Drinks with Kendra Kuppin

Drinks with Kendra Kuppin

Kendra and I met up for a coffee just around the corner from her office in Holborn to have a chat about drinks in cans. The sector is growing at quite a speed and Kendra has a real insight how this will be a huge part of the drinks industry in years to come. If you’re interested in launching your own product, Kendra would be the perfect person to talk to. I couldn’t fit everything we talked about into this interview, so do check out her work.

Hello, tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Kendra Kuppin and I’m an internal founder for ZX Ventures. I’m originally from L.A., but ended up working in New York after college. I started my career in finance, which I realised very quickly was not what I wanted pursue long term. My goal was to do something that genuinely interested me; something that wasn’t just a job, but an opportunity to learn about a topic that engaged me. That lead me to food & beverage innovation, so I decided to take a leap and start my own business. I launched a small start-up, a cocktail service company, called Spice & Spoon. I absolutely loved building and running my startup, but after several years, I felt that it had plateaued as a boutique business and I wanted something more. From there, I went to business school and got an MBA at MIT in Boston. Then I started my current role with ZX!

So what does your job actually entail?

To be honest my job is all over the place. When you’re a founder, you can’t just focus on one thing, so your days are mixed and varied. For example, yesterday I was at meetings with a wholesaler all day. The day before that I was working with our distributor to figure out a strategy and with our designers to create more marketing material. I work with our social media team to set up ad testing. The list goes on and on. It makes the job really fun, but you kind of have to spin a lot of plates at once. It keeps it very interesting because it’s always a challenge and I’m always learning something new.

How long have you been in the drinks industry?

I had my cocktail services start-up for several years. But that was a different experience because it was a services company, I wasn’t creating a physical product. It was a good introduction into the world of course. It’s all relative learning, especially running a start-up. Sincerely Sabella, I’ve been running for a year. It just went into the market eight weeks ago. On one hand that feels like a long time, but when I look back I am very proud of the journey. 

What was the reason behind creating Sincerely Sabella?

I believe there’s a huge opportunity right now for high-end convenience alcohol. Our generation, millennials, we strive for convenience in every single industry. In drinks, however, most convenience options, meaning pre-mixed in single-serve format, are for young drinkers, who are just of age. You have the alco-pops, the high ABV drinks, stuff that’s super high in sugar, and made with cheap ingredients, but there’s nothing to graduate into when you get a little older. I think premium craft beer actually solves for this for beer drinkers, but for people that don’t prefer beer, there’s a real gap. So I designed something to fill that void.

Sabella is a premium cocktail in a can…for adults. It’s made with Italian white wine and Italian blood orange juice, there are no artificial ingredients or colours, and it’s not sweet. A can is about 100kcal and there’s 5g of sugar so it’s super light and refreshing. 

What’s your favourite part of working in the drinks industry?

I was talking to someone recently  who used to work in this industry and he moved to a different industry. Anyway, we had a conversation and I was asking him how do you like your new job? He was like, I totally underestimated how significantly a genuine interest and passion in the businesses that you’re working affects your day to day happiness. I know that might sound obvious, but I can’t think of anything I do that I don’t enjoy working on Sabella. Don’t get me wrong, it’s tough and emotionally draining sometimes, but I’m always motivated to work through the challenges and get to the next step. But to answer your question, I would say I most enjoy the creation process. 

To counteract, what’s your least favourite part?

Back end work. Let’s saying we’re setting up the website or setting up the finances, that sort of back end structure that’s incredibly important, but it’s just the plumbing and the piping. I don’t like that.

Do you think being a woman has affected your career?

I would say, yes in a positive way. It’s because of the community. I find the women I meet to be very open to helping each other which I think is amazing. And I would say within this industry even more so because there are so few women in it.

What’s been the biggest challenge with Sincerely Sabella?

It’s an exciting challenge, but I would say launching in the UK market. I’m from the U.S. and I’ve never lived here before. I came here to launch a new drink. So while I’m trying to find my footing as an entrepreneur, I’m also trying to find my footing as a newcomer in the U.K. It is a different culture and I do think it’s important to acknowledge that. To be clear, I’m loving it, it’s just still new!

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to someone who wanted to do your job?

I would say you have to have a lot of grit. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes, don’t be afraid of failure. Just keep pushing forward. Anyone who starts a business or sees something start small grow into something bigger faces a lot of negativity. It’s an emotional rollercoaster ride. Develop a thick skin…which isn’t easy.

How can we support you?

Honestly, I’m super excited. We just got onto Ocado and Amazon. We have very limited physical distribution, so having Sabella accessible throughout the UK by being online is a big win. Also, if anyone is doing any female entrepreneurship events that they need drinks for, I’m your girl, just get in touch, Sabella would love to support. The best way is probably to message me on Instagram.


What is your favourite drink at the moment?

Sincerely Sabella, of course. But in general, I love tequila and mezcal. I miss them because in L.A and New York tequila or mezcal is such a big thing. No one drinks them here! I’ve definitely had more gin and tonics since I moved here to London six months ago than I had probably consumed in my entire life prior. So other than Sincerely Sabella I would support Tequila, I want it to be bigger in the U.K.

If you know a lady in the drinks industry that you would like to see interviewed, pop an email to drinkswithhebe@mail.com. 
If you are a lady in the drinks industry, join our Facebook group, Ladies of Liquor to connect with the rest of us!

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