This is where our story begins. Once upon a time, Gretchen Nix was a surgical physician’s assistant with a great idea but no experience, contacts or money. “I had no beverage manufacturing experience, no connections in the industry, no food science background and no experience starting a business. I had to learn everything from the ground up,” Nix said. “But I didn’t let that stand in the way of what I recognized as an incredible opportunity. I wanted to seize onto two trends, specialty cocktails and the booming ultra-premium alcohol market.”
Nix acknowledges that it was also the right time in her life to do Modmix. “If my personal realities were different, I probably would not have pursued this business opportunity. I don’t expect many people could or would do what I did. I’m single with no kids, so I had the luxury of more time. I was in between jobs. I had my medical license as a surgical PA to fall back on,” Nix concedes. “I spent a lot of time thinking about the risk/reward scenario and decided to go for it. Plus I had the full support of my family and friends; well there may have been a few skeptics.”
In reality, Nix had more than just a few skeptics. “Almost every new industry contact I made lectured me about the risks. I was told constantly that 99% of all new consumer products and/or businesses fail,” Nix said. However Nix did her homework. “Research is critical for any new business.I researched the market in any and all relevant categories. I read marketing and business-related books. Based on my research there were no luxury cocktail mixers on the market, especially not any using organic ingredients. Modmix is the only USDA organic cocktail mixer available,” Nix added with pride.
Satisfied with her research, when Nix began to develop Modmix she was determined to do her part for the environment. “You could call a Modmix drink a green cocktail,” Nix said. “Not only can you have the best tasting cocktail on Earth, but you can be assured that it was created in an environmentally conscious and ethical manner.”
In addition to all organic fruit juice concentrates and herbs for her recipes, Nix uses organic, unrefined cane sugar in the raw, a favorite among chefs for its sweet purity. Nix created three Modmix cocktail mixers, the Citrus Margarita, the Pomegranate Cosmopolitan and the Lavender Lemon Drop.. Modmix mixers are nonalcoholic and can be mixed with a multitude of different beverages. However, the length of time Nix predicted it would take to bring Modmix to market verses the real time market development of Modmix were quite different. To complicate matters, Nix made the decision to completely rework all the Modmix’ packaging after discovering an error in the original packaging. “I started out thinking that it would take under a year, but that didn’t happen. I was able to create and bottle the product in that time, but due to a packaging mistake, the whole package was redone. Mistakes were made but they were mistakes from which I learned.” Nix explained, “I didn’t want to introduce the product to retailers or consumers then dramatically change the look of the package. So, the first run was pretty much a wash.”
As is the case with the majority of new entrepreneurs, Nix’s first year could have been Modmix’s last. “Lots of people in the biz can sense a neophyte and they’ll try to take advantage of that. But angels exist too and I don’t mean investors. I mean good people who were inspired by my resolve, liked me as a person and did what they could to help me. I pursued my vision because I believed that an opportunity existed and not on blind faith, mind you. My belief was based on months of research and due diligence. I knew the opportunity was real, not imagined. Recognizing an opportunity is partly instinct, but the rest is old fashioned research. For years, I had talked about pursuing a business venture, and then I made the decision that the idea and the timing were right for this. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life saying I should have done this. Or hey, that was my idea! Plus by this time I knew I was on to something big, so I kept going.”
As our story unfolds, a blogger acquaintance of Nix became a networker for her. But Nix will be quick to tell you that the green community of which this blogger was a part has been her biggest asset. “I met a blogger, Siel aka greengirlla, at an organic wine tasting. Soon after, Siel’s friend, Summer Bowen the owner of BTCelements.com saw my product and now carries it in her store. When the host of Treehugger.com TV Simran Sethi, asked for help finding cool organic products for a segment on Martha Stewart’s show, Summer told her about Modmix. Simran told Martha’s show and Martha’s production assistants contacted me for samples,” Nix said.
Modmix was not chosen for the show but for Nix that’s not the point. “They said they would keep Modmix on the backburner for other shows,” Nix said, “But from greengirlla’s blog to the attention of Martha Stewart’s show, that’s amazing! It demonstrates the power of grassroots support and the internet.”
Nix is adamant that networking is by far an entrepreneur’s most valuable resource. “For me, it was very difficult to find information about the beverage manufacturing business. The beverage manufacturing industry is very secretive and tough to crack, so I basically had to rely on networking and the internet to obtain my information. But I didn’t work alone. I contacted anyone and everyone that would offer advice. I enlisted the help of friends along the way who had some experience with the beverage industry and marketing, Joni Ryan and Tricia McCracken. They are currently recognized as co-founders of the company.” Nix said. “It means a lot to people to know that Modmix is not some big corporate machine. The beverage industry is an old boy’s network. The fact that a small group of girls launched a beverage is unheard of.”
For women entrepreneurs, Nix offers the same resource she used to start Modmix and some advice. “The best place to start is the Online Women's BusinessCenter. (http://www.onlinewbc.gov/). It's a treasure trough of information and links to helpful organizations.” Nix said, “I would also tell other female entrepreneurs to look at categories that are targeted to women, but are composed of brands primarily created and managed by men. I see possibilities for improvement and innovation there. Women know best how to market to other women. They also bring a fresh perspective, the ability to see things in a different light than their male counterparts, which could result in a strategic business advantage. After all, women make over 80% of all buying decisions in U.S. households, so I think we're able to best anticipate what other women would want or need on the consumer level.”
Nix concedes that Modmix though on a roll is subject like any other new product to the test of time. “I will acknowledge that coming this far, in and of itself, is a huge achievement. It’s been quite a journey so far but only time will tell if my company and products will be a success. I do have some clear affirmation from some major players within the industry as well as consumers and the media, but I’ll have to wait and see.”
In view of her own determination and drive Nix is clear. “I simply wanted to create the best product on the market using the best organic ingredients. I wasn’t trying to be cutting edge or make any kind of “green” or progressive statement. At the end of the day, I need to know that I have a superior product that consumers enjoy, backed by a values driven company philosophy, otherwise it would be too hard to keep my heart in it. Its’ been a roller coaster.”