“Bread and water can so easily be toast and tea”
Interviews with people who make and do things
In Toast and Tea, we interview founders, makers and creators with a focus on how they are building their business and managing their growth and goals. We recently interviewed Brooks Reitz, founder of Jack Rudy Cocktail Co.
What do you do or make? Why do you do it? We produce natural cocktail mixers and bar accessories - everything from tonic to bitters to cherries and into bar tools. We do it because we are passionate food and drink lovers and as consumers we couldn’t find products like ours. Our brand is driven by the history of our great-grandfather, for whom the company is named. Though we are a modern company, we tend to favor old school simplicity and classic products that will stand the test of time.
What’s the first thing you do every day? Go downstairs and open all the blinds in the house. If I’m not in a rush, I’ll make coffee
Does your company have a mission statement? If so, what is it? Not necessarily. Our driving goal is to imagine what we might have found in our great-grandfathers bar cabinet that could be reworked for a modern audience. And then, we do it!
What makes you tick? What gets you excited about about what you do everyday? I live for the creative process. I get easily bored once something is ‘launched’ or almost complete. I enjoy thinking of new products, experiences, and approaches.
Is there one philosophy you try to live and work by? For me, balance is key in life and work.
How would you describe your management style? Straightforward, level headed, and fair.
What advice to you have for other makers who are beginning to build a team? In particular, what roles do you think are most important to hire (and when)? I am a fan of bootstrapping. My advice is to put off hiring someone for as long as possible; It allows you to experience all the roles first hand and know exactly what you need. And with a new company, you need as much capital as you can get, so hiring is tough.
Going off that question, is there any particular area within your company that is most highly developed/built out? Our shipping/warehousing and logistics are water tight. We have an amazing employee that oversees our warehouse and we have very detailed inventories, shipping strategies, and organizational tools.
Where do you see the life-cycle of your company now (eg, aggressive growth, maintenance, start-up)? It’s hard to say, because I don’t come from a business background. I would say we are well past the start-up phase, and we teeter between aggressive growth (mostly overseas) and maintenance.
Based on your growth and goals, is there one area you are most focused on building/supporting? We’ve been fortunate to grow substantially without any real marketing infrastructure. Our next move it to hire someone to oversee marketing and sales, and to travel within the US to support the brand in our strongest markets.
What is your dream for your brand? What’s next? In one year? In five years? Our dream is to continue to develop thoughtful products that make sense for our brand. We’ve always been very methodical about introducing a new item - we want to make sure it fits. In one year, I am focused on launching our new Bar Olives and debuting them overseas. In five years I would like to see Jack Rudy as a leader in the non-alcoholic mixer space, and beginning to play in the spirits sector in a way that makes sense. We’d like to give Fever Tree a run for their money, and we think we can do it.
We all have pain points as we grow. Can you describe any recent ones? How did you solve for it? The biggest pain point for me is finding time to balance my role at Jack Rudy with my other interests. I own two restaurants here in Charleston, and last year launched a wine label with a partner, as well. Balancing the duties of these projects is an ongoing challenge that I work on daily. The best solution is finding smart, driven people that are equipped to carry out your vision, and putting them in a place to do just that.
How would you describe what your role & job function to an alien? I would tell them I’m a professional emailer.
How do you get your brand message into the world? What tools/platforms/strategies have you found most successful? We struggle with this. Our best platform and strategy is allowing bigger media brands (Bon Appetit, GQ, etc.) to tell our story. We find those readers to be quite actionable, and interested. Our second approach is through passionate bartenders that love the products; they serve as great messengers for the brand and help us touch countless new customers each night. We love Instagram for the direct touch with our customer, but we are still trying to find the approach that feels right for our brand.