Becca Gardner, founder and CEO of Alt Distilling and innovator behind NKD LDY, is committed to making lasting changes to the culture of drinking, by creating a safe and emotionally rewarding experience through her non alcoholic spirits and promoting realness with her authentic brand message. Having a previous career in strategy consulting, Becca found herself frequently working while traveling and dining with clients, which led to an alcohol-heavy lifestyle.
Struggling with burnout after a decade in the field, Becca took a sabbatical in London where she was romanticized by the accessibility of non alcoholic beverages. Always one to stand up for a cause, she left wanting to make this type of lifestyle choice easily attainable for those in the States, where drinks are often encouraged in both work and social spaces.
Becca was inspired to create a brand that reignites the social aspect of drinking without the pressures or induced courage of alcohol. Recognizing that many nondrinkers avoid events simply because of the questioning they’ll receive, Becca has created a space where what people drink is not the focus and is, in fact, rather inconsequential.
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Table of Contents
We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to ValiantCEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start off with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
Becca Gardner: My name is Becca Gardner, and I am the founder and CEO of ALT Distilling, INC. I’m committed to making lasting changes to the culture of drinking, by creating a safe and emotionally rewarding experience through our non alcoholic spirits and promoting realness with our authentic brand message.
Having a previous career in strategy consulting, I found myself frequently working while traveling and dining with clients, which led to an alcohol-heavy lifestyle. Struggling with burnout after a decade in the field, I took a sabbatical in London where I was romanticized by the accessibility of non alcoholic beverages. I left wanting to make this type of lifestyle choice easily attainable for those in the States, where drinks are often encouraged in both work and social spaces.
I was inspired to create a brand that reignites the social aspect of drinking without the pressures or induced courage of alcohol. Recognizing that many nondrinkers avoid events simply because of the questioning they’ll receive we are excited to introduce the world to NKD LDY – a non alcoholic gin, tequila, and whiskey – where what people drink is not the focus and is, in fact, rather inconsequential.
2020 and 2021 threw a lot of curve balls into business on a global scale. Based on the experience gleaned in the past couple years, how can businesses thrive in 2022? What lessons have you learned?
Becca Gardner: Sometimes it’s a blessing and a curse to be small. For us, our early stage has allowed us to be more nimble and adaptive to the changes in both the economy and consumer preferences. Lucky for us, the non-alcoholic category has only continued to grow, but people are shopping differently than they did prior to the pandemic as well as during the peak.
It’s important to always be checking in with your customers, making sure that the business model you have created is serving their needs and reaching them where they are at. And ultimately, not being too precious about making changes, even if they require shifting from your original sparkling strategy. I think in this shake out, we will see the responsive and adaptive companies rise to the top.
The pandemic seems to keep on disrupting the economy, what should businesses focus on in 2022? What advice would you share?
Becca Gardner: You don’t have to look far to see that we are living amidst tremendous disruption – supply chains, inflation, gas prices. And all of these things have impacted the readiness of investors to put capital into high risk opportunities (i.e., startups).
During this time, I think for small companies at least, you should operate as though no additional investment is guaranteed – go lean where you can, be very intentional with where you do invest your time and energy, and if something isn’t working, call it quickly before it becomes a more expensive problem.
How has the pandemic changed your industry and how have you adapted?
Becca Gardner: The pandemic has played a big role in bringing more awareness to the non-alc category. This is partly because many individuals found themselves consuming too much alcohol, then looking for ways to cut back. However, along with that growth in demand, there has been a flood of new entrants to the space. Before the pandemic, our top priority was education on the category to help validate it. But today, while that is still important, the bigger question is how to distinguish ourselves alongside the competitive set.
What advice do you wish you received when the pandemic started and what do you intend on improving in 2022?
Becca Gardner: I wish someone had told me that my company would most likely look nothing like I imagined. Our mission and core products remain the same, but given all the disruption which has occurred in the world, major changes have been required.
I think it took a moment to see and accept that a different strategy was required than one which was identical to the strategy I raised capital with. It’s taken time to realize that there is no failure in change, but rather refusal to adapt in a way needed to survive. I think I’m more open minded than ever when it comes to how to take ALT to the next level, but it took a few lessons along the way.
Online business surged higher than ever, B2B, B2C, online shopping, virtual meetings, remote work, Zoom medical consultations, what are your expectations for 2022?
Becca Gardner: We are currently focussed on owning our local market and building a more robust DTC capability.
How many hours a day do you spend in front of a screen?
Becca Gardner: Four to five.
The majority of executives use stories to persuade and communicate in the workplace. Can you share with our readers examples of how you implement that in your business to communicate effectively with your team?
Becca Gardner: I often draw on my prior experience in consulting. Like strategy consulting, we live in a world of a lot of sprints and tests. But more significantly, this company was born from a place of personal inspiration – my experience as a non-drinker. We have a very open and transparent work environment where stories are not only used to motivate but inspire.
Business is all about overcoming obstacles and creating opportunities for growth. What do you see as the real challenge right now?
Becca Gardner: Finding our customers, including those who would be fans if they knew we existed and understood the category. We have an incredible product and brand, but the category as a whole is still emerging. While there is a growing population of consumers who know and love non-alc, there is still a tremendous white space. We are going after that, and it’s not a one size fits all approach.
In 2022, what are you most interested in learning about? Crypto, NFTs, online marketing, or any other skill sets? Please share your motivations.
Becca Gardner: I’m most interested in all things non-alc – the new products and sub-categories emerging, including THC / CBD. Staying on top of the emergence of these new channels alongside changes in consumer trends and purchasing patterns keeps me busy!
A record 4.4 million Americans left their jobs in September in 2021, accelerating a trend that has become known as the Great Resignation. 47% of people plan to leave their job during 2022. Most are leaving because of their boss or their company culture. 82% of people feel unheard, undervalued and misunderstood in the workplace. Do you think leaders see the data and think “that’s not me – I’m not that boss they don’t want to work for? What changes do you think need to happen?
Becca Gardner: I think the pandemic has really impacted what people expect from an employer. While the isolation of the pandemic was a struggle for most, I think the autonomy experienced during the pandemic is something folks want to hold on to. I think for an early stage company there is an opportunity to co-create the specifics of a role.
While remote work might not be what’s most effective 100% of the time, we have found a sweet spot in a hybrid model. I think everyone is adjusting to a world that is now more open, and boss’s / CEO’s job is to make sure they are listening to their people to understand how their needs and preferences have also evolved.
On a lighter note, if you had the ability to pick any business superpower, what would it be and how would you put it into practice?
It would have to be something around hiring the right people, and knowing exactly who to hire for each role. Having the insight has to who would be the best fit given the stage and requirements of a business.
It’s tricky early, because even on the best days, a start-up is tough work. Just because someone was a successful sales executive at another company doesn’t mean they are the right fit for a sales role at a young company.
What does “success” in 2022 mean to you? It could be on a personal or business level, please share your vision.
Becca Gardner: Success means I gave it my all, and was willing to grow and adapt in that process.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Becca Gardner for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Becca Gardner or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
Disclaimer: The ValiantCEO Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.