The Breads Interviews Melanie Masarin
We chat with the founder of Ghia, the hottest (non)alcoholic beverage in the game
This is the interview series from The Breads entitled “Cool People. Heck Yes!” where I interview people that I think are interesting (and hopefully you will too) about what they do (which makes them interesting) but also ask them whatever random shit I’m feeling at the moment to help paint a picture of who they are. As always, you can and should sign up for the newsletter here.
This week we have Melanie Masarin the founder of Ghia a non-alcoholic aperitivo I have recently become very fond of, so I decided to ask if I could interview her and she graciously obliged. Formerly an important person (head of retail and offline experiences) at Glossier she decided to start Ghia and within the first year has garnered a ton of media attention and a few awards if I’m not mistaken. She is a very knowledgable person so I sat down with her (over slack) to chat about non-alcoholic bevs, running a small brand and the wonders of gardening.
Eli: First question is a softball. Tell us who you are and what you do?
Melanie: I’m Melanie. Born in France but live in LA. Avid cook and beginner gardener. And what you are probably trying to get at is I’m the Founder + CEO of Ghia, a non-alcoholic aperitivo that’s made with only good things and satisfyingly bitter.
E: I’m not trying to get at anything! Only the truth!
M: haha it’s all the truth
E: Ha I know I know. I’m gonna come back to the gardening passion in a minute. But what made you feel the need to create a non-alcoholic beverage brand?
M: Well, I had been on and off not drinking for a few years. For no particular reason other than trying to feel better and be less foggy in the morning. At some point, I couldn’t really tell you when I just never had another drink. But as I said I’m an avid cook and host and lover of a good meal and party in general and I really started to notice that not boozing - even if I was hosting - made me a complete outsider to most. So after my last job I took my courage in my hands and set out to create a beverage brand that would make you feel like YOU are the life of the party.
E: I feel you as I get older I’m more hesitant to drink because I’m way more likely to pay for it later. In terms of feeling like crap. Which is why I’ve been quite enjoying my Ghia actually. Ok so prior to starting this did you have any beverage or food product/cpg type experience?
M: Nope. Zero.
E: Ok so I’m very interested to know what the process was to start the whole damn thing.
M: But I had lots of opinions about lots of things, and persistence which came really handy in the pandemic haha. It always starts with a moodboard. As I said the inspiration behind Ghia was the feeling and confidence that it’s meant to take back from alcohol.
E:Haha mood board always important
M: Mood board first, and diving into my grandmother’s recipe book for inspiration. She left me this incredible book she started writing when she was 18. And while the recipes are heavy in booze and sugar they really took me back to the summers of my childhood and the Mediterranean flavors of my childhood.
Long story short very quickly I got into a manic state of mood boarding and had really crystal clear vision for how I wanted Ghia to look and how I wanted it to taste. So I reached out to everyone I knew in the food world or who had created something extraordinary. From these people I found a food scientist who seemed to really understand the world I was trying to create. 55 weeks and 37 iterations later, we had Ghia_vfinalfinalfinal.
E: Hahah the classic finalfinalfinal we’ve all been there before
M: Every time I think it will be easier. And every time it’s not haha
E:That’s a great story though. What’s the most important thing you learned in the process?
M: To let go haha. To clarify, when I was working for other founders, I always wanted things to be 100%. And now that it’s my business, my role is to make sure things move forward and everyone has what they need to do their job. So for someone who is such a perfectionist, the hardest part is letting go and I do it on the daily.
E: Yes I feel like that's such a common theme for founders right? Most people who start a business are usually crazy in some way (usually good ways) and also perfectionists. So to be able to trust other people to do things how they are supposed to be done and to trust in your vision I imagine is an acquired skill. Try to control and hold onto everything and you won't be able to make it out alive right?
M: Correct. Even to the crazy part haha. In fact, we are 5 days away (Eli note: 5 days away at time of interview) from launching product #2 and I’m really stress testing my ability to delegate and let go haha. I keep putting the product in front of people who have never seen it before to try to gauge their first impression.
E: Playing a dangerous game. But that is so exciting that product number 2 is coming out. How do you see Ghia evolving? And how do you think it fits in to the modern wellness movement? Because at its core it isn't a wellness product, it is an alternative to alcohol. But obviously anything that makes you drink less booze is sort of a wellness product in a way.
M: You have no idea! At its core, I want Ghia to take back the word “drinking” from alcohol. And I think more than ever people have the logical understanding and data to know what makes them feel good and feel bad. So wellness is bound to permeate everything that we consume nowadays. Millennials and Gen-z expect more transparency and quality from the brands they support. For us that means no added sugar and only pure juices and extracts - yet the core of our brand is about a feeling. Product quality becomes table stakes.
From there we can evolve - we’ll be launching a few new flavors and building the family of products around them (like the can in our OG bitter flavor launching next) but very thoughtfully and intentionally.
We want to focus on depth not breadth / build a forever brand not a fad.
E:I feel like many more brands (still not enough) are thinking about it like that nowadays which is refreshing. To what level do you think it is the responsibility of a brand to do more than just sell people a thing?
M:Hmm great question. I think things of quality have no fear of time. And quality can mean very different things. So while it’s not a brand’s responsibility to do more than just sell things, it’s definitely mine with Ghia. Most of my time and headspace is spent on making sure our brand is thoughtful and soulful. It’s a better business strategy ultimately because it strengthens our community’s trust in us which is the most important and least replicable thing.
If I wanted to spend my life just selling things I could think of 20 much less hard and much more profitable ways to do it haha.
E: How do you balance work and life currently? Think that's a problem we all deal with at the moment, especially being mostly stuck at home. As a founder I can only imagine that is intensified even more. Any tips for things you've found success with?
M:Reg. work / life balance. I don’t and I don’t really believe in it either. Take it with a grain of salt. Since it’s literally coming from someone who cannot move their right arm from overtyping. But I believe in work life integration!
My work makes me so happy and everything I do outside of work is inspiration for Ghia. I really try to eat well, exercise 4 times a week, not bring my laptop into my bed, and generally cut myself some slack but beyond that there are not very many rules. Doing what I love is the savior here. 2 pm showers are my best quarantine hack when I know reaching for another cold brew will turn me into Woody Allen.
E: lolol I'm not sure what negative Woody Allen characteristic you mean exactly by that but none of them can be good, so yes avoid the extra cold brews! Midday shower is a great hack though for sure.
M: Oye. The overthinking everything one. Here we call it “the great spiral.”
E: Ah got it got. Also I just want to say that "I believe in work life integration!" while I fully agree with, also sounds like some very dystopian shit haha. I think I read about that in an Orwell novel somewhere.
M: Yes it is not for everyone but I think it’s the reality for me rn
E: I feel you. Was not throwing shade in any way. I'm at the point where I feel like I always need to be working on something, even if I'm not getting paid for it. Which I guess is why The Breads even exists.
M: 100%. If that makes you feel better, I still side hustle to make it work with Ghia.
E: Ok I know you're super busy. But want to get into some weird/random/fun questionsFirst is always a staple: You got three cuisines to live on for the rest of your life. Which ones you rolling with?
M: Italian, Mexican, Japanese
E: No French interesting.
M: haha I’ve had enough French food for the rest of my life
E: Fair enough fair enough. If you could adopt any exotic pet (all negative connotations aside, assume whichever animal you choose has been domesticated for the past few centuries) what would you choose?
M: A giraffe or a koala probably
E: Ok tell us about this gardening interest.
M: Gardening is one of the things I always swore to my mother I’d never get into. And since well karma really is a bitch sometimes, I got stuck in a pandemic staring at a perfect little patch for gardening.
And I got sucked in. In the most uncertain times this year, waking up to new growth in the garden is what really kept me sane, like I was looking to nature for some semblance of logic.
And now I’m on my third planting season and there are strawberries everywhere and I have fully embraced being 30 going on 75.
I just love it.
E: That's great. I have very fond memories from my youth helping my Zayde tend to his cucumbers and tomatoes in his small backyard. Yeah since you know lots of great brands, any good plant/gardening brands you would rec?
M: Hmm not really. I’m surprisingly not into these gardening start ups. I buy my plants from Two Dog Nursery and Fig Earth Supply in LA. Though I have been eyeing the Dahlias and Anemones seeds on Floret Flowers but they always sell out within minutes. I think it’s my version of fancy sneakers, trying to get flower seeds online!
E: Lol you get that new seed drop? On the FLWRS app.
M: Sadly I didn’t but I did get the New Balance 550 by Aime Leon Dore if anybody would like to trade for some poppies.
E: Ok last question for you is a two parter. 1: Whats the most underrated place you've ever traveled? 2: Where is next place on your list to visit?
M: 1: Mexico City. I’m very confused about why I don’t live there. Between the food, the culture, the lifestyle and the people it is one of the best places I’ve been lucky to spend time in. 2: Post pandemic I’m actually excited to go back to the place I already love. I’m looking forward to a lot of time in Europe this summer now that me and my family are vaccinated. I’m hoping the Magic Mediterranean will heal me from a few years of working a little too hard.
E: Thanks so much for taking the time I really appreciate it. Hopefully it was an enjoyable experience and hopefully you got to think about some things you maybe hadn't thought about too much before.
M:I did! Thank you so much for your patience with me and for the opportunity.
E: Ok very last part is that this is your platform to to plug whatever you want however you want.
M: I want to plug Ghia! Tall bottle if you’re feeling fancy and the new vfinalfinalfinal cans to take with you to the nearest picnic blanket available. We really poured our hearts into it so I hope it shows and helps make what should be a really fun summer as inclusive and hangover free as possible.
As always if you know some ballers who you think would be good for this series holler at me.
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