Through the rest of 2019, our team was put to the test. We were forced to change our mentality from building a startup that we intended to grow into a company to building a company and allowing it to have a “startup phase.” We went through every facet of the business with a fine-tooth comb to make sure that we were building systems and infrastructure where we needed it most. Each of us had unique contributions to BOMANI over the balance of the year, with our greatest accomplishment being building out our team. I’m incredibly proud that the three of us were humble enough to recognize that as best friends who started a business, there would inevitably be conflicts that come up. To prepare ourselves, we created an authentic culture that we 100% committed to. On top of that, we scheduled bi-monthly meetings with a business psychologist who helps us maintain and consistently improve on our relationship as business partners – this has proved to be critically important.
A game-changing addition to our team was our Corporate Strategy Director, Nick Gagliardi. As far as we are concerned, Nick is our family. He’s been in the business for decades and he’s rightfully earned his stellar reputation by running some of the largest distributors in the nation and serving instrumental roles in mega-brands, such as Stella Artois, Monster, Dos Equis, Tecate, and more. People frequently ask how we work with Nick or what our roles are. The answer is simple: Nick is Dr. Dre, and the three of us are Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, and 50 Cent. I hope that clears things up.
Finally, nearly a year after our announcement, we felt BOMANI had all the pieces ready to launch. Our highly-anticipated launch took place in early February, and we’re unbelievably proud of how BOMANI performed in our initial markets. All of a sudden, the unexpected COVID-19 pandemic took center stage.
It’s probably not surprising that statistics reveal that people actually increase alcohol consumption in times of uncertainty – I’ll admit that I’m one of those people! In all seriousness, we intentionally designed our business to be nimble enough to respond to culture. Like I said earlier, our priority is and always has been to integrate BOMANI as a part of culture, not to just sell product.
Our first reaction to the pandemic was to be true to our sense of purpose. We owe a lot of our early stage success to the bartenders who supported us from the beginning. We saw an opportunity to show them that we love & support them too: we are donating 5.7% of our net proceeds to the Bartender’s Emergency Assistance Program through the end of April. We chose 5.7% because it ties in nicely with BOMANI’s 5.7% ABV.
When the pandemic first hit, we saw a wide spectrum of how brands reacted. Some brands made a complete joke of the situation, while others painted such a “doomsday” picture that they made you feel guilty to do so much as crack a smile. We took a much more natural approach – we organically showed our empathy while trying to give people a bright spot in their day – a break to the news that’s flooding every media outlet. A few initiatives we have implemented include focusing more on delivery services to such as Minibar, engaging with consumers more frequently through social media, and creating additional content (stay tuned).
We’re extremely appreciative of the team we had around us and the culture we built from Day 1. At the advice of our angel investor (my mother), we designed a business model that can quickly adapt and pivot to changing environments. Our team has truly risen to the occasion, from our creative, ambitious Field Sales Managers, Jack & Joe, to our mathematical wizard (aka VP of Finance & Operations), Dustin.
Anyway, if you were hoping for an official recommendation as to whether or not you should start a business with your friends, I regret to inform you that I can’t give you one. I can say, though, that just because you’re friends with someone does not mean you should start a business with them. A good friend doesn’t necessarily imply a good business partner, and vice versa. I think that should be obvious, but after seeing what I’ve seen in my own extended network, I guess some people would benefit from hearing it.
We got lucky, plain and simple – we just work well together naturally. With that said, we’ve definitely had our fair share of conflict. I’m talking Ben Wallace & Ron Artest in ’04. But most importantly, we share a mutual respect for one another and for the roles that we each serve, taking care to support each other but making sure not to cross over the line into another person’s job. We’re also on the same page in that we will prioritize the health and success of BOMANI above anything else. Finally, we recognize that mental health is very real and very important, so our company culture encourages open conversations and transparency, even when the topics are difficult to address. It’s those last couple points that make me exceptionally thankful to have started a business with my best friends.
And hey, if you do start a business with your friends, you get to create some pretty incredible memories, like the time we found ourselves a few BOMANIs deep belting “Hotel California” at a bar in the middle of nowhere during a business trip…but that’s a story for another time.