How Two Friends Started a Company for People Who Love Tea and Booze
If you’re a connoisseur of tea, you know how to brew a cup like a pro and are giddy each time Starbucks debuts a new flavor concoction. Perhaps you’ve even experimented with making tea cocktails. If tea time is a big deal to you, tune into this week’s How to Quit Your Day Job series. We’re chatting with CEO Jennie Ripps and President Maria Littlefield of Owl’s Brew, a unique tea specifically designed to be paired with liquors, and Owl’s Brew Radler, a beverage that combines custom teas with craft beers.
Meet the beverage Pros: jennie ripps & maria littlefield
The duo met while working at a celebrity marketing firm. In her spare time, Ripps developed a love for tea and played around with making her own blends, but it wasn’t until she started hosting boozy tea parties that her friend and coworker Littlefield took interest in what Ripps was doing with tea as a business. “She asked if I wanted to help and I said yes. From there, we were asked to create cocktails for events and we’d travel the country fresh brewing tea on site,” says Littlefield. Next, the tea cocktail mavens worked on bringing shelf-stable tea mixers to the general public. Owl’s Brew officially launched at the end of 2013, and Owl’s Brew Radler came to fruition at the end of 2016.
Since Ripps and Littlefield worked in marketing, they carried over those skill sets when creating Owl’s Brew. From their former jobs, Littlefield says, “We had great relationships with people throughout many different industries. Once Owl’s Brew was officially out, we started to see if they’d like to use it for their events. Word got around and they told their friends, who told their friends. We used good old-fashioned networking!” When word traveled about these fun boozy tea cocktails, the company grew.
Ripps and Littlefield developed the tea flavors themselves, and while they were brewing these mixes across the country, they were able to beta test potential flavors for their brand and find out which ones resonated with their target audience. “People would ask us where they could buy our mixers, and that’s when we knew we were on to something,” says Littlefield. The Owl Brew’s products — from Salted Caramel Toddy to Coco-Lada — are all meant to be extremely versatile with liquors, beers, and wines.
The hardworking team relies heavily on each other to continue to grow their brand. Littlefield emphasizes for would-be entrepreneurs that if you’re going to partner with someone and work together, “Be sure you can see yourself spending a lot of time with them. Chemistry is key.” She suggests finding a partner who has different strengths than you do and can bring a different perspective to the table as a collaborator.
Part of the excitement that Ripps and Littlefield love about their daily work is sharing their products with eager customers. When they attend trade shows or see people’s reactions to sipping their tea cocktails, they listen to all the feedback they get. “Jennie and I still read all the emails that come to our general mailboxes,” says Littlefield. “Someone told me that they drink That’s My Jam in the bath every single night. I think that’s awesome!”
As a mom of two, Ripps travels a lot for her work and credits her supportive spouse for helping her build a business, and Littlefield is planning her wedding while working with Ripps to launch their Radlers. “My (almost!) husband has been really wonderful and kept me sane,” says Littlefield. For Ripps, the best piece of advice she can offer to anyone seeking to follow their passion project: “Get away from the idea of fear and break it out into challenges and opportunities. Consider what you’re willing to take on, both rationally and emotionally.”
What’s your dream career? Tweet us @BritandCo to let us know, and we could feature it in the next column!
(Photos via Owl’s Brew, Foxes & Hounds, and Jason Plummer)