Cheers to Laughing Glass Cocktails / Women Owned
We are so excited to introduce you to Laughing Glass Cocktails Founders, Carey Clahan and Sydney Rainin-Smith. Get to know these amazing women and what they have created!
When did you decide you wanted to start your own company?
I moved back from living in Hong Kong in 2011 and knew the time was right for me. Sydney Rainin-Smith, one of my best friends for about 15 years, had been a professional voice actress for 15 years and was also looking for that next big thing. It was perfect timing for both of us! After a few false starts with other ideas, we started Laughing Glass Cocktails in 2012. It only took us 1 year and 1 day to go from concept to store shelves.
Was there a specific moment when you knew this was what you wanted to do?
We knew immediately that making margaritas was going to be fun, but I think it took me a while to realize how hard we were going to have to work for it. I am a classic example of “if I’d known how hard it would be in advance, would I have done it…” The answer is -probably not! So I’m glad that I was naive to the realities of starting a spirit brand. Looking back, I would not change any of it!
After you made the decisions, what steps did you take?
We really had to start from scratch. We created a delicious recipe, found a co-packer we trusted, and had everything lined up, but could not find a bulk tequila that met our taste and quality standards. We had such a steep learning curve and decided to make things even more complicated by seeking out a distiller in Mexico that could make a tequila that fit the taste profile we wanted. That definitely added a whole other layer to the process!
How did you fund this project?
We used our own money initially. We just closed our series A funding round with over 1M.
What were the hardest hurdles?
I had some experience in the spirits industry in bar/nightclub management, but Sydney and I did not have any manufacturing or production experience. That created a learning curve, and barriers to potential investors. Luckily we are quick learners and our track record at this point is positive. We also get all our raw ingredients, including our tequila, from Mexico - and have them shipped over the border to CA. We have an international component to our business on top of everything else. There is also a lot of regulation to the booze industry - we really had to do our homework to tackle all these hurdles!
What advice do you wish someone would have given you?
Keep your sense of humor and make sure you choose the right business partner!
Did you have a mentor? We have had several people step up over the years who have been enormously helpful - just when we needed them. One of the positive things about starting a business in your 40’s is that all of your friends and connections have been in their respective industries for a long time. We just found that people were so generous with their time, knowledge, connections, and input. We feel very lucky to have such an amazing network of supportive people to back us up.
At any point did you want to give up? The daily ups and downs of business ownership can be dramatic - and truly TRAUMATIC - at times! I can say honestly that there have been many times that we felt like giving up! Luckily, Sydney and I have a unique partnership - we have been working side by side for 6 years, still socialize regularly with our group of amazing girlfriends, and we even vacation together several times a year!
What made you keep going?
I think we would both say each other. I couldn’t do this without her and vice versa. I feel beyond grateful to have such a powerhouse biz partner, who is also one of my best friends. At this point, we are really more like sisters!
How long did it take to become profitable?
Cash-flow management is the most challenging part of business! We had our first profitable quarter last year in 2017.
What was the best thing you did to grow your business?
Recently, Whole Foods Market NorCal approached us to do a first-to-market new flavor just for them - we were thrilled (and nervous!) But we did our research and showed up at the Northern California headquarters with five new flavors. We sat around a big conference table as Whole Foods tasted them one by one. Ultimately, we decided on the flavor that would appeal most to the Whole Foods customer: the spicy Firecracker Margarita - an Ancho Chili and Pineapple margarita. This was a dream collaboration for us! It really established us within the Whole Foods family and it comes with a lot of “street cred.”
Do you feel it was more difficult because you are a women?
I think some things have been impacted because we are women - and also because we are moms. But overall, I just think those few instances were based on the individuals involved - it’s not a pattern or anything.
Do you think social media is important? I think social media is a lot of fun and definitely helps to promote our brand and communicate our unique voice. It’s hard to track whether it actually drives sales in the spirits business - because we are so heavily regulated. Wine or beer can sell directly on-line and really see immediate ROI from social media. It’s just more complicated when you add all the regulation of the spirits industry.
Was there any life lessons you learned along the way?
Yes! Sydney always points to 2 things: passion and support! You really do have to be passionate about what you are doing when you are doing it (or at least thinking about it) 24/7.
And we have so much support from our husbands, friends and business associates. It is the only way to be successful. Moms really are superwomen - they juggle so many things on a daily basis - but in reality we all need support, whether that’s a business partner, a babysitter, a daycare, an advisor/mentor, or wherever you find it. It’s imperative to have some kind of support. You can do it alone because that’s what supermoms do - but it’s so much more fun if you have the security of a strong support network.
What is the happiest memory from this journey?
We seriously laugh all the time when we are together. We laugh at what’s going on at work, we laugh about each others lives, and definitely at ourselves… So every time we are together is filled with fun and funny moments. Also, we wanted to start a company that focused on bringing women together to relax, unwind, and enjoy the power of strong friendships. We have an amazing group of girlfriends and believe they are critical to living a happy life. So to see the reality of our convenient, super high quality margarita bringing other people together to share laughter, life and to make memories is very satisfying!
Where do you see your company in 5 years?
We are in a growth spurt right now! Currently, we are available in CA, FL and NV but plan to launch 8 more states by the end of 2018. In 5 years, we plan to be in most, if not all, US states. We also have many more delicious recipes, so we’d love to have a few more margaritas out there on shelves!
Laughing Glass Cocktails