Our Small Business Story
It all started with two women, an old slurpie dog machine (you remember those convenience store slurpies?), and a printer on its last legs. Really.
This is our small business story. Like many other small businesses, the ideas began to spin around a dinner table, between two family members (we are sister in laws, and more importantly great friends), and included the words, “really how hard can this be?” Let it be known – these are famous last words.
Erin had bought a wine slushy mix at a holiday fair a few weeks earlier, and had saved it for Thanksgiving Dinner so we could all give it a try. We had no intentions beyond just having a nice dinner. And the slushy was okay, but way too sweet, and the chemical ingredients left something to be desired.
After drinking a bit too much, we started thinking, “I bet we could make a mix like this, only much better.” “I bet we could make wine cocktail mixes that had great ingredients, were less sweet, and that had great real food ingredients. Really, how hard could it be? We could package them and sell them. Easy as pie.”
Honestly, we both needed a new business like we need holes in our heads. Erin had a full-time job in the corporate world, and was adding a second career in fitness. Kelli already had her own online business and three children. But the idea stuck around and we couldn’t shake it. And so it began. We did what any other normal women would do, we started experimenting with wine slushies.
And as you might think, it was fun. We were adamant (and still are!) about the *best* ingredients. No compromises. We’ll figure out logistics and finances later. No ingredients that we couldn’t be proud of. We want organic, delicious mixers…nothing less! Then, we became slightly obsessed with wine cocktail mixes. Because why just make plain wine slushies when you could make delicious citrus sangrias, moscow mules, spiced wine, and more?
We started serving our drinks at parties. Any party. Our friends, neighbors, acquaintances become our first taste-testers. Football parties, Holiday parties, tailgate parties. We measured and mixed and tested and tried again.
Next, it was Farmer’s Markets & Christmas Fairs. We knew we needed more help, in the form of a slushie machine so we could serve it, and we found it on Craigslist. We named it the Lushenator and kept going.
It took us about 6 months before the business could sustain itself and we no longer wrote personal checks to keep it going. And in another 6 months or so, we finally began making profit. And it was a good thing, because that old printer finally died and there were still labels to be printed.
Along the way, we’ve been fortunate enough to enlist the help of friends and family… everything from Head Lushenator Mechanic to Sangria Sample Mixer to Graphic Design and more. And these latter weren’t just friends with a copy of photoshop on their laptop, these were ones with amazing professional skills. When it came to our labels and design, we had aspirations as great as those for our organic ingredients. We’ve always wanted labels and bags that “people would be proud to hold while they walked down the street.” Like we said, our friends have mad skills and we think you’ll agree that our labels are beautiful.
Now, it’s November 2017, and it’s been about 4.5 years since we first made Lush official. We’ve definitely grown since then, and we know that it won’t even compare to the growth still ahead of us. Our mixes are now sold in a few handfuls of wineries, breweries, wine bars, restaurants, and boutique stores across the nation, and we’ve got no intention of stopping. Our small business has survived two more pregnancies and births of children (now 5 children between us), two recent family moves, one across the country, and the overseas deployment of Erin’s husband (Kelli’s brother), who is a soldier in the US Army. It’s survived really long nights, depleted budgets, huge mistakes (ahem “learning opportunities”), eye-blurring paperwork, and so much more. Always along the way, somehow there’s been someone who’s encouraged us in our path. A new customer who graciously allowed for our first-year learning curve, a friend or family member who’s stepped in to help label bags, a local brewery that’s made our humble mix a much-loved town favorite, an article that’s named our Spiced Wine one of the best 10 in the country (woot woot!), or a new review telling us how they impressed all their friends with their mixologist skills by serving Lush at a recent party.
If Lush isn’t yet sold locally in your area, you can also find it on Amazon. If you’d like to support Lush and help our small business story live on, there’s a few things you can do. 1) Buy Lush of course! – you won’t be disappointed, 2) share our story and tell everyone you know about Lush, and 3) if you’ve tried Lush, leave an unbiased review of Lush on Amazon here – as a small business competing with much larger companies, this means the world!
We believe small businesses are good for our communities and our country. It’s given us the amazing opportunity to give back to the community, mostly in the form of helping those struggling with hunger – programs such the Denver Rescue Mission, Feeding America, Military causes, and local Backpack Programs (we donate for each bag sold). We believe small businesses, even a wine cocktail mixer ones, can be the difference that this world needs. And, we love working with other small businesses (those wine bars, breweries, gourmet food stores, etc) that give back to their communities as well. It’s this passion that has been a huge motivator for us, and maybe even the difference between continuing on or hanging it up when times have been tough. It’s drives us. Because no matter what you make and sell, you can use it as an opportunity to make a difference.
Thanks for reading our story. We hope it’s intertwined with yours somehow. We appreciate you and your business more than we can say…of course, without it, there would be no small business story. So from the bottom of our hearts, Thank You! And, Cheers!
Erin Rose Myers & Kelli Jennings