Women In Wellness: Camila Soriano On The Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Help Support People’s Journey Towards Better Wellbeing
An Interview With Candice Georgiadis
Don’t be afraid of rejection. It is very important to hear the word “no”, take it as a learning experience and fix the why. Nothing should spring you into action more than not getting what you want.
As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Camila Soriano.
Departing from a background in banking, Camila worked on the American Cocktail Co. team together with husband Christopher Wirth before joining forces again to shake up the hard seltzer world and create Volley. Seeing a need for beverages free of “natural flavors,” she helped to bring about these tequila seltzers free of added sugars and preservatives that most hard seltzers have. Using just three real ingredients, 100% blue agave tequila, sparkling water, and organic juice, Volley was born as one of the cleanest and most refreshing cocktails out there.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
Thank you for allowing me to share my story! We’ll start at the very beginning — I graduated college having absolutely NO idea what I wanted to do. Having studied political science at a liberal arts college, opportunities are endless but I felt lost. So what did I decide to do? Start the chef training course at the French Culinary Academy in NYC, of course!
To get that dose of ‘me time’ some people go for a run, go to the spa or take a long bath. Don’t get me wrong, I love all those things but I truly love cooking, and really just food in general. BUT, being in school for cooking is a totally different story. After spending a week chopping carrots into various sizes, I dropped out — it took away the fun and allure of cooking for me. Back to the drawing board I was!
After some soul searching, I decided I wanted to challenge myself and get into something I had never done before. If I didn’t know what my calling in life was, I may as well learn something completely new, right? That’s when I got into middle market equity research sales at one of the large banks. BOY was that a learning experience. Imagine a shy introvert calling some of the largest hedge funds in the world and being called “sweetie” — it was a rude awakening. While in banking, I took it upon myself to study for the CFA designation. It was a very grueling 4 years but I got through it!
At the same time, I was feeling drained and knew that banking wasn’t for me. Chris (my now husband) had started a premium mixer business while in college and, while running this growing business on his own, I knew he needed help. That’s when I took the leap from the corporate world. Together we ran and grew American Cocktail Co, adapted the business to what it is today and learned more than you can imagine.
After a few years though, our drinking habits changed. I have always enjoyed a tequila (or 2) and found ourselves looking for the cleaner drinking options versus the sweeter cocktails. Around the same time these new things called spiked seltzers came onto the market. We had to question — what is in these things? The answer of “fermented cane sugar and natural flavors” didn’t do it for us. What even is fermented cane sugar? … And the term ‘natural flavor’ is so manipulative (in my opinion) — why do people think this is the better-for-you option?!
After searching and not finding the tequila option and one that actually is better for you, we decided to create one! And so Volley Tequila Seltzer was born.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
2020 turned everyone on their heads and we were no exception. We had planned to launch Volley in the spring of 2020 and to be on shelves by Cinco de Mayo. Well, you can imagine that did not happen. Navigating a scary world with many unknowns — global pandemic, high logistics and shipping demands, hold up at customs at the US-Mexico border due to staffing shortages, aluminum can shortages, the list can go on and on. It was nerve wrecking and pushed our launch to July 1. On top of this, we opened a fundraising round in the summer of 2020!
On a personal level, Chris and I had moved from NYC to Charleston, SC (something we planned pre-pandemic) at the height of the NYC shut down, which was difficult on it’s own. We lived in our home for 2 months with 0 furniture aside from 2 bar stools left behind for us. I was also due to give birth in mid-July. You can imagine how uncomfortable it was at 7 months pregnant working on barstools all day and sleeping on an air mattress. Being in a new city, preparing for our first baby and launching a new business all within a few months was a lot to take in. I was overwhelmed, excited, scared, etc etc.
Being in this situation really taught me the importance of planning, staying focused, and asking for help. It takes a village to raise a child and I am forever grateful for my family and our wonderful nanny. Learning to give up some control as a founder is tough, but very necessary. Not everything will be perfect and letting people you’ve hired do their job is key. Your company is your baby and you want to be there for every step, milestone, and set back. It’s perfectly understandable in my eyes, but realizing that you can’t do it all and relinquishing some of that responsibility will help take you to that next level and gives you some flexibility when life happens.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I would say the one that sticks out to me the most is our hiring. It has been tough for us to find that right person for several roles. We believed for a long time that we needed people to come in who had a ton of experience and who worked for bigger brands to help us propel Volley to that level — that experience was the most important thing. What we didn’t realize was that when you come from such a large brand with endless budgets, learning to adapt to finite budgets and growing a brand and consumer base is a completely different skill set. It is important to look for people who are builders, who can put processes in place to help you scale and who believe in the product as much as you do. Resilience is key.
Let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
Health and wellness is all about balance and having choices available to you. While we cannot claim that alcohol is good for you, we can tell you that if you choose to have balance in your life and to consume alcohol, Volley should be your pick. I’ll explain why.
Team Volley is on a mission to bring clean beverage options to everyone and to help educate the consumer on options out there. That’s why the 3 simple ingredients we use are deliberate and have a story behind them.
We use frozen organic single strength (not from concentrate) juice. This is equivalent to squeezing a lime in your kitchen and immediately freezing the juice. We stay very far from natural flavors or juice concentrates. While the term ‘natural flavor’ sounds so innocent, up to 100 ingredients can be in each natural flavor. Those ingredients can include sugar (yes, in those products that claim “no added sugar” there is sugar hidden in the natural flavors they use!!!) or castoreum (goo excreted from the behind of a beaver) and none of the ingredients in that ‘natural flavor’ need to be related to the flavor they are trying to replicate. It is shocking. Oh also, have you wondered why most ‘naturally flavored’ beverages out there are clear and perfectly homogenous? If they claim to have “real juice” in them, where is the color and why don’t I have to shake it up like I do an orange juice? Last I checked, real mango juice was yellow. Volley’s can needs to be flipped before cracking open to mix the flavors and it proudly has beautiful colors when poured over ice, each batch being a slightly different color. After all, real fruit is perfectly imperfect.
Our other 2 ingredients are carbonated purified water, aka sparking water and 100% blue agave tequila. Tequila is having its moment, but not all tequila is created equally! Removing the age profile from this equation (blanco, reposado or añejo), there are 3 types of tequila. Mixto, 100% blue agave and additive-free 100% blue agave tequila. Mixto means mixed, so this tequila is made from agave juice mixed with up to 49% other sugars (such as cane or high fructose corn syrup). Hello hangover! Mixto tequila can be bottled anywhere, so if you see a product that is bottled in the USA, that is mixto tequila! 100% agave tequila is tequila made with 100% agave juice and can only be bottled in Mexico. There are no hidden sugars and therefore, you will likely notice less of a hangover the next day. Now, what some of the larger tequila companies have realized is that the American palette is drawn to a sweeter option. Therefore, they have added vanilla flavoring to their tequila, but the % is so small that it is not disclosed in the ingredients. If you know what’s in vanilla flavor (ahem, beaver butt goo) you will think twice about vanilla flavor. That is where additive-free 100% blue agave tequila comes in. This is just 100% agave juice, distilled in fragrant barrels and gives you the smoothest profile. We are proud to be a part of the additive-free movement, using top shelf tequila that can stand on its own next to some of the best brands out there.
We truly believe that as a family-owned beverage company, we are part of the movement in bringing cleaner products to everyone and to educate the consumer. We are the cleanest can from the inside out (check out our cool foil topper!) and are working tirelessly to build that trust in the consumer because we are on their side.
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
I need to preface this question with a comment — here are my tweaks, but I am far from following them every single day. On an ideal day you would complete all, but life isn’t perfect!
- Wake up early (and therefore sleep early). This is something that I don’t have much of a choice in, but have loved embracing. Having a 1.5 year old (and another coming this spring), our days start early. That being said, Chris and I split the morning time. This is Chris’ time to be with our son and my “me’’ time. Time for me to get ready to conquer the day. I always look at my calendar so I can plan, I filter emails, and may take a long shower or even do a face mask! We always make our bed (I cannot get into an unmade bed) and I make time for a full breakfast. Before I sit down at my desk I like feeling like I’ve accomplished something for me. You never know where the day may take you so prioritize yourself.
- Go for a walk. It is very hard to disconnect when you run your own business, but even more so when you work with your husband. There is nothing like sunshine and fresh air to reset your mind. We are lucky to live in Charleston, SC where the weather is pretty much perfect all year long. On days when I know it will be tough to get out, I make it a point to step out of my office (we work from home) after my son’s lunch and get outside with him. It may only be a 5 minute break, but it is worth it.
- Know what you are putting in your body. While by no means am I perfect (I’ve been indulging in a half powdered hot chocolate, half coffee every morning, but hey I’m 8 months pregnant), I try to know exactly what is in the food or drinks I am consuming. Steering clear of artificial or ‘natural’ ingredients or flavors has made such a difference in how I feel, how my body functions, how I sleep and even on my skin! That being said, just having the knowledge and power to choose what you consume or don’t consume is extremely important, since it is all about balance.
- Stay in touch. I am guilty of being awful at staying in touch with friends and family. There are weeks when we are so busy they blend together. I’ve noticed that when I am so disconnected from the people I love the most, I’m not as patient and relaxed. Just hearing the voice of that family member or your best friend, whether you talk about what you had for lunch that day or go into a deep conversation can be such a great, understated reset.
- Turn notifications off. I first need to thank Apple for adding “work” as a do not disturb option. But in all seriousness, this has helped with my productivity, sleep and general reliance on my phone. Every day my phone switched to sleep mode from 9PM-7AM. I don’t get notifications nor does my phone vibrate and it has helped me sleep tremendously. “Work” mode automatically switches on when I have meetings or my calendar is booked (which is most of the day), so I feel like I am not distrubed and can give myself good chunks of time to be productive. There are too many distractions today and limiting the need to multitask is very underrated.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I would urge everyone to question what they are putting in their bodies. What are “natural flavors” and why are they the fourth most common ingredient in food, behind water, salt and sugar? How can something that is called “natural” have undisclosed ingredients, often beyond 100 ingredients, packed inside them? Doesn’t this violate the integrity of the word “natural”?
We should be fighting for more transparency and for products to be made with real ingredients — they are better for you and just taste better! Everyone should be able to enjoy an alcoholic beverage, knowing exactly what’s inside it and without feeling guilty. It should not be difficult to find and consume clean and real things. Fight for transparency and never settle!
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- Listen. I always thought I was a good listener / observer but you can always do more. Listen to what the consumers are saying, you will learn more and adapt your business to be in a better place. Listen to experts, the people out on the field and for any feedback given to you. Digest what you hear, evaluate and go from there.
- Don’t be afraid of rejection. It is very important to hear the word “no”, take it as a learning experience and fix the why. Nothing should spring you into action more than not getting what you want.
- Being an entrepreneur and a new mother is hard. I don’t think this is talked about enough. Feeling like I’ve given my 100% to work, my child and myself is a constant struggle and juggling act. You can’t do everything perfectly all the time and that is OK, but learning to be OK with it is the hard part. Try not to be so hard on yourself and ask for help! You cannot do it all.
- Learn how to manage people. Knowing your strengths and what you need to hire for is so important. Knowing how to manage those people to their potential is even more important. Managing doesn’t come naturally for everyone but everyone needs to know how to do it. This can apply to every aspect of your life, not just work, so do not play the importance of this down! As I said, you cannot do it all.
- You will not love what you’re doing all the time. There is this notion that because it’s your business, you won’t mind going to the office everyday. This is not true. There are days when it is a struggle but you need to be there and be present more than if you worked for a giant company — the wheels need to turn and for a long time, you are making them turn. Surround yourself with those people that can pump you up and get you out of that headspace. Grateful to have my husband and partner for this!
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Sustainability is huge to me and therefore to the Volley ethos. I grew up in the Philippines and was lucky enough to be able to go to the beach all year long. Every weekend at the beach, we would go on our morning beach walks. We’d bring along the usual — sunscreen, water, a hat and a garbage bag. We would make sure that the beach we left behind us was spotless. This became second nature to us growing up.
Fast forward a couple years and I’m living in NYC. On my daily walks to/from the subway I was angered by the insane amounts of trash everywhere. On one of Chris and my first dates, we couldn’t find each other on opposite sides of the street because I was behind a huge pile of trash! I am 5’5” so that isn’t a low pile of trash… I began to post photos of garbage around NYC on an Instagram account, hoping to start a grassroots movement. That didn’t go anywhere, but when Chris and I decided to start a beverage company I knew that I did NOT want to see our cans lying around. If we were going to be the active outdoor brand we wanted Volley to be, we needed to do our part.
This is why we’ve partnered with Leave No Trace. LNT provides research, education and initiatives so everyone can protect and enjoy our world in a responsible way. Instead of spending lots of money on restoration programs, LNT and Volley believe that education is the most effective way to protect the outdoors. Once the world normalizes, we will be planning large clean ups throughout the country and hope you can join us!
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
Follow @drinkvolley on Instagram. I keep most of my life private, but Chris and I will be making more and more appearances on social media so keep posted!
Thank you for these fantastic insights!