Jen Morales Of Mixicles: 5 Things You Need To Create a Successful Food or Beverage Brand

An Interview With Ming Zhao

Ming S. Zhao
Authority Magazine
7 min readJun 26, 2022

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You also need time and space in your life to devote to the business (it can only be a “side hustle” for so long), a strong vision for the brand, and a fair amount of chutzpah!

As a part of our series called “5 Things You Need To Create a Successful Food or Beverage Brand”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jen Morales, Co-Founder, President and CEO of Mixicles, botanically infused ice designed to naturally flavor and chill any spirit, wine, beer, or other beverage.

Former law firm partner and co-founder of litigation-services firm discoverIT LLC, Jen Morales has embarked on a new business venture with Mixicles, a botanical cocktail mixer company she launched in early 2019 with co-founder Jason Stitt. Morales, who is originally from Puerto Rico, holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in Music and English from Harvard University and a Juris Doctor from New York University School of Law. She serves as President & CEO of Mixicles, and in that role oversees the company’s day-to-day operations, sales & marketing, brand management, and creative vision.

When Jen isn’t being a rockstar in her professional life, she is a rockstar mom to twin fourth graders. Jen is a classically trained pianist and vocalist. In her free time, she loves to hike and photograph nature — especially the flora and fauna in National Parks.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

I grew up as a “corporate brat,” moving and changing schools every one to two years. My parents are both from Puerto Rico, and we lived on the island twice — during the first few years of my life as well as in high school. The rest of the time we bounced around the major metro areas of the East Coast, spanning Boston to Miami if you include my time at Harvard for undergrad and NYU for law school. What I lacked in stability growing up I gained in experience and exposure. (That’s what I like to tell myself, anyway.)

Can you share with us the story of the “ah ha” moment that led to the creation of Mixicles?

My friend and former law partner (now business partner), Jason Stitt, had started experimenting at home with making flavored ice-cube mixers for bourbon — a concept we’d seen during our frequent happy hours on a few bar and restaurant menus. One day, we were hanging out having Jason’s delicious made-from-scratch watermelon margaritas and I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if there were all kinds of frozen infusions that you could drop into any spirit for an instant cocktail that would evolve as you sipped it? Jason then put the rest of his watermelon margarita mix into ice cube trays so we could see how they fared when mixed with tequila a week or two later. It turned out that there was no loss of flavor or quality. That was the moment when I suggested to Jason that we try to make this into a business. I figured that worst case, we’d have more opportunities to hang out and drink together!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

We had some pretty epic fails when first coming up with recipes. One in particular — rosemary, peach, and pecan mixture — tasted great but turned into a very unappealing sludge when it started to melt in the glass. I won’t say exactly what it reminded me of, but think babies and diapers…

What are the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they start a cocktail mixers line? What can be done to avoid those errors?

The things we’ve learned through trial and error aren’t really specific to cocktail mixers. It takes a lot of time (and financial investment) to develop a new food or beverage product. If you don’t have a long-term view — and the resources to float the business in the meantime — you shouldn’t even start down the path. It’s labor-intensive and time-consuming, and the financial rewards — if and when they come — are far off in a future you can’t clearly see. A positive attitude and a good dose of Zen really help. So does a strong support network. Not unlike parenting children, “birthing” a consumer packaged good is not for the faint of heart!

Let’s imagine that someone reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to produce. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?

See if there is a class or workshop available in your area or online that you could attend. We enrolled in a 12-week course through a local incubator kitchen that taught attendees how to take their food or beverage idea and turn it into a business. The lessons we learned were invaluable, and we made great connections with other food entrepreneurs in the process. I’d also suggest looking into free mentoring, available through volunteer-based programs like SCORE (https://www.score.org/).

Many people have good ideas all the time. But some people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How would you encourage someone to overcome this hurdle?

Roll up your sleeves and do a lot of research! Listen to podcasts and read books or articles about or by entrepreneurs and start-up companies. Seek out mentors and advisors. Build your network, starting with the community in which you’re based. You’d be amazed at the resources available and how helpful people can be.

There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?

It depends on the nature of the idea. The more technical it is, the likelier it is that a consultant would be helpful — especially early on during your R&D phase. Just be sure to protect your intellectual property as best you can.

What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?

Deciding which way to proceed depends a lot on your personal resources, risk tolerance, and willingness to give up some equity and control. We have stayed away from venture capital (at least for now) because we’ve been fortunate to be able to fund the start of our business through a combination of personal capital and commercial financing.

Can you share thoughts from your experience about how to file a patent, how to source good raw ingredients, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer or distributor?

Unless you’re a patent lawyer, you will definitely want to retain one to assist with any patent filings. Trademarks and copyrights are a little easier to file for yourself, but seeking counsel is generally advisable, especially if you don’t personally have a legal background. In terms of sourcing ingredients and finding a co-manufacturer, we’ve found that it really helps to have a consultant who knows the ins and outs of commercializing a food product and who has connections within the industry. They can open a lot of doors for start-up companies with low-volume production needs. As for finding a retailer, if you want to take a food or beverage product regional or national, we’ve learned that you need to have a broker. Many retailers won’t speak with you if you don’t have representation.

Here is the main question of our discussion. What are your “5 Things You Need To Create a Successful Beverage Brand” and why?

The most important thing is a good idea; the more innovative it is, the better, as it’s a very crowded field.

Next, you need access to capital (more than you think) to fund the research, development, and launch of your product.

You also need time and space in your life to devote to the business (it can only be a “side hustle” for so long), a strong vision for the brand, and a fair amount of chutzpah!

Can you share your ideas about how to create a product that people really love and are ‘crazy about?

Jason and I set out to create something that we loved to drink and really wanted to share with people. If you don’t feel passionate about your product, don’t expect others to. And make it fun — focus on the joy you can add to people’s lives by putting your product out into the world.

Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

As we build our knowledge base and our network, we share what we’ve learned and the connections we’ve made with other entrepreneurs. As they say, a high tide lifts all boats. So eschew any scarcity mentality — it won’t serve you or anyone else well.

You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I’m passionate about sustainable food manufacturing and environmental sustainability in general. Many of the packaging and production options currently available, however, are more costly than traditional options, and thus out of reach for companies that are just starting up. I would love to see a movement that makes “alternative,” ethically sourced, non-wasteful offerings the norm rather than the exception. And no greenwashing! I’m talking about truly closed-loop manufacturing processes.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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Ming S. Zhao
Authority Magazine

Co-founder and CEO of PROVEN Skincare. Ming is an entrepreneur, business strategist, investor and podcast host.