Vol. 127 - NO. 39

Blog Startup CPG

SINCE 2019

The Story
of Chelly

By Nick Guerrieri, CEO & Founder of CHELLY

CHELLY is a spirits brand that handcrafts a modernized limoncello, an Italian digestif that has been around for centuries. Nick and his team look to bring a new twist to a classic drink for the modern-day drinker.

Creating an alcohol brand in my kitchen

I knew nothing about the alcohol business when I started this brand. The only thing I knew about alcohol at this time was that it was a large piece of my college social life.
After I graduated college from The University of Arizona, I hosted a party where I shared a limoncello with my friends —who were all around 22 years of age. At the time, my dad and I had been making our family recipe for roughly three to four years, a recipe handed down three generations through our cousins in Italy. Of the 50 friends present at this party, the feelings were unanimous: everyone loved it … and no one knew what it was. A light bulb went off — what if I could recreate my specialty family recipe for the common consumer?
Two years later — after many months of reading Arizona liquor laws, taking countless distillery tours, coming up with the name and the label, and getting our own warehouse — we were in business.

Kitchen to retail

We kicked off CHELLY during the start of COVID. Typically, alcohol brands are built in the on-premise world (bars & restaurants), but during COVID, these locations were either closed or too terrified about staying afloat to take on new product. So, we adjusted and shifted our focus to the outlets that were crushing it: liquor stores.
We sold cases door-to-door, out of our trunks to liquor stores. Initially, we didn’t know how to pitch to a spirits manager, or what materials to bring with us to pitch. We just showed up with a bottle to sample and shared the story.
After doing this for some time, we acquired our first 30 independent liquor stores. Not having a large marketing budget, we banked on demos… and more demos. As the adage goes, liquid to lips is the name of the game. After selling through, we pitched to Total Wine and got into our first regional chain store. This allowed us to spread distribution and cover most of the populated cities in Arizona.


Less about the liquid, more about the use occasion

Educating consumers is the single most expensive and daunting endeavor — and it can take years and substantial amounts of money. But one thing I’ve learned in this journey is that it is less about the liquid — and more about the use occasion.
When I first got into this business, I thought that if you had a great liquid, everyone would flock to purchase it. And yes, having great liquid is important. But the most important piece is educating a consumer through the terms and occasions they already understand.
More specifically, it comes down to saying something along the lines of “Let me show you how you can use this liquid in ways you already enjoy alcohol, and how it elevates your drinking occasion, whether by itself or in a mixed drink.” We now craft our messaging differently depending on the stakeholder or type of consumer. The best way to learn this is through continually getting out there and talking with customers.

What’s next

Now that COVID is behind us for the most part, we are now primarily focused on accounts like bars, restaurants, hotels, and event venues. Talking with customers from all levels is important to us to further understand where we hold the most value — and learn the best ways to communicate that.
We are also looking to fundraise to further expand our mission of inspiring moments of unity and refreshing your spirit.


Follow Nick Guerrieri and his journey of building his first brand on Twitter!

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