Interview With Sol Broady
Describe your product or service:
“We provide calm in a can: all-natural, non-alcoholic relaxation, made with kava. Our product is carbonated, delicious, and contains 750mg of noble kava extract in every can.”
Describe your company values and mission:
“We're on a mission to de-stress a stressed-out world. In a world that's so often centered around ‘work hard, play hard,’ we want to bring balance by offering a non-alcoholic and non-impairing way to unwind. For anyone with a reason to relax, we want to be there.”
How are you funded? I.e. venture capital, angel investors, etc.
How big is your team? Tell us a little about them (I.e. co-founders, freelancers, etc.)
“Our core team is pretty small, with an executive board of 9 members, one of whom is my co-founder, Ethan. Many of our team started back at the inception of the company at Columbia University, but others have signed on throughout our growth.”
Did you always want to start your own business? What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
“Actually, no! I'm currently studying political science and ancient history in university, if that tells you anything about my former career goals. I really just had a eureka moment of ‘this could be a great product’ and discovered a love for the entrepreneurial path as I dove into it.”
How did you come up with your startup idea? How did you decide to actually act on the idea? What gave you confidence that you were on the right track?
“My eureka moment came actually the first time I ever tried kava, on a family trip to Fiji. I decided then and there that I wanted to spread the warmth, generosity, and sincerity that I experienced there. Especially having been in really rigorous environments my whole academic career and seeing friends and family continue that mindset into their work lives, I thought that something like Leilo would really be able to help people. From the beginning, I believed I was on the right track.”
How did you come up with your company name? Did you have other names you considered?
“It was a moment of inspiration from a text. Ethan, my co-founder, and I were brainstorming names in our dorm room when we received a message from a friend who was asking us to go out with them. Ethan said, ‘can’t do that, we’re laying low trying to figure out a name for this company,’ and thus the name was born.”
What is the greatest challenge you faced in starting your business, and how did you overcome it?
“The most obvious one is the fact that we officially launched just as the pandemic first started spreading rapidly in New York City. My team was suddenly scattered across the country, our retail agreements in LA and NYC fell through as those markets basically shut down for several months, and so we had to immediately pivot to DTC sales almost exclusively. I think that was a valuable lesson in maintaining optimism and agility in the face of dynamic circumstances.”
Who is your product or service made for? Who is your target market?
“Anyone who has a reason to relax. We want to be for relaxation what Red Bull is for energy.”
What's your marketing strategy?
“By far, the most effective marketing strategy we employ is on-the-ground sampling and education. We certainly see a positive uptick from our work with micro-influencers, implementation of paid social ads, etc., but consumers are increasingly aware and averse to advertisements in their feeds.”
How did you acquire your first 100 customers?
“We reached out to a lot of retailers, including kava bar owners, while we were preparing to launch. I think pretty much all of our initial customers were already in the kava space, but we've grown rapidly since then. I'm really glad that we're reaching a lot of people who've never tried or maybe even heard of kava before.”
What are the key customer metrics / unit economics / KPIs you pay attention to in order to monitor the health of your business?
“The bottom line is always keeping our customers happy with the product. We're always looking at our churn rate and figuring out ways to keep it as low as possible. It's all great to get new DTC customers and retailers, but the bottom line is always to keep them with us as long as possible.”
What's your favorite book on entrepreneurship?
“‘The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less’ by Barry Schwartz”
What is your favorite startup or business podcast?
“‘Elevate Your Brand’ by Laurel Mintz.”
What is something that surprised you about entrepreneurship?
“It wasn't much of a surprise, but the amount of support that we've received is massive. There will always be people willing to help you if you put yourself out there, and we're really benefiting from that universal truth.”
How do you achieve work/life balance as a founder?
“I make sure to take time every week to play pick-up basketball, cook a new recipe, or read a nice novel to take my mind off work. Despite the fact that we run a relaxation business, it does get a little stressful sometimes. Mindfulness practice, healthy eating, and using weekends to catch up on sleep also keeps me from getting swallowed by the work that comes with what we're trying to accomplish.”
How do you stay motivated?
“I think the scope of the mission is enough to stay motivated. I know how much potential we have to make change, either just as a popular beverage or as a rejection of the current work hard/play hard professional culture.”
Did you have to develop any habits that helped lead you to success? If so, what are they?
“My google calendar is always up to date and is filled out sometimes down to the hour every day!”
What are you most proud of as an entrepreneur?
“A lot of progress has been made since Leilo's inception, but I am proud to say that the same people, my family, and friends in Fiji, who were there at the start, continue to be my closest advisers and supporters. Because of them, the progress feels even better because it's a journey we've taken together.”
More on Leilo
Sol Broady, founder of beverage startup Leilo, shared valuable insights during our interview that will inspire and motivate aspiring entrepreneurs.