Office Hours: I previously lead teams at Glossier and Dig Inn and am the founder of a non-alcoholic aperitif companyFeatured

Hi everyone! I’m Melanie Masarin founder and CEO of Ghia, a new non-alcoholic aperitif made with real ingredients with the mission of changing the way we think about drinking and socializing. I graduated from Brown University with a degree in economics & before creating Ghia - I was the Creative Director and Head of Marketing of Dig Inn and then the Head of Retail and Offline Experiences at Glossier where I led the offline and experiential strategy.Ask me anything about my journey as a founder, building brands, leading teams, marketing, or anything else you can think of!
Thanks so much for joining us @MelanieMasarin!Elphas – please ask @MelanieMasarin your questions before Friday, February 26th. @MelanieMasarin may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites πŸ”₯πŸ‘πŸΎβž•
YES, thank you for this, so excited to try!- As a founder, were you able to leverage existing relationships in the manufacturing/beverage industry in order to create Ghia? What advice on networking/outreach can you share for someone trying to break into a new industry?- What key traits/skills catch your eye when hiring for Ghia? In your honest opinion, would you prioritize hiring a generalist w/less experience (but specifically passionate about non-alc bev) or someone with more experience in a diff. industry?
I had no contacts in the manufacturing and beverage industry when I started Ghia! I asked everyone I knew, and thankfully friends and friends of friends were generous with introductions. It was the time to ask all the favors to help guide me!As for hiring, it depends on which role! It's good to have generalists early on but now we are reaching the phase where we are hiring for specific expertise.
You've have a successful career working for amazing companies in fantastic roles. I'm sure this did not come without some tough lessons. What is your favorite career failure & what did you learn from this?
So many! I think the main lesson for me is to try to not take things personally or be affected by feedback unless it impacts the brand long term. We work hard to do our best and try to give the best experience to customers possible. If we get a bad piece of press, I try to see if there's meaningful constructive takeaway and if not, I (try to) move on as fast as possible.
Very insightful, thanks 😊
@MelanieMasarin An absolutely fantastic product and I would love to try this out! I was curious to understand a bunch of things :)1) How are you getting your initial customers? Your general approach and how did you get that first customer to believe in the product and see the value?2) Since you are trying to break this socially accepted norm, what kind of hurdles do you face when explaining your product to others?3) What's your initial target market like? Trying to go super niche (targeting folks who used to be social drinkers but cant anymore due to some X reason) or targeting folks who are general social drinkers (making them adopt something new)?Thanks again!
Hi Melanie, how exciting, all the best for your Ghia journey! I'd love to hear: what were some unexpected challenges you faced at Glossier? How would you do things differently at Ghia?
There are so many challenges when working at a startup and especially in retail. I actually think all these hurdles at Glossier prepared me really well for the crazy year that was 2020 and for the launch of Ghia. I hope to build a company that is as collaborative and as special - tough act to follow!
@MelanieMasarin thanks for joining and answering questions. I advise founders that are scaling on leadership and talent acquisition and engagement. I find one of the hardest things they face is managing teams and building out that engagement culture. You have led very successful teams!! What was the most important thing you had to learn to be effective and the most difficult aspect of managing a team. Why do things fall apart as you add layers of management and scale? Thanks!!!
Communication is key! It's something that I'm constantly working on - I think the greatest managers spend most of their times making sure everyone has the best information and alignment possible to efficiently work toward a same goal. They're what I call "the glue."I'm still learning a ton but I definitely prefer small to medium size teams where everyone can collaborate more efficiently, but the pandemic has forced me to learn to better communicate digitally.
Melanie, great to have you here. This question is about 'manifesting' ideas. Often, by the time a broader audience see a product, it has more polish than when things first get started. As a product idea, what part of the brands you've built did you envision from the start, and what part is more iteratively derived as you got started? So what do you think are the first, second, and third steps to get right when introducing a new concept or product? Thank you!
Just want to say I am a huge fan of GHIA!
Thank you so much!
Just here to say I love Ghia!
Makes me so happy to hear!
Thank you for taking the time here! Glossier's approach for offline experiences really inspired me and I'm excited to see where you take Ghia! You've worked such amazing brands that had such solid identities and were true leaders in their industry. What's a common mistake you see brands fall into when trying to stand out as the "new kid on the block" in their own industries?
I think a common mistake is actually to follow trends! That's how so many brands end up looking the same, and also how I think most DTC brands end up targeting a pretty narrow audience. It was really important to us that Ghia has its own personality and honors cues from the past (like branding from old aperitivo brands or hospitality signage) but with updated colors and a more modern aesthetic.
Totally see what you mean how it ends up targeting a pretty narrow audience. I'm noticing that more with a lot of DTC start-ups too and it's true it does speak to this one persona I see so clearly. Thank you again for sharing insights!
Hey @MelanieMasarin! What are some of the things you look for when hiring talent/building teams at a growing company?
We always say, they need to be great dinner party guests! We are a hospitality company first and foremost and we look for people who are thoughtful, curious, discerning, hard-working, can take a lot of initiative and are very detail-oriented. Right now we are putting a strong focus on recruiting under represented minorities.
Huge fan of GHIA! Would love to know the biggest lessons you have learned around branding/brand building!
Amazing! I will keep an eye out Ghia in Canada.
Wow! I have no questions. Just wanted to thank you, as a non-alcoholic beverage drinker, for this product!
Thank YOU :)
Hi @MelanieMasarin - Thanks for joining us! I'm curious about how you did product development for the Ghia? Had you made aperitifs previously? Did you hire someone who had a background in that? How did you source your ingredients?
I used a mix of magic (my grandmother's recipe book) and science (hired a formulator / food scientist) who was able to provide a lot of guidance. Figuring out manufacturing was a lot of learning by doing and picking up the phone to 100s of places!
Hello Melanie!Echoing @daryasavishchava 's question, I noticed you were a Director of Strategy at Dig Inn, which then helped you transition into a Creative Director role. Considering many CD roles traditionally require a background in leading in graphic design and/or agency, what specific skills/what trajectory enabled you to go from analytical to creative from an employment standpoint and did you place an emphasis on developing hard skills in creative on your own or did you focus on honing in on experience and expertise in branding strategy? How important do you believe is networkig to make such a switch? Was it important for you in your career journey? Ps. I deeply admire DigInn and Glossier as brands! All mission/impact forward companies and businesses, and I have much respect for your work with them.
Hi Susan! It was a pretty natural transition from a more analytical role at Dig Inn, where I first joined the team as Director of Strategy after leaving my career in banking. The team was small and primarily focused on operations and I felt comfortable sharing my ideas on how to distill and subsequently expand our brand. I had always had an affinity for design but no formal training unfortunately. As the time came to expand our footprint, it became clear we needed help on the marketing front and I raised my hand and got the job. It was very fast paced and I started helping out with the design of the restaurants as well, eventually taking on the role of creative director too. I feel lucky to have been trusted to take on more and learn on the job and highly recommend working in smaller structures, fast growing companies and giving it all you got if you are interested in wearing many hats!
Thank you so much Melanie! :) Really appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions and everyone's inquiries, and I loved learning more about Ghia through some of your responses. Thank you!
Hi Melanie,great to have you here! I have a couple of questions:- What motivated you to start your own company? - What skills did help you to become Head of Marketing at Dig Inn and why did you leave the finance world? :)Thanks a lot!
Hi Darya,I learned a lot during my time in finance but realized really quickly that as a career it was not for me - I wanted to work in an industry that was more creative and with products that were more tangible. I think the required skills to be a head of marketing are: managerial skills, true empathy for the customer, strong verbal and communication skills, and an ability to bring brand and business together to grow a company while deepening engagement with its customers.
@MelanieMasarin, fantastic to see someone tapping into the non-alcoholic beverages market.When can we expect an expansion to the European market? I am based in Sweden and would love to try/order your products!
Same for France !
Soon I hope! We have so much to do here and are just a team of 3, but I'd really love to bring Ghia to Europe in the near future.
@MelanieMasarin, that's great- I would be a big consumer of non-alcoholic natural aperitif- wondering why there was no nice brand doing this- Great idea. I would love some tips from you on how to build Insta awareness and build a newsletter following for my bespoke luxury travel firm @CrossingTravel. Also how to hire talent at low cost, no funding small business firm.
Hi @MelanieMasarin -- cute throwback photo on the "About" page of Ghia's web site. What motivated you to make your brand non-alcoholic?
I don't drink alcohol and this idea was born out of a desire to break down the social stigmas around not drinking. I hope someday we can fully take back the word "drinking" from alcohol.
Hi @MelanieMasarin, thanks for offering to answer Qs! Was wondering about your experience at Glossier specifically and how it informed your creation of Ghia. I've seen Instagram ads for Ghia and they're great! I know Glossier benefits from strong branding, so curious how you learned how to build strong brands that people (especially your target audience) want to buy/follow.
Thanks Katherine! A lot of it is intuition, and trying to really put myself in the shoes of the customer. I try to understand what draws someone to a product, and what will resonate with this audience. When building Ghia, I thought long and hard about the different attributes that it would have if it were human - I wanted Ghia to be that really cool person you meet at a party who also makes you feel really comfortable in your own shoes, the first one to say proudly that they won't be having a drink so others can follow without the stigma. And we also had incredible design partners who helped us turn our ideas into a brand identity.