From Bottle to Single-Serve Sustainability With Hilary Cocalis of Sipwell Wine Co.

by Drew Hendricks
Last updated Jan 26, 2022

Legends Behind the Craft Podcast

From Bottle to Single-Serve Sustainability With Hilary Cocalis of Sipwell Wine Co.

Hilary Cocalis

Hilary Cocalis is the Founder and Chief Go-Getter of Sipwell Wine Co., a premium canned wine brand, and she’s a Strategy Consultant for Bex Brands, where she primarily helps beverage clients align their marketing strategies. She is a fourth-generation entrepreneur and has more than a decade of experience working in the marketing space for both beverage brands and agencies — helping Ballast Point grow into a national beer brand, which was ultimately acquired for one billion dollars by Constellation Brands.

She graduated from Harvard University with a degree in African and African-American studies, Harvard Business School of Executive Education in their Constellation Brands Executive Development Program, and went on to earn her master’s in specialized journalism from the University of Southern California.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Hilary Cocalis shares how she got into wine and her inspiration behind canning wine
  • The value of understanding your target audience — and what makes canned wine appealing to an active consumer
  • Hilary talks about overcoming the challenge of crafting a carbonated wine and her unique production method 
  • Why education is becoming a key marketing strategy in the alcohol beverage space
  • Hilary discusses Sipwell’s wine subscription box experience
  • What is one of the biggest mistakes new brands make?
  • Hilary gives wine recommendations: Lambrusco, Riesling, and Champagne

In this episode with Hilary Cocalis

Is your developing alcohol beverage brand struggling to gain traction in the market? How do you connect with your consumer and showcase the value of your drink?

Hilary Cocalis is a pioneer in the wine industry and is remodeling the wine beverage industry to bring her innovative, fresh, and sustainable canned wine to your doorstep. She has experience marketing brands and knows that consumer knowledge is vital for a brand to be seen and succeed in today’s market.

Join Drew Hendricks on this episode of Legends Behind the Craft as he talks with Hilary Cocalis, Founder and Chief Go-Getter at Sipwell Wine Co., to talk about delivering fresh, carbonated canned wine with unparalleled taste. Hilary shares why it is crucial to understand your target audience, the canning process of wine, and marketing mistakes to avoid as a beverage brand.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Barrels Ahead.

Barrels Ahead is a wine and craft marketing agency that propels organic growth by using a powerful combination of content development, Search Engine Optimization, and paid search.

At Barrels Ahead, we know that your business is unique. That’s why we work with you to create a one-of-a-kind marketing strategy that highlights your authenticity, tells your story, and makes your business stand out from your competitors.

Our team at Barrels Ahead helps you leverage your knowledge so you can enjoy the results and revenue your business deserves.

So, what are you waiting for? Unlock your results today!

To learn more, visit or email us at to schedule a strategy call.

Episode Transcript

Intro  0:03  

Welcome to the Legends Behind the Craft podcast where we feature top leaders in the wine and craft beverage industry with your host Drew Hendricks. Now let’s get started with the show

Drew Hendricks  0:19  

Drew Thomas Hendricks here I’m the host of the Legends Behind the Craft podcast where I talk with leaders in the wine craft beverage industry, from tech companies enable wineries to run optimum efficiency. Today’s guest Hilary Cocalis, who’s building one of the California’s leading canned wine brands from the ground up. Past guests of Legends Behind the Craft include Daniel Daou of Daou Vineyards, Joe Wagner Copper Cane Wines and Provisions. And Paul Mabray CEO of If you haven’t listened to these yet, be sure to check them out and subscribe. Today’s episode is sponsored by Barrels Ahead. At Barrels Ahead, we work with you to implement a one of a kind marketing strategy. When that highlights your authenticity, tells your story and connects you with your ideal customers. In short, we help wineries and craft beverage producers unlock their story to unleash their revenue. Go to today to learn more. I am super excited to talk today with Hilary Cocalis. Hilary is the founder and chief go getter for Sipwell Wine Co. suppose her first foray into wine after a long storied career in the beer industry. And Hilary This is also Hilary’s first entrepreneurial venture, which is not running Sipwell. Hilary is a brand advisor and consultant, brother, founder led food and beverage brands. Welcome to the show, Hilary.

Hilary Cocalis  1:32  

Thanks, for I’m super excited to chat with you.

Drew Hendricks  1:35  

I’m super excited to have you on. So tell me how I’m jumping? Just straight into it. How did you? Why did you decide to make the transition from the beer industry? To the wine industry?

Hilary Cocalis  1:45  

Yeah, that’s a good question. Um, I mean, the short answer is that I just like drinking wine. You know, I love the beer industry. And I have so many friends and contacts there. And even you know, in the role in my role as a consultant advisor to other brands, I’m working with other breweries, too. So I’m always a beer fan and remain of your fan. But for me, I just, you know, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve just gotten more and more interested in the craft behind wine. You know, fermentation is more or less the same, but just the, the white grapes is an agricultural product. And you know, how the land and the farming practices pull out the flavors, how the different grape varieties have different flavors. And now it’s just, for whatever reason, that just really started to pique my interest. And I started, you know, visiting more wineries and going on tastings and just kind of becoming a student on wine myself. And so, for me, taking the next step, after you know, my career and beer, it kind of made sense to jump into wine. You know, the learning curve in the alcohol industry already use pretty high and so I feel like I had jumped at curve just, you know, getting into the industry and beer, but it is wine is totally different. It’s a different animal. And it’s funny, you know, we’ve talked to brewers, they say winemaking is really complicated. If you talk to winemakers, they say oh, man, beer is super hot. It’s the grass is always greener thing, I think. But for me, it was just it was a personal interest. It’s where my tastes started to go and also just where I saw an opportunity to do something really unique and innovative with wine in a can.

Drew Hendricks  3:35  

And that’s the next one. So you’ve made the leap from beer to wine and then choosing the can. Why can?

Hilary Cocalis  3:42  

um, there are a number of reasons why cans first of all, they’re more sustainable as a package. And you know, for me, it was a major sustainability plan sustainability message. Aluminum itself is typically a recycled material even when they make a new can it’s made from majority recycled aluminum. But they’re lighter to ship they take up less space, they require less packaging. They’re infinitely recyclable. So it’s you know, recycling and made into new aluminum cans again, and so this sustainability message was huge. The other piece of it for me was personally I was looking for a way to get wine into a smaller serving size. I’m a mom I have young kids. I’d like a glass of wine at the end of the night without having to open a whole bottle. That’s really for me the aha moment was how can I do this in a way that I’m not wasting a bottle I’m not drinking a whole bottle but I have it in a convenient serving size that you know a glass of glass and a half and I’m done and you know the can especially the 250 milliliter cam which is what ours are is the perfect opportunity to do that. So smaller serving size so moderation, sustainability And there is a quality piece to it. So, you know, obviously you can’t put all types of wine in a can wine that needs to be aged, should remain in bottles and needs corks. But you know, for wine that’s meant to be drunk, fresh, and there are a lot of advantages to wine in a can, you know, you don’t risk any light pollution or anything like that. And so, in some respects, it actually is equally as good, if not better for the quality of the wine to put it in a can.

Drew Hendricks  5:32  

So I would agree. I am very enthused about what’s going on in the can wine business. also wondering if they have done there’s got to be some stories about the age ability within within a loom can

Hilary Cocalis  5:44  

you know, I am not my business is not old enough to like keep a library. I’ve had old him wine on it. I think the the issue there is not the liquid, but the can so like, you know, any liquid in a can especially somewhat acidic liquid, I think has a shelf life. And that’s really, that’s the limit of the aluminum. More than like, you know what it does? The line itself was asked me in three or four years, and I’ll tell you how our first vintage just say,

Drew Hendricks  6:15  

yeah, that’s gonna be curious. I’ll have to definitely do that. But for portability for consumption for immediate use, you’re a pretty compelling picture of why most producers should be using canned wine. Mm

Hilary Cocalis  6:27  

hmm. Absolutely. And you know, it’s starting to become a thing and in this category, but I still think there’s a huge stigma around it. I think a lot of people just expect there to be bad faultline in cans and and don’t see a lot of folks like us that are doing small production that are doing interesting things with grapes and fermentation. To you know, hopefully try and change that stigma.

Drew Hendricks  6:52  

Yeah, I mean, there’s we have that stigma about 20 years ago in the screwcaps. Came on Right, exactly. Okay. And then Paul Meyer decides to or decides to work on it. And wasn’t I was pumped up pumped, Jack came out with their screw cap on the $80. Bottle. Mm hmm. kind of story started changing opinions on that. So yeah, I think the audience is very receptive. And your target market is also more receptive to new things. Tell me about Sipwell’s target market?

Hilary Cocalis  7:17  

Yeah. So it’s funny when folks ask me who the ideal consumer is, I say, it’s me. But, you know, I would say it is probably a younger wine drinker, someone who’s interested in it, but maybe not that, that super, you know, nerdy collector. I think it’s someone who is probably, you know, was drinking a lot of beer or probably got into craft beer, and now their tastes and their, you know, exploring more and looking to try more wine and just someone who is who is active who wants that portability piece once the convenience of a winery can.

Drew Hendricks  7:55  

And anecdotally, I can say that, definitely, we go camping a lot. Can wines have really changed the way that we pack for our trips? And then also go into sporting events? It’s a lot easier to Yeah.

Hilary Cocalis  8:07  

Yes, yeah. Bottling gas. Yeah. And we live near the beach. I mean, it’s so much easier to bring wine to the beach. And

Drew Hendricks  8:16  

that’s a great point. So going back a second here. When you decide to find Sipwell. This is your first entrepreneurial venture? What? What prepares you for that?

Hilary Cocalis  8:27  

That’s a good question. Um, you know, I have no professional experience that really prepared me for it. Other than working for companies and brands, and working closely with founders and seeing other entrepreneurs do it, you know, at a later later stage, obviously. But I also tell people that I feel like I have it someone in my DNA, I’ve always been that person who’s coming up with business ideas, or even as a kid, all my business, all my pretend games, were running a business or a store or something. So I actually have kind of a cool family history on my dad’s side. I am a fourth generation entrepreneur. So so my dad is an entrepreneur, his dad and his grandfather, also were entrepreneurs. So like I said, I think it’s somewhat kind of in my DNA. But other than that, I mean, no practical experience, actually doing it and you know, getting the work done. So that whole aspect of it of just starting a company and building something from scratch has definitely been a huge learning experience for me.

Drew Hendricks  9:41  

Yeah, I can imagine I found a bunch of different companies, some more successful than others. And I guess the biggest thing other than being your DNA, is that courage just to take the leap and do it. Yes. And trust that. What when you’re presented with a problem, there’s you’ll find the solution. Mm

Hilary Cocalis  9:59  

hmm. I’ve always been kind of like a problem solver type of person always been willing to get my hands dirty and kind of figure things out. It’s funny though, because I would not call myself a risk taker, I think I’m generally fairly risk averse. This is probably among the riskier things I’ve ever done. So, you know, in that respect, it’s definitely been a little bit of a leap of faith, for sure.

Drew Hendricks  10:23  

Talking about challenges and problems, not problems, because there’s challenges and solutions. What was some of the biggest challenges you faced when you’re ramping up? Sipwell?

Hilary Cocalis  10:33  

That’s a good question. I, you know, a big challenge for me was just figuring out the permitting piece of it. So, you know, I knew I had the product idea down, I had the business bottle down that I wanted to sell both online and potentially in person. But that it was a piece of just figuring out well, how do I do this? You know, how can I operate as a winery without having a physical winery location. So you know, navigating kind of the, the ups and downs of the alcohol legal system to figure that out. And then also just the challenge of figuring out how to how to get the wine made, how to get it and the care and and the biggest challenge we had really in the product development was figuring out how to make carbonated wine. So the idea was always to launch with sparkling wine, which we do, we have free sparkling wines. But I didn’t want to just carbonate, I didn’t want to just put some co2 in a tag and put that in again, you know, I wanted to achieve it through some level of traditional method or something akin to sparkling wine. And so figuring out that process was definitely a challenge, but a fun one. What we ultimately do actually, is we do a process called can conditioning, which is pretty popular in the beer industry insider, where the liquid goes through secondary fermentation in the can, and that’s what creates the carbonation. But no one in wine is really doing that, or at least that we knew of. So me trying to figure out that process from scratch with the help of several other folks and literally doing homebrew r&d trials and in my kitchen, where, you know, I’m mixing yeast and wine and capping it into bottles, all that stuff. So kind of a fun challenge to get me back to my, like homebrewing hobbies and beer roots to figure that out. But you know, that was the biggest, biggest challenge. And then doing that at scale. Once we got to production, making sure it worked at scale was was a huge challenge and a risk. And luckily, it worked out.

Drew Hendricks  12:51  

How are you able to buy into the canning facility? They’re not set up out of the box to be triggering secondary fermentation? How did you go about that?

Hilary Cocalis  12:59  

So good question. So I actually don’t use a canning facility. I don’t go to like a traditional like CO Packer manufacturer. What I do is I have a host winery in Paso I work with MCV wines, Napa lards, the winemaker there. And he’s great. And so have a lot more control over the production of the wine and setting it up. And then I partner with a mobile canner. So we bring in a canning line. So a lot more flexibility. And our mobile canning partner has a lot of experience with ciders keg conditioning on that level, so they were comfortable with it, or as comfortable as you know, they were willing to jump. So, you know, luckily, kind of doing it, like I said on a smaller production scale helped us to kind of work out those kinks and really be a lot more hands on than going to one of these big bottling or canning facilities. And, you know, having a little bit more restrictions there.

Drew Hendricks  14:00  

Sure. Sure. And I think with the winemaking part of it. I mean, the amount of extra sugar you put in there is really dependent upon the alcohol level. Yes. I’m imagining all the challenges you just overcame to make that happen.

Hilary Cocalis  14:14  

Yes. Yeah. It’s a lot of math too, which is not my strength.

Drew Hendricks  14:20  

How about finding the fruit where I know your source, some of the lesser known varietals and a little more distinctive than just your buttery sharpness?

Hilary Cocalis  14:29  

Yeah. For me, I just feel like that’s more interesting. I like kind of trying new varietals. I think getting people’s palates beyond just, you know, buttery Chardonnay or, you know, super Ogee cab is good, especially, I think for California, you know, for this market. I think we’re, you know, getting people to know California for different varieties is really important. And you know, It is, again, for me being small in production and trying to find out what’s available. It’s a little bit just at the mercy of what the market is. I don’t have contracts with growers or other wineries or anything like that. And so part of that is happenstance. And part of that is just wanting to do things a little bit differently and something a little more unique. Sure.

Drew Hendricks  15:23  

Which, right now, you’ve got three sparkling and you’ve got to still ganache. Yes. Yep. Yeah, me planning to do it. My favorite is a sparkling ganache. There’s there’s a canned wine out of Arizona. Jim Canaan’s Merkin sellers. He’s got a fantastic what actually is queen bee is queen bee brand. Okay. Big fan of that one.

Hilary Cocalis  15:47  

Yeah, you know, we actually talked about when we made the Grow dosh and the original intent for it was to make it to be our sparkling red but the way it turned out it was just super rich, really complex, like love the flavor of it is not quite at least what I had in mind for sparkling red. I wanted something lighter, fruitier. And this one was just like, you know, lots of open space and varying characteristics. And so that again, was kind of a happy accident. I mean, the garage is amazing. I would love to do more still wine releases. Oh, yeah. But yeah, I mean, our sparkling wine red is made from Dolcetto. Which is really cool. It’s interesting grape. It’s kind of inspired by Italian Lambrusco. But the thought behind it and my inspiration for it. I would love

Drew Hendricks  16:42  

cranberry quality to it. Yes. Yeah.

Hilary Cocalis  16:45  

For sure. Yes. Yeah. Yeah. Great. Like you keep it cold. It’s definitely yeah, very primary. I love sparkling reds. Like if I could I would just make sparkly red all day long. I don’t think the market is quite ready for

Drew Hendricks  17:00  

that. I’ve been trying for 20 years. Yeah, it’s very big in Australia.

Hilary Cocalis  17:04  

Big in Australia, big in Italy. I mean, there’s definitely there are kind of subcultures for it. I think there’s even pockets in the US where you find it. But again, that’s something where I think we’re a little bit ahead of the curve. I’d love to push people in that direction. And like I said, I’d love to make I would make sparkling red all day long. And like, if that’s all I could sell, but

Drew Hendricks  17:24  

I think the camera movements gonna finally yes. Can Yeah, it’s onramp to Yes. Yeah. Absolutely. We’re kind of used to drinking sparkling things from a camp.

Hilary Cocalis  17:34  

Right. And that’s part of it, too, is like, you want to drink something carbonated from the can. And so for me, sparkling wine made sense. Absolutely. Yeah.

Drew Hendricks  17:44  

So you mentioned so filming it, you found the source, you figured out how to do the secondary fermentation? How did you bring it to market?

Hilary Cocalis  17:52  

Yeah, that’s a good question. I mean, for me, that was the easy part. My background is in marketing. So you know, figuring out how you were the Dallas point was where your background is. Yes, yeah. Yeah. I was the head of marketing. Yeah. So that piece of it, the building the brand, the package design, even sourcing all the packaging and kind of building a go to market strategy. That was, like I said, that was I had that down already. It was

Drew Hendricks  18:23  

differences between the go to market strategy for beer versus wine.

Hilary Cocalis  18:28  

Um, well, I mean, for me, a big one is that I launched initially as direct to consumer. So just the opportunity line actually has a lot more favorable DTC laws, I would say than beer, at least, especially as you cross state lines. And so the strategy was definitely different just building this as a direct consumer brand. Thinking about the e-commerce component of it, which never really was a big part of Fells Points business are not something I focused on. So that was different beer to wine. And, you know, now that I am actually selling it into retail, there is a little bit of a learning curve, you know, how to speak to the wine buyer that’s a little bit different than the beer buyer and how people are thinking about their product mix. Versus beer, um, from the whole on premise versus off premise piece and wine is much, much different than beer, you know, dealing with kind of, how do people think about on premise pricing thinking about by the glass price versus by the bottle, which when you introduce cans into the mix is a total different method. But so that piece of it has been definitely something that’s different. And yeah, I mean, it’s, it is interesting, because because I have a canned product, it kind of toes the line, you know, I find that my top retail accounts are sort of bottle shops, beer and wine shops, folks that are, you know, thinking about craft beverages in general that are more progressive for beer and wine. So I, you know, it is a wine product, but I feel like I’m kind of living in the middle. And so it so to speak, or it could also be just an indication of being in San Diego, because it is such a beer focus market, and we are trying to build it locally, at least on a retail scale here. So I’m talking around a lot, hopefully, hopefully, I’m answering your question.

Drew Hendricks  20:40  

No, it’s no, it’s making sense. Just really, kind of the differences that you found in there, if there was any surprises that you encounter that you thought was gonna be easy? And wasn’t? Or you thought it would be hard? It’s like, oh, this is a piece of cake?

Hilary Cocalis  20:53  

Um That’s a good question. In terms of selling it, would you sell

Drew Hendricks  21:02  

him or just the differences between the beer and wine industry? Or the beer and wine marketing side? Bring it to market?

Hilary Cocalis  21:10  

Yes. I, you know, a big, big piece of it is just product education. You know, I think for, for wine, there’s a bigger stratification people either really want to know, everything that goes into the production, they want the whole tech sheet, they want all of the details. Or they don’t really care. They’re like, Oh, you’ve got Rose in a can great. Like sign me up. You know, there’s, it’s either, you know, being super crafty, being super knowledgeable, or just throw some, you know, cheap wine in the back and go.

Drew Hendricks  21:53  

I was thinking about least now here, and here in San Diego, I see the stores increasingly devoting shelf space to it. No See, probably on the national level that it really was not a shelf space devoted to canned wine until very recently. Yes, yeah. Stick it down by the box line or stick at some weird place, right? Look conducive to sales? Because it’s, you don’t really want it next to the box line? Because it’s not the Absolutely,

Hilary Cocalis  22:16  

yes. Yeah. That you know, and that you bring up a good point. And, you know, that’s probably the biggest challenge is figuring out what the shelf space is for. Where does it go? And for us, we’ve seen our products. Next, a hard Seltzer, you know, kind of the other alternative beverages, we’ve seen them kind of stuck in just any of the random single serve, ready to drink beverages. You don’t really see it merchandised with a whole set of canned wine, or with more eye involves, you know, so is that is that a little bit of a challenge? Because then we have to think about well, how are we making sure our packaging is clear that this is where I’m, you know, this is a full glass of wine. It’s not a wine spritzer, it’s not, you know, a hard seltzer that it is a wine product. But I think that will come with time, there are definitely certain stores that have a whole canned wine set. You know, the safe ways of the world, I think, are fairly devote a fair amount of shelf space to it. And I’m seeing it more and more, you know, in some of the bigger chains, but it’s, you know, the neighborhood grocery store, or, you know, the bottle shop were trying to figure out a space for it. It’s been a little bit tricky.

Drew Hendricks  23:36  

Yeah, I can imagine. I think that’s me changing very rapidly. Just the perception of the category evolves. I had a similar discussion with Brian McMillan, he does feisty need, they do 20 different needs. And his biggest challenge is, the stores don’t want to put the meat. Right. Maybe have two meats. Right, right. A little different, but same kind of challenges going to market. You say it started direct consumer online? And how did that go? going direct to consumer? And how did you work it out when nobody knew who you were?

Hilary Cocalis  24:13  

That’s a good question. So one of our big learnings, you know, launching the brand and stretch consumer is that it’s tricky with a beverage because people want to be able to try it, you know, and when you’re selling wine online, and we were we’re doing six and 12 packs. You lose that trial aspect. So people are trusting that they’re buying a good product. Yeah. So the original, I mean, have you launched your site and launched our site, and how do you get people there? We’ve been building it mostly through word of mouth. Do a little bit of paid advertising, but I’ve really haven’t scratched the surface there yet. Do some Google paid search which has been pretty beneficial but Really, it’s just been through friends and family and building, again, building the brand locally. So a big part of it is, even when we sell online, in San Diego, we offer free local delivery. So we want to be considered a local brand that you can buy online, but you know, it will come to you the next day. So, I, we have yet to kind of really scratched the surface, we’re not truly built to be a true e-commerce brand, like some of these other ones, you know, like some of these other consumer products, I’d have to spend a lot more money in digital advertising a lot more and, you know, email, communications and texting and all of that stuff, which we haven’t done yet. That’s not to say that we won’t, but the way that we’re thinking about it now is more of a combination of online, plus, retail, and wholesale. And, you know, building the brand, getting people to try it, you know, by buying an individual can and then hopefully, if they like it, they go online. And they

Drew Hendricks  26:06  

wonder why you’ve got a subscription service there. How do you have a buyers journey for the buyers journey, and that they usually start with a one off order, and they get a subscription, and you find them that just jumping in with a subscription.

Hilary Cocalis  26:17  

It’s typically one off order, or what we try and do is talk to folks who have bought one or maybe two times, you know, especially a repeat buyer, someone’s bought one, and then they come back and buy more than typically we say, Hey, did you know we also have a subscription sounds like you like the wine? You know, you can get it to delivered regularly when flexibly. So

Drew Hendricks  26:37  

that’s so important. I think few wineries do that secondary follow up in, for lack of a better word upsell the one off buyers into a subscription. Right, right. How have your sales, what percentage of subscriptions right now?

Hilary Cocalis  26:55  

It’s relatively well, I’d say it’s about 10%. So it’s a number we want to grow for sure, we do have a pretty high repeat pie. So we’ve got about 35% repeat buyers, which is great. But I’m still working on converting those folks to subscription. A lot of our online purchases have been gifts also. So we get a lot of people that are buying for somebody else and using it as a gift occasion, which was one of the main ways we were envisioning the the mailer box that we send out. So now it’s a question for us of well, then how do we capture the gift recipient, as someone in our community? And how do we get the gift recipient back? Back to buy some more? And that’s something we haven’t quite figured it out just yet.

Drew Hendricks  27:44  

in your subscription box? I mean, there’s a lot of thought that went into that. I mean, it’s not just your normal brown cardboard box being delivered, at least what I’m looking here on online. Yeah,

Hilary Cocalis  27:54  

we have, I wish I had one right here. I could, well, you’re looking at it, but it’s um, we put it in the show notes. Absolutely, that’s great. We, we definitely put a lot of thought into it. For me, I wanted to have just a really nice unboxing experience, I wanted people to be able to open it and see the cans on display. Part of that is just making that experience feel more premium, more special. You know, it isn’t just cheap canned wine, like this is a nice, you know, a nice assortment that you have that are you know, worth worth the effort. And then part of it also, again, going back to the sustainability piece that I mentioned in the beginning, was really making sure we design the boxes to use as little cardboard as possible. So there’s not a lot of outer packaging. There’s not a lot of layers. It’s really designed to hold six hands or 12 hands very securely in a smaller format as possible so that we’re using less cardboard. It’s not having a ship.

Drew Hendricks  28:56  

I gotta tell you I get a lot of wine shipments. Yeah. Just almost embarrassing trying to get all that stuff into the recycling bin. Yeah. Especially when they ship the styrofoam. Oh, right. Right. Right. So kudos to you for that. And what are their advice? I’m so happy that you mentioned the unboxing experience, then far too few wineries pay any attention to that. And it may just be that they’re having a third party fulfillment doing it but yeah, is more to it. What advice would you give a winery that’s trying to consider that?

Hilary Cocalis  29:30  

And I definitely would think about the way that I thought about it too is what other brands do I receive shipments for that I really like that experience. So rather than thinking about competing with other wineries or how do I just make the wine secure is what other things have I gotten in the mail that have just been a really nice experience when I open it, you know, or not even in the mail. I mean, the classic example is just Apple products are just really well displayed if you open them out of a box that sort of thing. So, you know, in this day and age too, and this is kind of indicative of me and our consumers. Thinking about kind of the, the Instagram ability of it, for lack of a better word, you know, how is this gonna look visually? If somebody is posting that they received a box of Sipwell wine? You know, is this going to be worthy of a post or a video, it’s gonna look interesting, when we’re putting it together and showing a video of that. And so that was, you know, a piece of it too, just wanting it to be a great experience for someone who’s getting it and opening it. But also, how can we use this as a brand touch point? Again, my marketing background, you know, why don’t we make this a really good brand experience that resonates with people,

Drew Hendricks  30:51  

it queues up the mindset into a positive, like, you’re excited to see it. Right? opened it. And I know the end the wine speaks for itself. But right that you need all the help you get the cue it up and make it nice and right. This does. I wish I could show up it looks like it’s a very, looks like a present. Let’s go. Yeah, that’s no, that’s fantastic. What advice would you listen? Just ask that. But um, I gotta say your branding is on point. I mean, looking at your website, looking at the way everything’s positioning, it’s a you can tell this isn’t your first rodeo when it comes to branding. When you’re not doing Sipwell, you’re helping other founders with their brands. It’s one of the biggest challenges you see the challenge, what’s one of the biggest mistakes that you see as you go into consult with other brands? That you wish they just would have learned from the start?

Hilary Cocalis  31:45  

Oh, that’s a good question. i i one big mistake I see a lot, and I’ve also been victims to this is that when you’re living the brand, every single day, you’re thinking about it all the time, you are looking at it all the time. A big mistake is I think people tend to get sick of it really easily, or they want to change things about the brand, you know, change your package design or change, you know, a logo, even, you know, when you’re looking at your own brand all the time you get fatigued. And when I try to remind people is that the consumer isn’t getting as tired of it. As you are, you know, I think you your brand has a lot longer shelf life than you think it does. And also, you need to be investing in building equity in that brand. Before you think about making changes or before you go and do something totally crazy. You know, the general mistake of just being too close to it, and not stepping out and thinking about it from a consumer standpoint. On a similar note, I what happens a lot too, is that I work a lot of folks who just assume that the consumer knows a lot more about the brand and the product than they actually do. Because of that, because the folks that are working on it are so in it. And I have to remind folks that you might need to repeat this message three or four times because you’re living it day to day, but the consumer might have missed it or you know, may not remember it. And I have to keep that in mind for Sipwell. Also, you know, like when I have my own brand, and I’m living it every day, I know all the ins and outs. But encouraging people to take that like 30,000 foot view and kind of put themselves in the consumer shoes, I think is something that a lot of brands and founders don’t really do. Because they’re so in the weeds of the business every day,

Drew Hendricks  33:36  

I can agree that that’s great advice. And we see that every day. And in digital marketing, we either see two sides, we either see the company that built their site never wants to do anything with it, or their image. And that’s just that’s the way it is. Or we see the one that’s seems like every three months, they want to completely change it up. Yeah, it’s gotten stale, there’s got to be kind of that happy medium between complete, just not doing anything, and just being kind of bouncing all over the place with your image. Right, right. That’s good. What, um, as far as your other brand advice that you given your consulting, what’s some of the bigger challenges that you come in and help people fix?

Hilary Cocalis  34:16  

Um, yeah, that’s good question. I mean, I it sort of varies based on the client and how well established they are. I’ve done a fair amount of work where I’ve just helping people get a brand new brand off the ground. So how do they figure out how to position the brand, what’s kind of a brand essence brand tagline tone of voice personality? So I do a lot of strategy work there with completely new to market brands. And then the other I would say the other types of clients that I typically work with our folks who have built kind of a loyal cult following or have like a very strong market or a strong core products and are trying to turn that on forerunner to be either wider appeal or wider distribution, or wanting to expand their product portfolio. So, for me, two specialties are kind of getting something off the ground from scratch or kind of helping someone get into growth mode and thinking about how to evolve the brand to fit that growth mode.

Drew Hendricks  35:21  

What’s the first step of getting into growth mode?

Hilary Cocalis  35:25  

And again, the playbook changes every time. But I, you know, again, I’m a brand person, I’m a marketing person. So it for me, it’s always stay true to brand. You know, make sure whatever decision you’re making, whether you’re picking a new market or entering a new product category is how does this remain true to who you are and the brand that you’ve already built?

Drew Hendricks  35:46  

So shifting a little bit over to kind of online promotion and selling wine online. I mentioned in the first part of the show that I Paul Mabray from Pixar wine was here. And he just spent the last year trying to get this new platform up and running. And I did a search in just yesterday, I finally went live, so people can finally start searching and I see Sipwell is on

Hilary Cocalis  36:11  

there. Sipwell is on there. Yeah, I reached out to Paul, I’m right when they were kind of doing some beta development. And it seems like a really cool platform. I love the idea behind it. And what’s great is it integrates really well with Shopify, which is the platform I use. So he’s definitely very in tune with, with all of the technology and the sack that that everybody needs to have on the one side and have learned a lot with, you know, advice that he’s given the industry but also just how they’ve built picks, I think what’s interesting about Pix is that they’ve built this content arm as well. So they’ve invested a lot in wine education and writing articles about wine that, you know, is only going to serve to help make them become experts such that when you go search their database, you know that they’re trusted for that reason.

Drew Hendricks  37:09  

Yeah, it’s uh it really did turn out when he’s describing it it really turned into that sort of wine search engine was kind of scary how how easily you were able to see I can there’s other platforms out there, but how are you able to research a particular line? really find it and then get channeled straight to the actual website? The simple site to make the purchase?

Hilary Cocalis  37:31  

Yeah, yeah. Hopefully we get some purchases via text will say Yeah. Yeah.

Drew Hendricks  37:39  

So what’s your vision for Sipwell? you’re off the ground, you’re get your stuff in stores. Where

Hilary Cocalis  37:46  

Yes, so I would love to grow it on to have a pretty strong presence at retail at least within California. And then I would love to grow the digital piece of it as well to have more of a national presence and figure out how to do nationwide shipping on a larger scale. And then in terms of the wine itself, I just want to keep making really cool wine and cans, I have ideas for things that are a little bit more unique in the category and ideas for some some innovation not quite there yet. I really want to perfect the products that we have and really get that dialed in but you know, the product development piece I think it’s going to be the fun part for me as we move forward what future Sipwell releases could look like in terms of styles alcohol levels, that sort of thing.

Drew Hendricks  38:42  

That’s very good. So kind of the wrapping down here when you’re not drinking simple what sort of ones do you really like to drink

Hilary Cocalis  38:49  

Ah, that’s good question I mentioned it earlier Lambrusco have favorite of mine so like I said anytime I can find a light chewable sparkling wine red I’m usually picking it up beyond that i What do I drink I really love a good dry Riesling kind of went through a whole Mosel area German recently phase so you know, kind of that area and then like all sauce like a you know, reassign your rich meter kind of Zippy white wines is normally my go to at least some warmer weather. And then other than that, you can’t go wrong with a good glass of champagne, right. So other sparkling wine. Absolutely. Coming out of bottles usually. But yeah, that’s, that’s those are. Those are my top three.

Drew Hendricks  39:43  

I’ve got to dive back into dry Riesling a little bit more. I used to drink

Hilary Cocalis  39:49  

superfood friendly, which you know, I find and they’re not everybody’s favorite, but for me, there’s something about it that just gets me it’s always been a challenge because people just see They assume it’s sweet for the Yeah. Well, they

Drew Hendricks  40:02  

wanted sweetness try it and I think they they average wine drinker has trouble navigating that. Yeah.

Hilary Cocalis  40:08  

Yeah. Yeah.

Drew Hendricks  40:09  

It was back in when I was in the wine store was always the biggest challenge to sell. Yes, yeah. Yeah. Well, Hilary, where can people find out more about you? And simple?

Hilary Cocalis  40:21  

Good question. You can go on our website, which is that CO and then also we’re fairly active on Instagram, which is as a handle CEO as well.

Drew Hendricks  40:35  

Okay, great. Oh, well, thank you so much for joining us today.

Hilary Cocalis  40:39  

Thanks Drew. It’s a great conversation. I’m happy to chat with you and happy to talk more about

Drew Hendricks  40:44  

Absolutely. Talk to you later. Hilary. Alright, thanks.

Outro  40:54  

Thanks for listening to the Legends Behind the Craft podcast. We’ll see you again next time and be sure to click Subscribe to get future episodes.