Internationaler Frauentag

Female Founders in the NO/LOW space:

Today is 8th March, the International Women's Day and a chance to celebrate the many wonderful women that make the no/low alcohol industry so colourful and interesting.

We are lucky to be working with many small, independent businesses that have a clear mission - to create alcohol-free drinks with highest quality ingredients, standards and flavour.

We have taken the time to speak to a few of the leaders and are sharing their insights and their advice with you:

Erika Ollen, founder of Gnista Spirits 

Introduce your company in one sentence:

Gnista makes complex, intense and full-bodied dark spirits by hand in Sweden.

What prompted you to start/co-start an alcohol-free drinks business?

I have been into this space since 2015, and when I saw the first non-alcoholic spirits popping up, I didn’t agree with where the category was heading! For me, and bartenders that I spoke to, liquids required for late night spirit drinking occasions need to have resistance, depth and a lingering finish. I saw the need for a spirit complementing the fresh and mild non-alcoholic gins flooding the market back then. The one I wanted to create should work just as nice to be enjoyed neat as fit for holding up the base of a no/low cocktails. My background is gastronomy and that’s where I started. Today we offer smoky Barreled Oak (to replace whisky) and bitter Floral Wormwood (as an aperitif or versatile in cocktails and long drinks).

What has been the most challenging thing so far in running your own business?

Covid. The entire hospitality industry – our planned customers! – turned off the lights right after we launched. Tough! In particular in combination with continuous bootstrapping since day one. Which has meant we haven’t been able to grow e-com and paid online advertisements (and today, when we have some funds, there is a never ending discussion with Google and Facebook who keep telling us they Will Not promote alcoholic beverages...)

On the other hand, this slower growth, compared to what we planned for given the fantastic feedback, has given the opportunity to partner with amazing importing teams around the world which helps a lot when we’re now scaling around the world.

What has been the most rewarding?

To be part of the massive no/low wave sweeping the world. SO many dedicated people, who’re into this space for various reasons. But what everyone has in common is that they are open-minded and curious.

Another side of the same coin is to experience the change of attitude of markets and people not working within the field. One - but a very significant – example is Systembolaget (the Swedish Monopoly and the single biggest buyer of alcoholic beverages in the world). In 2019 they were sceptical of the category, to say the least. Last summer (when I sent my yearly reminder that we exist) their opinion had shifted and they decided Gnista was hugely exciting and certainly something they wanted to launch. Sept 2022, that is. Slow, but I guess for a reason.

Where do you see the non-alcoholic industry in the next 5 years?

Booming! And with even more focus on quality and creativity: As consumers get more accustomed to non-alcoholic drinks they will need less of the labels (“non-alcoholic gin” “non-alcoholic wine” etc). Instead, their drinks of choice will be more based on the occasion in which they are to be consumed, and the sensory requirements of those occasions.

What advice would you give to any woman looking to start her own business? 

My advice is for all, women And men

  1. Be careful in how you spend your time, it’s impossible to run after every ball. Instead, choose the ones that are most likely to bring results.
  2. Stay focused when you work and TAKE TIME OFF nights and weekends. No one can deliver great results without rest.
  3. Focus on what matters and pick the perfect customers – it’s so much more fun to sell to people who will actually benefit from your product or service!

Stella-Oriana Strüfing, founder of Laori 

Introduce your company in one sentence:

Laori makes alcohol-free alternatives to known spirits with a product range of alcohol-free Gin and Rum. With us you can enjoy a Gin & Tonic without the hangover.

What prompted you to start/co-start an alcohol-free drinks business?

Laori was created out of my own need three years ago. At a night out at a Berlin bar I did not want to drink and ended up with warm alcohol-free beer and sugary cocktails with a lot of fruit and little umbrellas. I said " I just want to have a Gin & Tonic without the alcohol" and the idea for Laori was born. After experimenting and distilling in my own kitchen, I understood that we have to change the process of how to make alcohol-free spirits to get to the same result and make a tasty gin alternative. Luckily I teamed up with Christian and together we created our vision of alcohol-free drinks.

What has been the most challenging thing so far in running your own business?

The initial uphill battle of our category. The first 24 months my main job was to convince business partners, producers, investors and retailers alike that the no-alc category is blossoming and here to stay. When we started hardly anyone believed in this. Now everyone is on board. No one is questioning this category anymore, it’s here, it’s growing and everyone is keeping an eye on it. We’re proud to be on the forefront of this movement.

What has been the most rewarding?

We created a physical product that people can enjoy. So seeing so many people enjoying our product and mixing drinks with it is still somehow unreal and I still can’t believe it when I see that on Insta.

Where do you see the non-alcoholic industry in the next 5 years?

Non-alcoholic industry is growing at a rapid pace and I believe that they are here to stay. So I see that we will play a role in every bar and store. That we can enjoy delicious alcohol-free drinks for adults everywhere.

What advice would you give to any woman looking to start her own business?

Stop talking about it, start doing. Start with baby steps and it will help you get started.

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