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In the summer of 2016, Ryan Ayotte was a college senior just looking to have a good time on the go. As he headed to the “packy” (what MA locals call a liquor store), he had the bright idea to grab the ingredients needed for mimosas: a few bottles of bubbly, OJ, and some Solo cups.
He was headed out for a cocktail cruise with his friends on Cape Cod (what could be better on a sunny July day?!). The four of them loaded onto a little boat Ryan had and began mixing their favorite drink: mimosas. With the waves rocking the boat back and forth, champagne, juice and cups flew everywhere. It was in this moment that Ryan had the idea to put mimosas in a can, despite have no experience in beverage production.
Fast forward to 2018, and the idea for canned mimosas resurfaced. Tired of his finance job, Ryan became obsessed and convinced that the world needed a convenient way to enjoy the most popular wine-based cocktail in the world, while also making it healthier.
Though he kept the idea to himself at first, he was stunned by the reaction of some of his closest friends when he finally shared. He heard things like "That's a stupid idea, people don't want that" and "do you even know what you're doing? Don't waste your money on that"
After so much research, meetings with industry vets, business plans, and more, this stung to hear. However, that quickly turned into more fuel to succeed: Ryan knew that despite the skepticism, there was a real market fit for Ohza and his passion for the product meant he would always regret not pursuing it. "I was really shocked. I quickly realized though that there will always be naysayers, regardless of how amazing your idea is", says Ayotte. "You just have to ignore them and believe in your abilities to succeed, and your conviction in the idea". After 8 months of product development, permit applications and more, Ohza was launched in June 2019.
With one employee, almost no money in the bank, and zero marketing, Ayotte spent everyday on the road: pitching the product to 25+ stores per day, doing doing 10+ sampling events on the weekend, and sleeping in the back of his car to save money. Ohza saw a small start in Massachusetts (a mere $90k in sales for 2019), but people loved the Classic Mimosa, continually talking about it on social media and repurchasing it at stores. Ayotte then began setting his sites on adding new flavors and expanding distribution, with a big focus on restaurants.
That all came to a screeching halt in February of 2020 though, when the pandemic hit. The forecasted revenue from restaurants and newly developed kegs disappeared, plus a general shift by consumers to stock up on the big name, cheaper products, meant Ohza could be dead in the water if things didn’t change fast.
While direct-to-consumer was always in the works, Ryan pivoted and put all of his eggs into the e-commerce basket in March 2020, working round the clock to ensure that all legal paperwork was ready and that he had a viable website to sell Ohza online. "I was so nervous about totally changing our business model without any proof that it would work, especially with rushing to get things done so quickly and without proper testing", says Ayotte.
Fast forward a few months, and Ohza’s business changed entirely. It sold out of Classic Mimosa three times online, had a record breaking sales day when launching Cranberry Mimosa, won its place as a top 4 canned cocktail brand nationally, and Ayotte was recognized as a Forbes 30 Under 30 Founder. By Fall 2020, Ohza, which had started as young, Massachusetts retail-only product, had become a multi-million dollar brand, virtually overnight.
As of November 2021, Ohza is continuing to see rapid growth with no signs of slowing down. It has four flavors and adding more, gained the attention of retailers such as Whole Foods, Wegmans, Fresh Market, BevMo, and Total Wine, and is selling direct to consumers in 42 states via its website.