How the Founders of Haus Are Disrupting the Beverage World with DTC Apéritifs
Woody Hambrecht and Helena Price Hambrecht are entrepreneurs, spouses, and co-founders and co-ceos of an innovative new alcoholic beverage brand that’s directly targeting millennials. Haus is leveraging the direct-to-consumer model to disrupt how spirits are sold and is filling a unique need in the market that caters to the changing drinking habits of health-conscious millennials.
We caught up with the two founders to learn more about the story behind Haus, how they’ve approached marketing to their target audience, and more. Read on to discover Haus.
ForceBrands: Tell us first about your backgrounds and how you arrived at the idea to create Haus.
Woody Hambrecht and Helena Price Hambrecht: In short, a techie married a winemaker. I (Helena) come from Silicon Valley where I built my career doing creative work with a variety of tech companies you’ve heard of. Woody is a third-generation winemaker and spirits guy. Long story short, we noticed that while our generation’s drinking preferences were changing, the alcohol industry wasn’t changing to meet them. It was a huge opportunity that we felt uniquely qualified to tackle.
FB: What was the turning point, or ‘ah-ha’ moment, that pushed you to start working on this project?
WH + HPH: There were several ah-ha moments that led to us launching the company, but here’s a funny one — we happened to meet the founder of Allbirds at a mutual friend’s wedding. The next day, I was reading an Allbirds article and realized that, while every other industry was being disrupted by millennial-focused direct-to-consumer brands, no one had done it for booze.
FB: Tell us more about Haus and what sets it apart.
WH + HPH: Here’s a big one: Traditionally, you can’t buy any spirits online — they have to go through a distributor, where you eventually buy them in restaurants and liquor stores. We’re the first company to bypass traditional distribution and sell online, directly to the drinker. No one has done this before.
Beyond that, we wanted to make a drink that actually meets the needs of our generation. Millennials (who, by the way, are now between 21 and their late thirties) are highly driven by health and their image — they don’t want to put sketchy ingredients in their body, they don’t want a ton of calories, and they don’t want to get wasted or hungover. Our products have one-third of the alcohol of whiskey or vodka. They have a fraction of the sugar of popular liquors like Aperol or Campari. They are made with natural ingredients that are grown on our farm in Sonoma County, nothing sketchy or artificial. It’s a brand created by millennials instead of a corporation. I could go on.
FB: How did you go about generating buzz — enough to create a waitlist — about Haus before its launch?
WH + HPH: I’m a big believer in investing in the brand so that it generates buzz on its own. We worked with the incredible team at Gin Lane to make a brand that truly resonates with our target customer.
I’m also a big proponent of storytelling. If it’s a good story, people will share it. We published a teaser post on Medium and it received more than 10,000 views in the first 24 hours.
I think that if you prioritize those things above, and have a great product, you won’t need to spend much on paid marketing.
FB: What is it like to enter into a business with your spouse? Did you have any reservations?
WH + HPH: It’s honestly not too different from how things were before. We were both entrepreneurs, and both worked mostly from home, so work and life blended for us already. We are also lucky that we really like hanging out with each other.
That said, we go to a business coach/couples’ therapist once a week. It really helps us communicate and manage our business efficiently and we can address any disagreements before they become a big deal. I think every founder (and couple) should do it.
FB: How do you maintain a work-life balance when your business partner is also your life partner?
WH + HPH: We have to set some boundaries, for sure. We work constantly, but we also fit in other things that matter to us. We have a 1-year-old daughter and try to have our computers/phones put away in the early mornings/evenings so we can really focus on her. We also make time to cook dinner together almost every night we’re home. I think it’s really about deciding what’s important to you and arranging your work life around it.
FB: What has been the biggest challenge bringing Haus to market?
WH + HPH: Fundraising is as hard as everyone says it is. I probably pitched 400 people over the last year and most of them said no. That said, it all worked out in the end and we ended up doubling our funding goal.
FB: How have you approached team building and hiring? What kind of culture do you envision for the company?
WH + HPH: There’s a ton of great talent out there, but alignment and diversity are really important to us as a company. They need to believe in our mission, and they should all bring something unique to the table.
FB: What excites you the most about Haus? Where do you see the brand in 3-5 years?
WH + HPH: Much like Away started with a suitcase or Everlane started with a t-shirt, we’re starting with just one product, but we plan to grow into a category company. We have a ton of products in the pipeline and can’t wait to share them with you.
Interested in learning how these founders get their weeks underway? Read how they Start It Sunday here.
And if you’re looking to join a team like Haus at an innovative brand disturbing the beverage industry, explore our BevForce division.