Office Hours: I'm the co-founder of Haus and have worked on creative for companies including Airbnb, Google, and Pinterest. I'm Helena Price Hambrecht.Featured
Hi I’m Helena Price Hambrecht, and I’m the co-founder and Co-CEO of Haus.I started Haus with my husband Woody to solve a problem: we wanted a better way to drink. The alcohol industry hasn’t changed since Prohibition, leaving today’s drinker stuck with outdated products that are too boozy, too sugary, too artificial, and completely misaligned with our values. Something needed to change.With Haus we’re creating an alcohol brand for the modern drinker by rethinking how it works - from product, to brand, to distribution. We’ve hit a sweet spot with drinkers looking for sessionable products they can feel good about putting in their bodies, growing 800% in 2020. Prior to Haus, I ran a Silicon Valley creative studio where I helped shape brands like Facebook, Fitbit, Google, Instagram, Microsoft, Nike, Pinterest, Slack, Square, Twitter and Uber. My work has been featured in ABC, CNN, The New York Times, Fast Company, Fortune, Glamour, The Guardian, and Inc.Ask me anything about founder journey, brand, communications, and organic growth strategy!
Thanks so much for joining us @helenahambrecht!Elphas – please ask @helenahambrecht your questions before Friday, April 9th. @helenahambrecht may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
Hi Helena! I’ve never tried Haus personally but I got my friend a gift card for his birthday a few months ago. 🙂 1. After you identified this pain point, what are some of the steps you took to validate your idea and gather feedback from real humans?2. Haus has built a super strong, engaged online community. I’m sure your branding experience was instrumental to accomplishing this. What advice would you give to a new DTC bootstrapped founder who is launching a new product and isn’t sure what steps to take to build an engaged community around their brand?Thanks a bunch ❤️
Appreciate you!As far as idea validation goes, you can only do so much - you’re never going to truly know if something works until it’s out in the world. That said, the idea came from our own experiences not finding any alcohol brands that met our own values, as well as lots of research of the alc industry and consumer trends. At the end of the day, you have to have a strong belief that you’re building something that people will want, launch the thing, and see how it goes.As far as community building goes, I think it’s less about brand specifically and more about thinking about what people want. If all of content was just marketing messages, no one would want anything to do with it. For us, it was about thinking about what excites us about the ritual of sharing a beverage with others - everything from the people, to food, to music, to the spaces we gather in. It’s also about having strong values and letting those shine from the beginning. You’ll begin to attract people who care about the same things as you and share your values. That to me is the best recipe for community building - intention and service is everything.
Hi Helena - can't wait to try Haus! Vodka sodas just aren't doing it for me anymore. 🤷🏼♀️ What has it been like working and co-founding alongside your husband? How has it impacted your relationship? You've obviously done an amazing job brand building for Haus, but I'm curious how you went about building your business and finding new clients for your creative studio. There are SO many agencies and studios out there. How did you stand out to get such high-profile clients?
Hi Mollie! We joke that Haus exists because a techie married a winemaker. It’s true though! Woody and I have always been career-focused people, and since we met each other years ago we’ve always been involved in each other’s businesses. We have very different skill sets but the combination of his alcohol expertise and my years working with consumer startups allowed us to see the opportunity for something like Haus to exist. As far as working together successfully, it helps that we have expertise in opposite domains—Woody handles everything from production and compliance to distribution, and I handle everything brand and consumer-facing. Mutual trust and respect are vital. Because we’re married, we’ve already put in a lot of work on our ability to communicate and work together. That said, we’re grateful to have a professional coach who doubles as a marriage counselor to work through more challenging moments. I always recommend working with a coach whether you’re in a relationship with your co-founder or not.
Thanks for your time, Helena! Love Haus :)I'm currently a product marketer at a big tech company (one of the ones you've worked with), but I don't feel like I'm able to get enough creative expression in my job. If I'm interested in brand building, what tools/resources/programs do you think I should try to learn (or at least play around with!) to help me learn what I need to know to help build brands using digital tools? I don't have a trained or professional background in digital design, but am curious to hear what you think. Thanks!
I was once in your shoes! During my early years in Silicon Valley I was working in PR and business development - my work was not creative at all. I also didn’t really have time to be creative outside of work. So for years, to stay sane, I spent a couple of hours before going to sleep just consuming other people’s creative work. I’d spend hours on Tumblr and on people’s portfolios just soaking in everything creative I possibly could. Amazingly, when I started creating again in 2012, my output was measurably better than it had been in the years prior, without any physical practice. Don’t underestimate how listening and learning can be just as beneficial to your creative as making in the long term. As far as resources go, there’s no single resource! Just go digging. Google your way into different rabbit holes. Search instagram and Tiktok and Pinterest. Dig through creative portfolios. Read books. Consuming a wide range of work and perspectives usually has better outcomes than trying to focus on one source of information, so go explore!
Thank you so much! Time to go exploring :)
Hi Vicki, Both https://thingtesting.com/ and https://showfields.com/ are great for DNVB/DTC brand spoting. For DTC news, I like to follow https://leanluxe.com/ and https://2pml.com/. Hope that helps. J
Hi, Helena!What do you recommend as the primary skills a founding team must have when trying to get off the ground?For example, would you say you need skills in business, knowledge of your target industry, technical skills (of building a technical product)....?What are the key qualities to look for in a cofounder?
Hi! Domain expertise is important - more so than ever before. It not only gives you a competitive advantage but it gives you authenticity that is important to the customer. If you’re building a food business, someone on your founding team better have deep expertise in food. For Haus, Woody brings deep generational expertise in everything related to alcohol, which was essential to Haus’ success. Beyond that, it’s less about what you know, but your ability to hire people that know more than you. Your job will always be to lead - to provide vision and direction. But the sooner you learn to delegate, the better.
Can you share something you would have done differently if you were to launch Haus again?
That’s a tough one - I try to not have regrets because even the mistakes are valuable learning experiences. If I had to choose something, it would be to care less about the conventional “wins” that startups celebrate like raising a seed round from a top VC firm. We ended up raising all of our seed round on SAFE notes without a lead, and at first it was something I was self-conscious about - but soon I realized that having a non-traditional cap table has a ton of advantages, and we’ve actually inspired a lot of startups to do non-traditional rounds after us. It’s okay to do things differently.
Hey Helena!I gifted Haus to my friends and they loved it :) You've done an incredible job with branding and creating noise around it. It was all over my feed at one point! That was so inspiring to see!Do you have tips for creating that noise and building a brand for new companies? I build an accelerator to invest in raw talent (we're often the first to believe and invest in companies at pre-seed) and I would love any advice on creating a brand as memorable as yours!Thanks so much for this,Jiwon
Hi Jiwoon, thanks so much!We see new consumer brands with beautiful design and a well-packaged product launching every week. But a well-branded product on its own isn’t enough for today’s consumer. We knew that authenticity, product quality, brand, and customer experience would be key to driving organic, lasting growth for Haus. Luckily for us, authenticity was baked into Haus from the beginning. We started Haus because we were looking for a better way to drink, and we had the skills to make it. We still make the product ourselves, and we’re transparent about the process. We’ve always led with our values. When it came to thinking about the brand, I knew I wanted it to be about bringing people together. I wanted it to feel very real, very tactile and timeless - much like the ritual of sharing a drink with loved ones has spanned generations. Our brand also needed to focus on education - giving people context on what the product is and how to enjoy it. Leading with information, transparency and context went a long way for us. As for making noise, we’ve always been proponents of organic over paid growth. Our bet was that if we created the best possible product, people would love it and tell all of their friends about it. That proved to be true. We’ve also leaned into storytelling along the way. A Medium post I wrote telling the story of how the idea came to be drove a huge waitlist pre-launch, and for the first 6 months we grew without paid marketing thanks to press and word of mouth.
My friend gifted me with Haus and I was inspired to try just from the amazing marketing and packaging alone. Then when I tried the product I was wowed! Haus is truly groundbreaking and I'm excited for my friends and family to expand their palates to start to consider apertifs in a new way. Kudos to you guys! In launching Haus, how did you guys decide on your target consumer?
When I first had the idea for Haus, I was in the midst of my own drinking dilemma. As a career-focused person I’ve always kept busy with networking events, work dinners, catching up with friends, etc, and drinking was always a part of that.But the side effects were getting to me - I would accidentally get drunker than I wanted to, the hangovers were getting worse, my sleep was suffering, the calories were harder to work off, and so on. As I started talking to more people I realized this was a problem everyone I knew was facing. I’ve always been fascinated by consumer trends so I started digging into consumer research and realized this wasn’t just a problem with me and my friends. Today’s generation of drinkers cares deeply about their health, as well as transparency, quality, and authenticity. Alcohol wasn’t working for anyone. Unfortunately the alcohol industry is highly regulated and ruled by corporations, and most Americans only have access to boozy, sugary, factory-made alcohol that isn't made with their well being in mind. There was a big opportunity for someone to do something better, and we thought we could be the people to do it. So long story short, we made Haus with our generation in mind - it was a gut feeling from our own experiences that we validated with research. But ultimately we had to launch it to prove our hypothesis.
Thanks for this AMA @helenahambrecht!I’m an early stage founder of a Med tech SaaS company. I have a medical background but not a natural knack for the creative, design thinking background that you excel at. As a founder looking to create a seamless UX/UI for patients & doctors what qualities or skills should I look for in an early hire or contractor to give that creative-human centered design lens?
I can’t offer too many specifics here as I’m not a design hiring expert, but there are a lot of things to consider outside of just skills. Are they passionate about this space - or at least extremely curious? Have they taken time to research the industry and its complexities? Are they interested in human-centered design? Are they excited about what you’re building? I think passion and curiosity go a long way, so be sure to make it a point of discussion in the hiring process.
Hi @helenahambrecht! I was so excited to see your AMA here. I've been following Haus for a while and am blown away by your brand building. It really says something when you're in conversations and you hear someone joke about "drinking a haus all weekend" the same way you'd joke about "needing to getaway to an airbnb pronto"I've a question about your partnership strategies, like the restaurant project. At what stage did you start considering them and how did you decide on which restaurants you wanted to team up with? Also were there any particular strategies in play to make these partnerships effective? Thanks in advance!
We had the idea for The Restaurant Project last March as we saw the impact COVID was having across the entire food & bev industry. We were losing sleep watching our favorite restaurants and chefs forced to shut their doors. We knew that tactics like gift cards and fundraising campaigns would only go so far. So we started brainstorming creative ways we could help, using the unique tools we had at our disposal. We had a warehouse, lots of equipment, and the ability to make custom products quickly, since we make our product ourselves. The crazy idea hit us - maybe we could partner with restaurants on custom aperitifs, collaborate with the chefs on recipes that bring their culinary vision to life, handle all of the production, sales and shipping, and give them all of the profit. We then reached out to chefs and restaurants that we loved to see if they were interested - and they were. I think the key to making a partnership work is it has to be a good deal for the parties you’re pitching. In the case of The Restaurant Project, we focused on what was important to the restaurants - full creative control over the flavor, lots of promotion, and obviously free money was helpful at the time too. In this case specifically we cared less about what we were getting out of the deal - we were more motivated by creating awesome products and doing something good for the community - but obviously it was great to collaborate with such amazing people in the food community and I think we got some good karma out of it too.
@helenahambrecht! I stan Haus. I love following you on Twitter–you have a commanding and fun presence there. How have you gone about cultivating your personal account and how do you keep it going? Also, what are your favorite places on the internet for brand/design/marketing inspiration? Fav follows, blogs, podcasts, etc. Thank you for joining us!
Hello @helenahambrecht ! Thank you for sharing with us🙏🏽. Haus is impeccably designed, and the technology companies you’ve worked with have such intuitive user experiences. Beautiful work.Would you mind sharing your design process and the mindset, inspiration, etc. you have in designing your work?
Thank you! It’s a team effort to make great products. I’ve always focused on working with incredible design teams who are able to bring my vision to life. We worked with Gin Lane (now Pattern Brands) on the Haus branding and now have an incredible in-house design team who churns out work every month on everything from digital product to photography. I had a strong idea of what Haus should look and feel like before going to an agency - this was essential to choosing the right partner and giving them a solid brief to work with.I wanted Haus to feel like home. Familiar. Beautiful but approachable. Focused on the people and the ritual. I didn’t want it to look like other internet DTC brands, who at the time were shooting all of their photos as shiny studio shots, with the products on a colored backdrop. I wanted something that felt real. I was inspired by vintage print editorial, home magazines like Apartamento, old photo albums. It’s very much nostalgic and tactile while still feeling like something you could do today. Drinking and gathering have been a part of how we connect with each other for centuries. So the brand also had to feel timeless, like it could be now or our parent’s generation.All of this came together quickly, but it was informed by over a decade of studying content and aesthetic trends, from print editorial to shifts in how content is posted to Instagram. I had a feeling that content was about to get messier, more authentic and more real, and that’s the content I wanted to see more of in the world. So that’s what felt right for Haus.