Melanie is the founder and CEO of Ghia, a new age spirits-free apéritif with old world ingredients, flavor and heritage.
Briefly introduce us to Ghia and your journey to founding the company?
Ghia is a non-alcoholic aperitif, inspired by the Mediterranean and includes tasting notes of fine traditional Italian amaros. Ghia caters to people who enjoy food and don’t want something too sweet before a meal, and also want to avoid certain baggage that comes with drinking alcohol. Whether that be pregnancy or lifestyle, we want to provide our customers with a delightful experience that replicates, or exceeds, the experience that certain alcohol products have produced in companionship with food.
What is the most important part of a business to get right first?
Product-market fit; you need to find your community. This is essential to ensure the long-term success of your product.
We launched right in the middle of the pandemic on April 1, 2020. I believe what saved us is that we had already built such a strong community around Ghia through prior relationships, speaking with our customers both online and quasi-offline (via taste testings). So, this work building product-market fit and understanding our customers allowed us to have the foundation in place during a really difficult time.
30% of American adults don’t drink, and 52% are actively looking to consume less alcohol. While I see Ghia’s product-market fit with the former, as a less sessionable beverage alternative than say beer, how do you strategize acquiring the latter, flex consumer?
Rather than focusing on the fact that our beverage is non-alcoholic, we really focus on the flavor. Just because Ghia is non-alcoholic doesn’t mean that it can’t be enjoyed by those who drink alcohol. At the end of the day, a real drink is made with real ingredients, and that is exactly what we do. We’re different from other non-alcoholic drinks because we have no added sugar, and so Ghia is dry, bitter and tastes like an adult beverage – it also happens to be a great mixer!
You are spending a lot of effort on building a community. Whether that’s SMS, recipe recommendations, or wellness focused content. Coming from Glossier, who has created an amazing community, talk about the difference between building a beverage community vs. a cosmetic/beauty one?
People have certain expectations from brands. I was lucky to be at Glossier in the early days and witness firsthand what contributed to its success. Glossier’s had a saying: skin first, cosmetic second – That notion of transparency is so important, and at Ghia, we really embrace that. Our motto is “Nothing to hide.” We’re fully transparent with what ingredients we use, and our clear, glass bottle symbolizes that.
Do you view your Ghia as a wine or cocktail alternative?
I view it as a cocktail alternative, but it is really meant to be enjoyed before or in a meal setting – from sunset to sunrise. It’s very versatile since it can be enjoyed by those who drink alcohol and those who don’t.
People in America have wine as an aperitif, but I would rather drink a glass of Ghia before dinner and then in the evening treat it like a cocktail.
I saw one of Ghia’s Instagram posts which said “When you pass a stranger on the street […] go ahead and smile through your mask and throw a dopey wave, compliment someone who looks like they could use a little boost.” What was the last interaction you had with a stranger?
This morning when I was leaving my house. I live on a hill and have to take an outdoor elevator to get out. I saw these little kids hiking with their parents, and I could tell they wanted to ride in the elevator, but you need a key for access. I decided to take these kids for a little elevator ride, and they were so happy! They had so much fun and kept pressing the buttons. It was really cute to see how excited they were.
If you could have one person drink Ghia, who would it be and why?
My mom. My parents are such French boomers; they really drink too much! I sent them bottles of Ghia to France (which was super difficult with customs and quarantine) but they drank it with white wine which defeats the entire purpose. The best way to test the success of the product is to see if I can win over previous generations that love wine, and for better or worse, my parents seem to be the epitome of that demographic!
If you could live in one civilization throughout history, which would it be and why?
I would love to live in Italy during the ‘70s, during the disco years. There was this amazing liberation and individualism during that period, and I feel like there was a wave of creativity that was pushed by that sentiment.
What is your creative outlet and how does it help you channel a flow state?
I cook and especially love making homemade pasta & bread. Whenever I need to clear my head, I get in the kitchen and enter this flow state. Making meals from scratch and watching the ingredients transform is where I get inspiration. I’ll often take two hour breaks entirely in the kitchen, and afterwards feel ready to take on the rest of the day.
What historical person or celebrity do you identify with?
Martha Stewart. She’s my idol. She’s so put together and such a great hostess but also does absolutely what she wants in an unapologetic way. I’ve tried to give Ghia to everyone around her – her gardener, her stylist, donkey keepers, etc. I just want her to know that we exist. If anyone in her zip code hears this…
Often, when we are faced with obstacles or things go wrong, we think something is happening to us. But, when we reflect on these moments later on, we tend to find that it actually happened for us. What is one such example you have of this?
Launching during the pandemic. Competing for eyeballs was super difficult as every brand went online, and part of Ghia’s core being is the experience that comes with it — which is best demonstrated in person.
Reflecting on it, one of the upsides of launching during a pandemic was that it forced me to explore things that I wouldn’t otherwise and be very creative on how we acquire customers and build community. I know when the time comes, we’ll be hosting incredible in-person events and experiences.
Where is a unique place where you find inspiration?
Home. I travel a lot for work – even these days – so when I get the chance to relax at home, listen to music and cook, I find it so refreshing. I’m one of those people that started a garden during quarantine, so I love getting up everyday and checking to see what has grown.
What is a memento from your childhood that you still keep and how does it serve you?
My grandmother’s recipe book. It is truly her recipe book – she started it when she was 18 and wrote in it until the day she passed away. I love seeing her handwriting and how she organized it and tore out recipes from newspapers or magazines. If anyone gave her a recipe, she always gave them credit. I’ve read it hundreds of times and always discover a new source of inspiration. She was the person who taught me how to cook and host, and so being given it to uphold and carry on is so special.
What is one daily ritual that you cannot live without?
When I lived in New York, I used to walk to my favorite coffee shop everyday.
But since moving to LA, I now make a spritz at the end of the day. It’s the perfect way to take a break to celebrate the day. Also the team works at my house so it’s nice to have those little fun breaks in between work.
What is the last:
TV show you binged?
Call my Agent on Netflix.
Movie you watched?
Pain & Glory.
Song you listened to?
Tropicana Fruit Juice by YCEE & Bella.
Podcast you listened to?
Book you read?
Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey.
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