AF TER 13 YEARS OU T of the workforce, Carey Clahan felt a change of scenery was
just what she needed to get back in step.
“My family’s three-year stint in Hong Kong was a turning point for me. We were
living on the other side of the planet — no friends, no family,” says Clahan, who
regained workforce confidence after getting hired overseas to do design work for
a costume company. “In Hong Kong, it didn’t matter what my resume said. They
wanted to hire Americans.”
When she returned to the States, Clahan connected with her longtime friends
Sydney Rainin-Smith and Jill Korst, the latter known for making killer margaritas.
“Jill had been hearing ‘ You should bottle this’ her whole life,” Clahan says.
And so Laughing Glass Cocktails was born.
The women started out by perfecting their formula for the perfect margarita — a
blend of (privately distilled) tequila, lime and agave. They each put in their own
money to finance the project and have since raised additional funds from friends,
family and angel investors.
But the start-up process was far from smooth sailing. “We met with tons of
obstructions right away,” Clahan says. “We couldn’t have gotten into a more male
industry — unless we were in pro football or something. We ran into a lot of ‘Ladies,
you don’t know what you’re doing. You are never going to get that done.’ ”
It was partly true, she admits. “We didn’t know what we were doing. But we were
good at doing our homework and studying up.” The women also relied on advisers
who had been in the liquor industry and were able to guide them in the early days.
“None of us had ever run a business before. We needed a lot of advice,” she says.
“We talked to everyone we knew about our idea.”
From concept to store shelves, it took the women one year and one day to launch
their business (where Clahan serves as chief marketing officer), a very short period
of time in the well-established, slow-moving liquor industry — and that time even
included distilling their own tequila.
The company now has six full-time employees and in December it hired a new
CEO, Lisa Berman, to help expand the business and raise more money. “The product
is selling,” Clahan says. “We are in all the Whole Foods stores in California. We are
talking to BevMo. Safeway is giving us a 10-store test, which is a big deal.”
When asked about juggling work and life, Clahan is very candid. “This is not a
hobby,” she says. “When you have your own business, you are working all the time. "
Carey Clahan, Laughing Glass Cocktails
• Find advisers who are experts in the industry. But be discerning
about the advice you follow.
• Don’t let “no” stop you. Everyone says no to begin with.
• Check out places like the Hivery in Sausalito, a shared work space
that also offers business support for female entrepreneurs.