It started with a text: "The Wine Cooler Grows Up."
It was that text to her husband and business partner, Stephen, in November 2015 that led successful Indianapolis-based food and beverage entrepreneur Erin Edds to plant the seeds for Garden Party Botanical Hard Sodas. Over the next year, Erin took the flavors developed in her farmers' market days and used their beverage brand experience to surround themselves with an experienced team, creating a plan to bring premiumization to the emerging hard soda category. How? By reimagining the beverage brand creation process and turning the traditional process on its head.
Garden Party Botanical started receiving media recognition months before even being launched, with articles in Beverage Industry, Marriott Traveler, The Indianapolis Star, Indianapolis Business Journal and Inside Indiana Business. An article on vinepair.com on the increasingly popular hard soda industry discussed Garden Party Botanical's role in leading the next phase of the hard soda category, stating:
Keeping with the millennial generation's craving for all things 'craft' and 'artisanal,' we're already beginning to see the emergence of the high-end sector of the hard soda market. Garden Party Botanical Hard Sodas, a startup based in Indianapolis... has branded itself as offering the 'softer side' of the hard soda market.
Like the cocktails that harkened to earlier medicinal days when unfamiliar herbs provided flavoring for teas and remedies, Garden Party Botanical's hard sodas utilize ingredients like lavender and hibiscus. These ingredients aren't typical for flavoring agents in a sugary soda but, according to Erin [Edds], the retro aspect of 1600s botany and the degree of playfulness in experimentation with uncommon flavors is the sort of nostalgia that proves attractive to potential millennial consumers.
In November 2016, Garden Party Botanical introduced their first two flavors, Violet and Ruby, to the Indiana market. Both all-natural premium hard sodas contain 8% alcohol and are designed to bridge the gap between craft beers, craft spirits and wine. The company plans on releasing two additional flavors, June and Peaches, in Spring 2017, and on extending their distribution reach to every garden around the globe!
About the Founders:
Erin is a native of Zionsville, Indiana, where she grew up working for her family's catering company. It was after attending Ivy Tech's Culinary School that Erin decided to strike out on her own. In 2008, Erin launched Country Mouse City Mouse with her sister, Katy, which produced a line of artisanal spreads and dressings sold at area farmers markets and selected accounts like Whole Foods. Along with building a loyal following, Erin was at the forefront of the “farm-to-table” movement in Indiana, and was chosen by a panel jury to be in the inaugural group of the Indiana Artisan development project.
In 2010, Erin once again recognized and was at the forefront of the growing mixology trend and the premiumization of spirits and cocktails, co-founding Hoosier Momma Bloody Mary Maker. With her business partners and Stephen (in the role of National Sales Manager), it grew from a farmers market offering in 2010 to being distributed in 19 states in 2013, reaching the top 25 of sales in its category prior to her departure in early 2015.
With Garden Party Botanical, Erin once again recognized that the next phase of the growing category of hard sodas was an all-natural, premium product. The initial two flavors will be followed by two more flavors arriving in Spring 2017.
Erin was named “One to Watch in Local Foods” by The Indianapolis Star in 2011, nominated as “10 to Watch in Indianapolis” in 2012, and named a “Local Hero in Artisan Foods” by Edible Indy in 2015. In 2013, at the inaugural Indiana Governor's Conference for Women, Erin was selected as one of two companies to meet privately with Martha Stewart to showcase the best women-owned businesses in the state.
Erin currently serves on the Advisory Board for Ivy Tech Community College, where she served as an adjunct professor, and serves on the board for the Hospitality Entrepreneur Certificate Program.
Co-Founder/Chief Revenue Officer
Erin has often said that Stephen is both her biggest fan and toughest critic. Working together as a husband-wife team, that honesty and transparency is key to creating a strong partnership both at work and at home. Like Erin, Stephen is no stranger to owning a business. Growing up in Kentucky, Stephen's parents owned a hardware and appliance store where Stephen worked after school and on weekends helping out the family business.
After earning a degree in Political Science from Hanover College, Stephen enjoyed a diverse career working in sales and marketing roles from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies. In 2007, he created a publishing company to publish and promote a book on Wall Street that he co-authored: The Losing Game: Why You Can't Beat Wall Street. The book was a success and Stephen did a 45-city radio tour to promote the book, including appearances on nationally syndicated radio shows.
After promoting the book, Stephen went to work for a publishing company while working as a freelance writer and ghostwriting two additional books. In July 2010, Stephen recognized that his wife's new venture had potential, but lacked a dedicated, experienced (and inexpensive) salesperson. So he walked away from the corporate world for good and went to work for Erin's new brand as National Sales Manager, building relationships with distributors, large chain buyers and individual restaurant and retail owners and managers.
Stephen landed deals with 14 different distributors — including two of the three largest liquor distributors in the country — as well as securing placement deals with Walmart, Kroger and Meijer. With Garden Party Botanical, Stephen acts as Chief Revenue Officer, directing the sales and marketing and working with Erin on day-to-day operations.