What it Takes: The Bitter Housewife
The Bitter Housewife
with Genevieve Brazelton, Founder & CMO
What is your company? How did you get started?
The Bitter Housewife. It all started with a project to create content for my blog and a joke I made to my husband. I made bitters as something to write about on my urban homesteading/entertaining blog and it turned out they were quite good. A bit later, over old fashioned cocktails with said bitters, discussing business ideas my husband asked if I thought we could make a business out of selling bitters. I said, “I have no idea, but we should call it The Bitter Housewife.” The rest is, as they say, history.
What is/was the hardest obstacle(s) you've had to overcome?
The past seven years have had more obstacles that I can remember, but a lot of it comes down to the fact that we make really unique products.
We started with just making cocktail bitters, but there’s not a lot of folks making bitters. That means there aren’t many models for what the business should look like (I’m talking margins and distribution channels) or how to scale it or even how to solve production issues.
When we launched the Bitters & Soda and decided to make a carbonated, zero alcohol beverage from real ingredients everyone said we were crazy. Most companies use flavorings, but we didn’t want to go that route. We believe in real ingredients, not lab created flavors. Not only did we have custom equipment made, but we also talked to countless people trying to find a way to make our product shelf stable without loading it full of preservatives.
And then there’s the fact that most people just don’t know what Bitters & Soda is and those that do expect it to have small amounts of both alcohol and sugar. Our Bitters & Soda is challenging and polarizing. Some people think it’s downright awful, but many, many more think what we’re making is awesome because there’s nothing else like it.
That’s a long-winded way of saying when you pioneer a product almost everything is an obstacle, but it’s also what makes it so special.
What are near-term (and longer-term) plans for the future of your business?
Right now, we’re focused on expanding distribution of our Bitters & Soda across the Pacific Northwest, getting a fourth flavor launched, and building a thriving membership program for subscribers.
Longer term plans will be focused on growing our subscriber base and strategically expanding distribution into key regions where we’re already seeing a demand for Bitters & Soda.
Who or what inspires you as an individual or as a company?
I am inspired by flavor, food, and drink. Finding new combinations, really delving into a familiar one, or simply savoring a simple favorite. When I’m able to share that with someone and see them experience something new or really understand for the first time how the different tastes (sweet, salty, bitter, sour) change each other, I consider it a great day at work.
What do you look for in a new partner/company to work with?
Ultimately, I’d say we look for the same values:
making the best possible products they can
engaging with their customers in an authentic way that is inherent to the brand
making something that is accessible and inclusive
We also look for partners that will allow us to reach an audience that is truly interested in what we’re doing. And we always ask if the partnership makes sense both right now and for our long-term goals.
What impact do you hope or want to make on consumers, communities, society in general?
We’d love to help normalize not drinking and a general approach of moderation in all things, and the appreciation of craft and real ingredients.
As I mentioned before so much of the beverage industry is created in a lab and that makes me sad. Food and beverage should come from real ingredients, so your body knows what to do with it.
I’d also love to see our society shift away from wonder products that claim to fix all that’s wrong with us and instead just appreciate good food and drink, knowing that’s enough.
Can you share an important mistake/misstep you made in the business?
I’d like to share a general lesson that seems so obvious when I say it but is often hard for entrepreneurs and small business owners to remember – grow your business sustainably.
Ask yourself with each venture and major decision, can I sustain this? Does this really help my business long-term, and does it get me closer to my goals?
It’s easy to fall into the trap of following every opportunity because of the promise, but if it doesn’t fit into the long-term plan or you don’t think through the consequences (good and bad) you can easily find yourself in a place of making reactionary decisions or even desperate ones. It’s a horrible place to be.
Can you share something about yourself (your business) that many might be surprised to learn?
I still think that someday I may write a book, a collection of short stories.
Learn more at: https://thebitterhousewife.com/
What it Takes is a series of interviews with founders who were brave enough to take the leap, make mistakes, pivot, and keep going. This is What It Takes to be an entrepreneur. If you're a creator who is determined to follow a purpose or push the boundaries, then you’ve signed up to make mistakes, that’s the price of innovation.