by Niki Sawni April 19, 2020
I can’t believe we’ve already hit our one year anniversary since launching Grüvi. When I take the time to think back on everything that’s happened and what we’ve accomplished, I’m actually surprised it’s only been a year! I wanted to take some time to reflect on these last 12 months and share our Grüvi story with you.
People often ask me how I came up with the idea behind Grüvi, and I figured this would be the time to tell it. Back in 2018, Canada had just legalized cannabis, and my family and I went to a party to celebrate. While we were all celebrating legalization, many people were still drinking their usual glass of wine or beer. As the night wore on, it became apparent that alcohol and cannabis do not mix well, at all. A few friends took to the bathroom or bushes, and I eventually found my mom laying on the floor trying to quell “the spinning room”.
After that night, we all got to talking about how much worse everyone seemed to feel having had so much alcohol mixed with cannabis. Why weren’t there better options to enjoy when hanging out with friends? Weren’t there any options besides water that didn’t add inebriation to the mix? After a bit of research, I concluded there weren’t that many alcohol-free options available in North America after all. In that conversation, I realized that there was an opportunity to take on and create a better option. Thus, our initial idea was to make a healthy alcohol free beer or wine that complimented the social cannabis experience.
The transition to making Grüvi a reality happened quickly. I was looking at launching in Denver- not only for their previous legalization of cannabis, but also for the entire culture of the city. It’s a craft beer mecca, there are endless adventures up in the mountains, and people love drinking local. I worked to develop some different products, and after visiting Colorado early last year, I felt I had found the best place to put down our roots.
The only problem was figuring out how I was going to get help. Naturally, I turned to the people that have always been my biggest supporters, my family. My dad had previously run a business, and was eager to help with my new endeavor. My mom and sister were actually planning a month-long trip to India at the time, and after a fluke flight cancellation, I was able to convince them to join us instead. So we uprooted our previous lives, packed into the car, and drove 2,500 miles from Toronto to begin our new journey. Somehow, we were all okay with that?
We initially began to focus on the cannabis community in Denver, and had a great response from local businesses. We officially launched on 4/20 at the Denver Cannabis Festival (hence, our anniversary being on a cannabis holiday) and followed it up with a launch party. With the help of our entire family, friends, and new employees, we pulled off an amazing debut.
While our original plan was to sell Grüvi exclusively in cannabis cafes and cannabis retailers, we also spent last summer at numerous markets and festivals throughout Denver. We were getting a great response at these events- people really liked the idea that they could have a healthy, craft beer, without the alcohol. This led our family to question our own relationships with alcohol even further. While drinking continues to be normalized, we started to take notice of the negative effects alcohol would have. I think we can universally agree that hangovers suck, and oftentimes don’t feel worth it in the first place. This kind of mindset shift let us to reposition ourselves into the brand we are today. We set out to create a non alcoholic option for anyone and everyone to enjoy. Our new mission is simple- to help others be healthy and stay social, one drink at a time.
I could go through a list of all the things I’ve learned this past year, but a few stand out. I’ve learned the importance of working with my family, and cannot recommend it enough. It’s been an invaluable experience, and a rare opportunity to spend time together after us kids graduated college. I’ve also learned the importance of communication as a team. I think most startups would agree that this is one of the toughest aspects to maintain, but we are working to be better everyday.
I think the biggest takeaway from this last year was questioning society’s relationships with alcohol. Especially with COVID, it’s clear we as humans crave social interaction. Spending time with others should be about experience and connection, not about pounding drinks and getting lit. I’ve learned that alcohol isn’t always necessary in social situations, and I’ve learned that many others feel the same way. Together, we can work to create a world where everyone feels comfortable, regardless of what’s in their cup.
Despite all the challenges and changes we’ve faced in this last year, I wouldn’t change any of it. I’ve seen our family come together as a team, and we’ve been fortunate to bring on more members that share our vision and energy. I’ve worked with some incredible brewers that want to help us create the best craft, non alcoholic beers that we can, and I’m confident we will only improve over time. I’m excited to launch new styles and experiment with new flavors, and prove that non alcoholic beer doesn’t have to be a compromise. I hope to soon see us in more grocery stores, restaurants and bars across the country. We want to work even harder so everyone is able to enjoy Grüvi, wherever they are.
Thank you for continuing to support me, my family and the Grüvi team as we grow. I can’t wait to see what the next year brings.