Last month I was able to attend a media event for The Liquor Lab.
What’s the Liquor Lab you ask? It’s this great spot down on Wooster Street in SoHo where you can take a myriad of cocktail, beer and wine classes. Started by Owen Meyer, a West Point grad, the Liquor Lab is breaking down our favorite cocktails in a fun and social atmosphere.
I went by myself to this press event, which I commonly do, and within 5 minutes I’d already chatted with Owen and was able to ask him a few questions about the newly opened Liquor Lab.
C: Where were you when you had the idea for The Liquor Lab?
O: I was working for Jim Beam at the time, in 2014, and saw a huge problem with the way most brands create hands-on experiences for the consumer. The beverage industry is rooted in old norms, and it seemed so obvious to me what needed to be done, yet no body was. Fortunately, I have put together a team that is changing that.
C: What was it that lead you to this idea?
O: I came to the conclusion that the market we are in today is like a triangle. On one point you have the bartenders: they are doing very unique and innovative things and pushing the trade forward using new ingredients and techniques that are constantly evolving. On another point you have the consumers, the majority of whom are not sure what any of those ingredients or techniques are and who prefer to order “safe”, and choose a vodka soda or a classic cocktail. On the last point you have the brands. These brands are flush with cash and resources yet struggle to connect with consumers and bartenders in ways that create lasting ROI. We have positioned Liquor Lab directly in the middle of this triangle: bringing everyone together in a fun and effective way that creates value for all parties involved.
“Someone once told me an analogy that said: you need to learn to ignore the boos because they always come from the cheap seats.”
C: What was your occupation before becoming a business owner? Did you have a background in bartending/wine and spirits before this?
O: I played hockey and studied business at West Point and served in the military for a few years following graduation. The way you study companies in the business program there, at West Point, fascinated me and lit that entrepreneurial fire inside me. After the military, I looked for an industry that interested me and that was ripe for innovation. I chose to work for Beam. I worked in sales and complete spirits training with the company. When you work on small teams, you have your hands in just about everything: from sales calls to event planning and execution, so it wasn’t long before I saw the vision.
C: What are the next big plans for the Liquor Lab? New locations? More classes?
O: There are too many to list! Getting the first set of classes on cruise control is priority, then expansion and building out a wide range of themes for all to enjoy. Look for some big partnership plays to bring value to the customer at our events as well.
C: Any advice you have for other entrepreneurs?
O: Someone once told me an analogy that said: you need to learn to ignore the boos because they always come from the cheap seats. For the most part, I subscribe to that theory with an added lesson. You need to make two lists during your journey: the people who believed and helped you when you needed it, and the people who doubted you. You can never forget who are on these lists because both of them will come around again, and when the ones that helped you come back, you take care of them in every way possible. When the ones who doubted you come back well… you’ll have to decide that.
You can browse all of The Liquor Labs classes here. Don’t wait to book, they fill up fast!