Mindfulness and Liqueur: One Startup's Recipe for Success

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"I think we're fortunate enough as human beings to be able to create things. We surrender ourselves to the things that are most challenging, and this whole process has been a huge growth experience. When we stretch ourselves to be something more and to step up, it's the journey in personal growth that I find so special..” - Jodi Darren, Founder of Apple Playa Liqueurs.

Nobody likes drinking alone, which is why CEO Jodi Darren formulated a cocktail that is predicated on the notion of sharing special moments with friends. Infused with love, Apple Playa evokes a mindful experience that invites you to be fully present.

Q. How did Apple Playa come to fruition?
Apple Playa started in 2012 after my boyfriend and I concocted an Apple liqueur, made with real apples and infused with cinnamon, to share at a festival. It was incredibly delicious, but we found that sharing it with friends was what made it so special. Apple Playa was about creating relationships over a cocktail and being mindful in that experience. We would share it and created a ritual that was about connection, setting intentions and enjoying the moment. Apple Playa was a passion project that became something more. I am personally making the transition from a solopreneur, actress and TV spokesperson of many years to now learning how to manage a business.

Q. Where is the company now?
We went into production in 2016 after navigating the extensive systems surrounding liqueur, both in terms of how it’s created and distributed. We initially sold Apple Playa to friends and family and a few bars and restaurants that really liked it. The big push came when I submitted Apple Playa to Total Wine last fall and it was accepted into five stores in the area!

Q. What is it about the entrepreneurial experience that you love?
I think we're fortunate enough as human beings to be able to create things. We surrender ourselves to the things that are most challenging, and this whole process has been a huge growth experience. When we stretch ourselves to be something more and to step up, it's the journey in personal growth that I find so special.

Q. When you have those moments where you’re stretching yourself thin, what is it that gets you through that process?
I focus on my vision. I spent a lot of time figuring out how alcohol can be linked to my vision, which is about connection and celebration. When I’m having those hard days, I think about what I'm creating and what this is really about in the end. It's about celebrating mindfully and planting a seed so when people try Apple Playa, they realize it's more than just a shot at the bar, it's about being present with the ones you’re with. What also pulls me through when things get tough are the relationships I’ve built along the way. We get to rely on other people and be there for them in return.

Q. What part of building the company has been particularly difficult for you?
Figuring out how to make my product sustainable and mindful to the planet has been difficult. As an entrepreneur, it can be hard to use the best processes when trying to keep the costs as low as possible. We're doing smaller batches so we're not getting the best price breaks, and it's something that I'm constantly trying to figure out. I want to produce a good product and have a great profit margin, but at the same time I want to be mindful about its ripple effect on the environment.

Q. What’s your advice for entrepreneurs who are just starting out?
Just start. You’re going to constantly readjust and pivot what you’re working on, but if you don’t take the first step forward, you’ll always wonder what could have been.

Q. What’s your favorite Apple Playa drink?
Apple playa can be sipped straight or over ice, in a Spritz with Prosecco, in an old fashioned, blended with almond milk for an Apple pie ala mode experience,  or mix Apple Playa with cucumber juice for a Fresh elixir! So many fun options. 

Q. Why Did You Apply to Babson’s WIN Lab accelerator?
I actually came to the Miami CIC to meet up with a few of my friends and someone asked me if I was there for WIN Lab. I learned more about what the program had to offer and joined the mailing list. After more research, I was eager to join the WIN Lab family to gain their support and meet new people. am extremely grateful to be a part of the program.

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