About two years ago, Kai, Amin and I were in a Lyft XL heading back to Manhattan after experiencing our first Belmont Stakes. After a couple races and more than a couple drinks, while Too $hort’s “Balance” was bumping on the aux cord, I turned to Kai and I told him I was seriously considering the alcohol-infused cold brew coffee business. He looked at me and said, “if you’re serious about this, let’s talk about this and figure it out.” Later that night, I promised Kai and Amin that I would put together a presentation to talk through our first draft of the business plan.
I first met Kai in the Summer of 2017 while we were coincidentally both traveling through Europe and were at the same pregame for a David Guetta concert at Ushaia. Eight days after we instantly became best friends, we decided to room together in New York with another friend of ours, Clay.
Kai and I met Amin in a less glorious environment than the beaches of Ibiza – at a party in a mutual friend’s apartment, a night that the three of us lovingly refer to as the worst party we’ve ever been to. If I had to pick between reliving that party, watching paint dry, and listening to grass grow, the party still comes in last. I went straight up to Amin and started venting about how terrible the party was, and the rest is history.
I could tell from the beginning that these two were going to be my friends for life.
In the weeks leading up to the Belmont Stakes, I casually spoke with my mom, Kai, and Amin about the idea of alcohol-infused cold brew coffee. I’ve spent my entire life pitching businesses to my mom, starting with my ringtone business in seventh grade. In response to all my ideas before BOMANI, she kindly (but clearly) gave me her opinion that those ideas weren’t “it.” When she heard about alcohol-infused cold brew coffee, she stopped and said, “hold on – you need to really dig into this one.”
From the conception of the idea, it was no question that I wanted Kai and Amin to be my partners – they’re both wildly talented, dedicated, trustworthy, innovative, intelligent, and hard working. Most importantly, we make each other better – both personally and professionally. I’m thankful for a lot of things that have gone right with BOMANI, but having the honor of partnering with Kai and Amin tops the list.
In the two weeks between the Belmont Stakes and Presentation Day, we also spoke with our friends and asked if they’d appreciate an alcohol-infused cold brew coffee and realized very early on that the demand was off the charts, so it was clear: the idea was right. People almost unanimously agreed that they were tired of the existing options: laboratory-made synthetic energy drinks mixed with vodka, high-calorie espresso martinis, and other high-sugar, inconvenient alternatives. On June 24, 2018, the three of us met up at mine & Kai’s apartment and we designed the very first version of our business plan.
After Presentation Day, we decided to dedicate two hours a night per person to figuring out if this idea was really feasible. Since all of us worked in finance in New York, we frequently started the clock for these two hours around midnight (or later). Despite the fact that we were sleeping 4-5 hours per night, we found ourselves experiencing this second wind of energy as soon as we started working on our company. It was during one of these late nights that we defined our purpose: to empower individuals, who, like us, challenge the status quo. Challenging the status quo isn’t supposed to be easy, but we believe you deserve to be able to work towards your purpose without sacrificing your social life or your physical health. That’s when we chose the name BOMANI, a Farsi word that means “to have purpose.” Cold Buzz was our way to creatively and conveniently describe the alcohol-infused cold brew coffee that was in the can.
Alcohol + coffee: easy, right? I mean, people have literally been doing it for millennia. To our surprise, it was…not so easy. In fact, not easy at all – more of us saying, “oh, now we understand why no one has ever succeeded in canning this combination before.” Our initial strategy was to approach local brewers in the New York / New Jersey area and pitch them on our idea of alcohol-infused cold brew coffee. We made it clear that our demands had to be met: the cold brew had to be made of ethically sourced 100% Arabica bean coffee and the alcohol had to be clean enough as to not destroy the integrity of the cold brew. We insisted that the nutrition label didn’t exceed 110 calories at 5.7% ABV and the product had zero sugar and zero carbs. As if that weren’t enough, we were aiming for a beverage that was gluten-free, dairy-free, non-GMO, and vegan.
To our surprise, the small brewers weren’t open to hearing us out. They shut us down, they told us “no,” they criticized our idea, and some even belittled us for having the audacity to approach them. I’m proud of how resilient we proved to be: we refused to let these smaller manufacturers slow us down, and through a combination of strategic networking & hard work, we ended up earning a contract with one of the largest manufacturers and flavorists in the world. This was a counter-intuitive experience: we assumed that the lower-level teams would be the ones most willing to take a risk on a new company, but we found the exact opposite. This was a lesson in innovation – to succeed to the top level, you must innovate every single day, never allowing yourself to fall into being content with what you have. This is a topic I could write a whole blog post on, so I’ll save that for another day.
Once we realized that we could create the liquid, it was time to prepare our investor pitch. We are extremely thankful that my mom had the capital and the entrepreneurial experience to provide us with the angel investment. Like I said in the beginning, this wasn’t just a “friends & family” investment – this was a vote of confidence from an experienced entrepreneur and a seasoned investor.
I still remember the day we tried the final version of BOMANI. We looked at one another and realized that this was it: it was time to leave our corporate jobs and pursue BOMANI Cold Buzz full-time.