In this series, we learn from small businesses across the country how they are adapting in the world of COVID-19.
Biza is a ready-to-drink, vodka-based cocktail in a can. A group of friends in the NY/NJ area came together on a mission to create something better. A better taste, a better finish and an overall better experience. They put their own spin on the canned cocktail craze by adding a full flavor burst and a fun way to interact with the brand – music. After all, music is a universal language and something everyone enjoys, and so is a quality cocktail. They combined the two and the Biza brand was born.
However, their plans to launch this new brand were interrupted when the pandemic struck. Staples Spotlight spoke with Steve Nolan, Head of Operations & Co-Founder, to hear how the team at Biza Cocktails has pivoted their strategy to launch a new product in tumultuous times.
What was the first thing you did when you realized this situation was about to affect your business or daily life?
From a business perspective, we work with almost a dozen different vendors to produce our drink. Everyone from marketing and advertising, to our distillery, to our legal and compliance firm. The first thing we did was to talk with each of them, learn how they were going to handle the situation going forward, any issues they anticipated from a business perspective, and plan our strategy around that.
What is like trying to launch a new brand and product during this time?
Well it’s definitely not ideal! As a new brand, one of the most important things is presenting your product to the market - bars, restaurants and liquor stores. We were also planning to have marketing events, such as a happy hour bar takeover, and present at a nationwide wine and spirit expo. Obviously none of that is going on right now, so we’ve had to pivot our brand awareness strategy to be more online focused for the time being.
What are you doing now that you weren't doing two, three, four weeks ago?
We’ve been focusing more on our social media strategy. With much of the country shutdown, people have been spending more time on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media outlets. We’ve been creating a lot more content to raise awareness of our brand and interact with our followers.
What challenges are you concerned about in the weeks ahead?
I see two challenges coming up: industry wide challenges, and individual brand challenges.
From a brand perspective, we’d prefer not launching in the middle of a recession, but a year ago, who could’ve known this would be the current environment? It’s an unforeseen risk of doing business. A lot of brands will be delaying their rollouts and try to wait until conditions improve to come to market. When economic conditions improve, the market will be flooded with new entrants and the battle for consumers and shelf-space will be more competitive than usual. The challenge will be to not get lost in all the craziness when that occurs and to make sure you stand out from the competition. I’m confident we can do that.
From an industry perspective, I think just returning to normalcy will be a challenge. With workers being laid off, distilleries adjusting their machinery to make hand sanitizer, and the industry being turned upside down basically overnight, when we turn the corner and things start to pick up again, I don’t think it will be “business as usual” right away. Workers need to come back, supply chains will need normalize, production will take some time to get back to capacity, so it will be an industry-wide challenge for everyone to get from where we are to where we were.
How are you taking care of your customers and employees?
Obviously, everyone’s health and safety comes before anything else. We’ve been working remotely and following all the advice from medical professionals in order to stay safe. Luckily, our business is one that can be done remotely and doesn’t require in-person interaction right now.
What opportunities do you see coming out of this situation?
Online direct-to-consumer sales will be critical in the future. It’s a smaller piece of the overall market, but it’s exploded over the past six weeks. Everyone is ordering online and having their drinks either shipped or delivered to them – even people who have never purchased online before. Think about Amazon 20 years ago – people were skeptical when they started selling more than books, saying that it won’t work. Now it’s a normal part of the way people shop. I think the same will happen with wine and spirits. Online sales are here to stay and will be crucial to any brand's success in the future.