I am always fascinated by how small businesses are created. I’m intrigued by the process, the strategy and thought behind it, the branding. I’m especially intrigued when I see a dear friend of mine going through that process.
Starting a business is never easy. It comes with hurdles and unforeseen pitfalls that can quickly stifle a dream. It takes special willpower and nerves of steel to go after your passion. I’ve watched my friend go after his passion vigorously and have been really impressed by the way he has been steadfast throughout this whole process. I’ve seen him deal with issues that I would have never dreamt of while going through this whole ordeal. He never gave up on getting this thing launched and I couldn’t be prouder of him. That is why I wanted to share with you a little bit about his journey, and through some Q&A below, allow you to get to know Uncle Pep’s and how it all came to be.
What Is Uncle Pep’s?
Uncle Pep’s is a premium cocktail mix company, offering up two styles of Bloody Mary Mix (“The O.G.” and “Spicy”) and also a Brunch Punch for all of you mimosa lovers.
I’ve tried both Bloody Mary mixes. What I like about this mix is it doesn’t taste processed, it tastes like I was at a 5-Star restaurant getting a fresh squeezed mix from a mixologist. My preference is the Spicy option. The hint of pepper that just slightly stings the nostrils and gives you that kick in the ass that you need from a Bloody Mary to get your morning back on track is exactly what this mix delivers.
The Brunch Punch, well … I can drink the whole jar in a day with or without liquor, it’s that refreshing. It’s not your typical mimosa it’s a bit less sweet and more full on citrus. Again, that fresh squeezed homemade feeling.
But I want you to know a little more about Uncle Pep’s.
I got the opportunity to ask my friend some questions that I thought all you guys would want to know.
I hope you enjoy!
Q & A
Q: What made you want to start Uncle Pep’s? Why cocktail mix?
A: Life is full of surprises! I’ve always had a strong passion for Bloody Mary’s. I’m the guy that either makes all the Bloody Mary’s at a party or takes an hour to build-my-own Bloody Mary bar. I’m fascinated by the garnishes. The problem though, are the mixes. The store mixes offer either a watered-down mess or a salt bomb! Nothing is FRESH! I wanted to give other Bloody Mary fanatics a new option. A Bloody Mary mix that was fresh-pressed with hand-picked ingredients and a natural flavor. No tomato pastes or outrageous sodium levels. Fresh ingredients only! I know the canning process so I said why not! I literally bought a juicer and started experimenting with fresh vegetables and spices until I found the right blends. And for those that aren’t Bloody Mary fans, we also created a “Brunch Punch” which is our play on the famous mimosa cocktail. Again, we hand-pick our fruit and fresh-press our ingredients into every jar. My “test” market was friends and family for about a year. I wanted honest feedback and I ended up with repeat texts and calls asking for more! I believed I had something here so I took the next steps to turn this idea into a business.
Q: Who in the hell is Uncle Pep?
A: So Uncle Pep was my grandma’s brother. His name was Peter but my grandma called him “Peppy” as a kid. That was shortened to “Pep” as he grew up. Uncle Pep was a bad ass! He was a WWII vet and a merchant marine on the American cargo ship “Robin Moor” which would become the first U.S. merchant ship to be sunk by a German submarine – six months before the United States entered WWII. Uncle Pep took a secret photo of the U-boat that was one of the most sensational of WWII and caught worldwide headlines. He snapped the picture from a lifeboat in the open sea, minutes after the submarine had torpedoed the ship. The original photo is in the National Archives in Washington, D.C., along with a letter of appreciation from then-Secretary of State Cordell Hull. I was fortunate to hear all about his life on the sea but I also was able to learn a ton from him. His passions included canning everything! He made his own dandelion wine (similar to white wine), peppers and all types of canned vegetable and fruit juices. He was a master at it! It really is a childhood memory of mine that led to what is now also my passion.
Q: How difficult was it to launch your brand?
A: I have so much respect for small business owners after going through this process myself. It requires a lot of dedication and determination to turn an idea into a business. I had no clue what I would have to go through in order to get this off the ground. There were many times that I felt overwhelmed and wanted to throw in the towel rather than continue to fight. The passion I have for this however helped me push through the difficult times. I’ve learned a ton and I know I will have to continue to grind, but it will be worth it at the end of day. I tell people this all the time: If it was easy to do, everyone would be doing it.
Q: Was there anything during this process that surprised you or you didn’t anticipate?
A: I knew at some point that if I wanted to sell my mixes then I had to make sure they would be safe to consume. I did not know how intense that process would be. If you are considering doing any type of food or beverage related business, be sure to study up! I had to take (3) certification courses, several training courses and pay for multiple shelf life testing from food laboratories. My six month plan of “idea to product” was way off! That was the biggest and most expensive obstacle that I have had to face so far. Also, at some point I knew the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had to get involved. Imagine having your business investment in total control of someone else. That’s how I felt when the FDA inspected my commercial kitchen space to watch me, from start to finish, make my mixes. It was such an intense moment for me. The inspector said nothing the whole time and just wrote notes on a pad of paper. Thankfully I passed. What a relief!
Q: What have you learned from this experience
A: I am still learning, but the most important thing I have learned so far is to not quit! You are going to encounter bumpy roads and you’ll need to stay the course. There is A LOT of red tape. Don’t let it scare you. That’s what I’ve done up to this point. I’m a business owner which sounds so weird to say, but also pretty damn gratifying. I haven’t studied this much since college. Although it’s a different type of studying because a fail can lead to such a setback that your business may not recover. My advice? If you have a passion, go for it! Life is too short to hide in the rat race.
Q: What are the next steps for Uncle Pep’s?
A: So we are still an early stage startup company. I will admit that the next obstacle of ours is to get our brand out to the masses. Currently we are only available through our online store however we are hoping to reserve space at local farmers markets in Charlotte, NC, this summer. We hope to share more through social media and our website after the COVID-19 madness settles. Be sure to follow and like us on both Facebook and Instagram!
The Famous Uncle Pep
Right now, they are currently offering BOGO 1/2 OFF on their website- no coupon needed-discount is applied at checkout: https://unclepepsmix.com.
They are delivering anywhere in the U.S. and let’s face it, everyone could use a cocktail while we are all cooped up at home!
Thank you so much for reading, everyone. Be sure to follow Uncle Pep’s journey through their Social Media channels: