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The five bricks to build a successful drinks brand

Portfolio director at Distill Ventures, Ara Carvallo, discusses the barriers to entry and “The Five Bricks” framework to focus on when building a brand that can cut through the noise

Ara Carvallo Distill Ventures

The drinks industry is vibrant and thriving, but there are factors hindering early-stage brands from unlocking their full potential within the sector. Dedicated to increasing diversity within the drinks industry, in 2021 Distill Ventures launched a new pre-accelerator programme dedicated to early-stage founders from underrepresented groups, aiming to invest US$5 million in drinks entrepreneurs within a 12-month period. The brands that we work with must have been created by people with big ambitions, but fundamentally we select based on some fixed criteria.

  • Brick number one: Business basics

Good information allows you to make good decisions, so make sure you have easy access to all your essential numbers via a dashboard: your costs of goods, your sales prices, your margins, your sales and production forecasts. Within this, good cash flow management is essential, so ensure you work efficiently by having the right professional support and manage your investors well.

  • Brick number two: Being a great entrepreneur

The drinks business requires you to always be upping your game. Being honest about your personal strengths and weaknesses is crucial, so don’t be afraid of having a coach or mentor, or choosing investors that bring expertise with them.

  • Brick number three: Selling profitably

Focus close to home first, then strive for national and international presence. It’s also important to form a strong relationship with your distributor and to train their sales teams accordingly – the success with distributors comes from the value you add.

  • Brick number four: A great product

There’s no shortage of brilliant liquid available, so if you want to be successful then you need a stand-out idea.

  • Brick number five: Being interesting

The new world is about conversation and being interesting is what wins. Interesting is what people talk about - interesting travels through social media, interesting sticks in people’s minds, and interesting makes you stand out from the crowd.

Drinks brands must bring something new to the category and they must have a clear plan on how funding and acceleration support will help realise the founder’s long-term vision. Once part of the portfolio, we pride ourselves on working in just the right way for each of the founders in the portfolio to unlock their business to the next level and become successful in both their home market and on a global scale.


Ara Carvallo - Portfolio Director at Distill Ventures

Having founded Barra Mexico in 2015 - the first carbon-neutral bar show in the world, which has grown to become the biggest craft spirit event in Latin America - Ara is a highly respected entrepreneur who has spent more than 20 years improving sustainability across the global food and drinks space.  

The vibrantly progressive and diverse approach that she has ingrained at Barra Mexico is one that she also brings to her role at Distill Ventures, the world’s first independent drinks accelerator devoted to building and scaling the drinks brands of the future. As portfolio director, she has played a key role in developing DV’s new pre-accelerator programme dedicated to founders from underrepresented groups, which is set to empower even more founders and create a more diverse, inclusive industry around the world.

29 April 2022