, how did you get your mentorship? Like sometimes you have a mentor and other times you look to people or companies for mentorship? How did that look for you?
Becca Schepps 28:09
I’m always accepting applications for new mentors. So feel free, cool. I think I’m my mentor. I think I have like a broad base of like, brains that I kind of tap into whenever I kind of need help. I am probably too transparent. Sometimes with that, possibly, like when someone that is a mentor could be an investor, and you’ve told them like the fires stories. Maybe but I basically like anytime I’ve needed help or sometimes I feel like I don’t know what the question is. I go and I’ve talked to people. So like, in the very beginning, there’s a friend of mine who has a company called SW basics. They were like one of the first organic skincare companies or natural products. five ingredients are left started in Brooklyn in an apartment. And her name is Adena Grigore. So she’s definitely someone that I’m just like, ah, help, her company has been through basically everything. And so she was definitely a shoulder in the very beginning and still to this day just to talk to someone for like an hour of like, oh my God. And then from there. It’s really just been like anyone that has experienced especially not coming from CPG and I come from the creative department. You’re so isolated from everything that actually builds a business, like I’m really great at building a brand, building a company and a business as a whole nother thing. I basically feel very lucky that I’m in Boulder, which has a lot of brands that come out of it. I somehow tricked naturally Boulder and putting me on their board. So it’s given me a bunch of people on the board have naturally Boulder and basically I feel like I just have like, great minds around me there are people have built multiple companies and I’ll talk with Andy Judd who is now the CMO, I believe, have Layered Superfoods with that Jaso, before that he was at One Bar. And I forget before that he was at somewhere else. So those are also companies I’ve worked with, from the creative side. So they kind of know you from there. And they know you’re working on this thing. Bill Capsalis, I talked to him all the time. And he’s been amazing. I feel like it is actually mostly men. So that’s fun.
Diana Fryc 30:36
Yeah, it is mostly man in beverage for sure.
Becca Schepps 30:37
But they’ve been amazing. Just like, hey, this is what’s going on. How do you do this? Or like, what question, I feel like a lot of the times I’m learning everything from scratch, and I’m sometimes solving the wrong problem. I think, and sometimes I need that guidance, where people have been amazing to help me figure out what is the actual problem? My biggest like a very analog example was when we were still making it ourselves, the date coder took forever to like, basically sticker the bottom of every bottle with a date code. And I was like, I need to make this faster. We need one of those laser guns that like, so gun of lasers are gone. And we bought a conveyor belt. So now the balls would come off our genki line, and it would go and it would get scanned by the laser. And we got the laser working. We were so excited. And we’re cheering. And then I realized that we didn’t have a collection table. So it was hitting the limit. And they were all rolling off. And we broke the first 10 bottles. And I was like, oh God, one problem. So I feel like there’s a lot of times where it’s bigger than that. And the bigger you get, the bigger those problems are. And you just, you think that you’re plugging one hole, and that actually created another. So mentorship is like really important with that because they let you step back for a second. And having Scott and the right people around me, let me kind of step back also and see what’s going on with the business and make for its direction as well. It was a mess. Lots of glasses.
Diana Fryc 32:26
I mean, we’ve heard, just being in the industry of lots of, is this just part of being an entrepreneur? And it says a lot about you that you just keep going, you just keep climbing.
Becca Schepps 32:40
I laugh I’m like, Well, okay, well, we spent $5,000 on a coder wonder if you can return this.
Diana Fryc 32:47
Laser coder. Now we need to spend 10,000 on a collection table.
Becca Schepps 32:52
Collection table was 5000. And the coder was 5000. And I was just like, this is really $5,000 of time. We’re going back to the gun. We’re going back to this day. Everything.
Diana Fryc 33:05
ROI all time baby. Oh my gosh. So what are you most proud of in this moment? Like where you are today? And you might have a few of them but will like what’s the one that you’d like to share? Or the one that you’d like to share?
Becca Schepps 33:19
Oh, I feel like I’m really, oh my god. That’s like probably the hardest question because I feel like every day is a roller coaster of emotions. I’m really proud of the brand that we built. And I’m staying true from the packaging like I love the packaging. I love that we stayed true to this look like all in despite what a lot of people said. I remember when we were launching the new packaging, I was deciding between two different labels. One was very toned down, we were going to operate with copy and stuff fit in. And then I remember when I saw this one with our designer and my designer friend, I was like, oh, that one scares me. This could break the brand or it’ll be a winner and it will break through. I guess if you’re going into a very crowded category where there’s a lot of competition and a very limited amount of space because it’s refrigerated, you might as well not look anything like anything else. Not like you can compete on media dollars or anything. So let’s look crazy and now I feel like we need to up it and look crazier but that’s what I’m most proud of that we’d like really stay true is through and through with everything of like we’re going to be over the top. Our coupons are over the top looking everything aesthetically is like I’ve been able to like basically project my brain and put it out on paper which I don’t feel is really great, especially from a creative when you’re always doing other people’s projects. So that’s the most I’m prouder of.
Diana Fryc 35:03
Yeah. Oh, that’s cool. Yeah. Well, what kind of advice would you give somebody who’s following a similar journey as yours? Meaning, I’ve not done this before I have this great, crazy idea. I think like, what do you tell people?
Becca Schepps 35:22
It’s probably cliché. But like, the way I started was I had no idea. There was no business plan, there was nothing. I definitely spoken to people, and they’re like, I’m almost got the label, right. And then I’m going to launch and to what we were speaking about before, you don’t even know what your problems are going to be just watching. If you can afford to do it, do it in a size that you can afford to like, we really grew from a one gallon glass jar to a couple two gallon ones to some five gallon ones. And everything funded itself, then, of course, there’s a point where you have to get ahead of the growth, money wise, but I think you just try and take a page from the tech community, which is like our agile development, where it’s like, you launch and fix, and then you’re amending it, there are things that are always kind of changeable as you’re going and to not hesitate and to trust your gut. And if you have a vision, just like have the people whose opinion, ask everyone but be true to your own opinion. So just because everyone’s done things a million ways people who have launch companies 10 years ago, it’s very different launches are very different now. And so find the experts that you trust. But then also, like, if you’re passionate about it, just go for it and make sure it doesn’t break your know how much risk you’re willing to take. Because I mean, there’s things like I’m not willing not to risk. That’s okay. And the other thing is, and I feel very strongly about this, and this goes back to my risk. Someone told me a while ago, they’re like, oh, so do you still take freelance work? Or do you still work in creative? And I was like, yeah, I have to have a life like, I’m 40 years old, I have a kid, I have a house, I have a mortgage, I want to grow this. We’re not at a point where it can completely pay for my life. So of course, I take work, and they’re like, oh, so you’re not all in? And I was like, oh, no, I’m all in, for me to be completely at ease and being able to focus and have my brain work on my company, I could not be financially paranoid. And so having that taken care of, and knowing where my limit is, and what workload I can take on to give me that sense of peace inside of me means I had to keep taking work. And that lets me be creative and solve problems and do spastic and not feel like chained running this company. And I just don’t think that the all in means that you can’t take care of your needs by other ways. And I’m wondering about that, especially as a woman who wants to have a family. So I think you can do it all, like Oprah does a lot. Many people have multiple companies. So like, why can’t you have multiple jobs because you actually want to work from home? Yeah, that’s like, my big thing is like you can do more than one thing?
Diana Fryc 38:28
Well, there’s something to be said for this. There’s something that you’ve seen here that I say to the merchandisers and the buyers and other entrepreneurs that are listening to this is that the reality is, is when a startup brand or a young brand, and young can be up to 10 years, frankly, because usually it’s the first 10 years that are the rockiest for the most part. But if you have an entrepreneur that has financial stability, they’re going to actually make better decisions, when you are in a position where every move is terrifying, because of the financial implications, you’re actually not going to make the best choices for your brand. You really aren’t, you’re not gonna make the right risk choices. And the only way to be successful, especially if you want to blow something up is to make risk, just risky decisions. And that term is for a lot of people sketch right because people think risky, they think bad. Not true. You just have to kind of trust your gut and go I’m going to make this choice over this choice because blah, blah, blah. So I think it’s smart. I think I’m impressed and I don’t know that I have the bandwidth to do what you’re doing. Meanwhile, I’m over here running a company and I’m getting my MBA and I’ve got a podcast, so I mean, everybody’s doing, I’m just as busy just in a different capacity, but I think, for those people, particularly the younger entrepreneurs to kind of go, yeah, you might have to have a side hustle to your side hustle or your brand might need to be the side hustle so that you can just have peace like you’re saying, not a bad idea. Not everybody can do it. Not everybody can do it. But if you can, not a bad idea,
Becca Schepps 40:27
Yeah, sleep is important. So if you can’t sleep at night, yeah. But there’s definitely problems and stuff that keeps me up at night. But, I know, at the end of the day, everything’s going to be okay. And that helps me continue forward.
Diana Fryc 40:43
Well, so what’s next for you? What’s next for Mortal Ventures.
Becca Shepps 40:47
So the big thing for us is really showing that we are more than just kombucha, that’s our number one goal for this year. So that sparkling water launch was really big. It’s slowly rolling out across the country, should be like pretty nationwide, by the end of the year, and I think will be like 50%, 50% sales. So that’s really cool. We do have a hard kombucha available in just Colorado right now. So we’re trying to figure out like, do we want to continue pushing that? Or do we give it its non Kombucha counterpart? So that’s exciting. Yeah, and so I think it’s just really, it is for me, it’s goes back to the first thing we spoke about, it’s how can we actually make what the vision is, and that really approachable, and that just so happens to be good for you. That just so happens is like the most important part.
Diana Fryc 41:47
Oh, my goodness. Well, Becca, really enjoying our conversation? Our time is almost up. But I have two questions. I like to ask everybody. And one is, what trends are you following right now in like food and beverage and wellness?
Becca Schepps 42:02
Oh, man. I mean, I always follow the functional trends. I think ketones are super, super crazy. Or like, the products that put you in ketosis. Borderline, I drink pure ketones the other day, the company, The Feed, I was over there. And they have a lot of different ketone products. And the President founder there was like, you got to try this. And he pulled out his camera. And I was like, he’s like, when you drink it, you have to face the camera, because there was like this little vial and I was like, $40. I was like, how bad is it? He’s like, just drink it. And wow, like, I’ve never tasted anything like this before. So that’ll be interesting if you can make drinks that don’t taste like that. But kurtosis is a cool concept, especially from sports, I come from sports, my mom was an athlete, as well. So that sport product could be really cool. I think, also the way that the brand is like, kind of pivoting it and looking at sports as a sport, because I think sport is about optimization. And optimization is like junky way to say wellness. Optimizing. So I kind of look at those kind of trends of like, hard hitting wellness, so not ashwagandha but nootropics and ketones. So I look at those a lot and just like toy around with ideas in my head that then my operations guy tells me we can’t do, that’s one trend.
Diana Fryc 43:45
Are there any other women leaders or rising stars out there in CPG world or not, that you would like to elevate or simply admire for the work that they’re doing right now?
Becca Schepps 43:59
I mean, I am like 100% fan girl of Christina Tosi of MilkBar. I like love her. I think I’ve watched her Chef’s Table especially like episode, probably like five times. And I just think that she’s joyful. And I think maybe it is because like I just thinking about it now. Like, she started putting fun cereals and cakes and things like that. I was working at like five star Michelin star, whatever it was restaurants, but she was making these child nostalgia, inspiring desserts and elevated craft and I just, I think that she has this youth and joy that’s super amazing. And you can taste it and I love that. So and I think what she’s built is pretty awesome. And she’s funny on Instagram.
Diana Fryc 45:00
Wow. Oh my goodness. Okay, that’s cool. I really liked her a lot too. And I’m always impulse buying something new every time I see it on shelf so clearly. Oh my goodness. Well, we have been talking with Becca Schepps, founder and CEO Mortal Ventures and maker of Mortal Kombucha. Becca, where can people learn more about you and your brands?
Becca Schepps 45:27
Our website is drinkmortal.com. And so you can find out all of our products are there. We do ship if you want any. And other than that, my personal websites, IamBec.ca at the end, and I’m on LinkedIn if you want to.
Diana Fryc 45:46
Excellent. Thank you so much for your time today. I’m really glad that we connected and got to learn more about you. I’m super excited to see what’s the next couple of years look like for you. Probably will have 14 more companies by the time we talk, kind of guessing I don’t know. I want to thank all of you listeners for joining us today. If you liked this episode, please share it with a friend. Otherwise, have a great rest of your day and we’ll catch you next time on the Gooder Podcast.
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