Surround yourself with positive energy (people and things) — this one is so huge for me. I’ve always been picky about who I bring into my circle. It amazing how much energy and drama from other people can weigh on your own personality and mood. It’s so important to see the positive and live in the positive. I don’t hold grudges, that kind of negativity will bring you down.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Lauren and Rachel Simmons, founders of IND Beverages, a full-service agency that helps both start-ups and established brands increase their reach and market share in the beverage industry. Lauren and Rachel are sisters and besties to the core, with collectively over 35 years experience working with beverage brands. Most recently, they have expanded to creating and launching their own brands, with Sugar Momma Wines being the first brand launched in 2019 and Influencer Wines launching in 2020.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?
Lauren: I was introduced to the beverage industry from my sister and business partner, Rachel, around the age of 21. A girl in her school introduced her to liquor promotions and when I turned 21 I jumped right in and the rest is history. I’ve been working in some sort of beverage job sales or marketing ever since.
Rachel: I started when I was 21 on the marketing and promotional side and a few years later moved on to the sales and supplier side and never looked back- I love this industry!
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
Lauren: This experience of starting a brand from scratch has been the most interesting part of my career so far. Every lesson and experience from previous jobs has led me to this point. This whole experience has brought me to a new level of patience. There are so many other entities that you need to work with in order to be in this space and many times you are at their timeline or mercy. It’s been a big adjustment for me as I’m someone who just likes to hit the ground running with a sense of urgency so I’m understanding that patience is a huge part of being an entrepreneur.
Rachel: By far starting our own wine brands is the most exciting story from my career so far. Starting in this industry almost 20 years ago and working from the ground up to get where I am today, I have learned so much about the ins and outs and where companies fail and succeed. The experience has been invaluable. I am grateful that sales comes naturally and I have made so many amazing relationships along the way with accounts and distributors I have worked with so I can’t wait to see where this next chapter takes us!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Lauren: The amount of history my sister and I have in this business and experience with people and companies from all walks of life have really shaped our careers in this industry. You experience hurdles and hard times with every company and it’s through overcoming those challenges and ways of thinking that have really influenced how we’re operating our business. It’s been murphy’s law for us with starting our business but with every twist and turn, we’ve overcome and seen our company through the next steps. You need a sturdy backbone in this business and I think that’s something we both bring to the table.
Rachel — I think our drive and passion to succeed while giving back through our charity partners is what makes us, and our brands, stand out. Like Lauren said, we have had multiple setbacks but we keep moving forward and learning along the way, which is sometimes a very frustrating process but also rewarding to follow through and keep on learning.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Lauren: I’ve had quite a few mentors along the way and the great thing is I’m still in touch with most of them to this day! Learning is based on experience in this industry and it’s so important to work for someone that can help guide you and inspire you. One of my biggest mentors is sadly no longer with us, Pat Puryear. I worked for him for over years working on a start-up vodka brand. He taught me so much about the way the US works & each state is different, working with the distributor, our tier system for selling in the US and so much more. He was a wealth of knowledge and a huge supporter of mine. All of his guidance meant the world to me.
Rachel: I have also had a couple of great mentors along the way, but the person I am most grateful for is my sister. I couldn’t have this journey without her and I’m so grateful she joined me on the roller coaster of bringing our brands to life. I have watched her success flourish, especially the last 5 years, and I’m so proud and grateful to be able to work with her every day!
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
Lauren: Resilience to me is tied very close to the word overcome. In business in general, but especially in the business of wine & spirits, you need to be extremely resilient and be strong enough to overcome challenges and weaknesses. It’s a very male-dominated industry, so our first introduction to being resilient really came from being who we are. Strong women. You get 100 no’s before you get the one yes and you have to be willing to take chances and really believe in yourself and your brand. In sales, you’re always selling yourself first and your brand second.
Rachel: I think as in any industry there are always obstacles to overcome. I think Lauren described it perfectly above. You get 100 no’s before you get a yes. This industry is all about building relationships and it’s not easy, you need to work hard for those relationships and keep working on them even when you land the business. The best is when you are also able to create a genuine friendship through business.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
Lauren: The first person that comes to my mind is my grandmother who is a 3-time cancer survivor. She continues to bounce back each time and has stayed strong in mind throughout her lifetime. She’s our first Sugar Momma inspiration. My grandfather retired in his 30s after the LA riots and my grandmother had to step up to the plate and be the bread-winner for the family. She worked all the way into her late 80s. She’s a boss! She’s always kept her mind active and continues to amaze us with how strong of a woman she is. At 87, she still picks us up from the airport when we come to visit! She’s a fighter and definitely an inspiration.
Rachel: 100% agree with Lauren. Our grandma is such an inspiration and we are so lucky to have her.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
Lauren: There’s a ton of negative feedback that comes with starting your own brand. We’re lucky enough to have been in this industry for so long that the negative doesn’t affect us in the same way it would if we didn’t have years of experience under our belts. We have seen and sold it all. You’ll always get the nay-sayers that are in your ear and we’ve even had it today on our brands. But we truly believe in selling with a purpose and for us it’s what we’re giving back that keeps us motivated and focused on the bigger picture. Nothing is impossible when you put your whole heart and mind to it — and having two of us doing it — there is no stopping us!
Rachel — This is not my first rodeo. I started a vodka brand with a friend many years ago which unfortunately went South. I received negative feedback from the very beginning — some from those looking out for me and some who just didn’t believe we could make it a success. It’s unfortunate when people close to are not supportive when you are trying to live your dream. Regardless, it was my journey to learn those mistakes and I always knew this was something I wanted to do. That particular brand just wasn’t the one.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
Lauren: There was a brand I worked for previously that fired me. I was with them for about 6 months and worked night and day, working really hard to rebuild what the last sales person had done negatively in the market. It was one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever had and when I was fired I was caught completely off-guard. It was like all the work I had done meant nothing and truly showed me that this is an industry where everyone is disposable. I was seeking praise for the work I did and wanted so badly to be appreciated. Companies don’t see what you’re doing day to day and how many hours you put into your work and hustle. At the end of the day, they’re looking only at numbers and not the dedication you are giving. That was a huge blow for me and it really shaped me into the sales person I am today. I kept working hard regardless of praise and always give 110%. My sister had a similar experience and it has really shown us the way we will NOT treat our own brand teams and how we want to lead by example which is the exception in this industry, not the rule.
Rachel: My first failed business set me back and drained me mentally and emotionally. I also worked for a very popular brand and when I started with the company I was the only female on the West Coast. It was a boys club, which you unfortunately run into all the time in this industry. I once had a VP tell me that the president of the company was coming to town and to go get my hair and make-up done. He told me to look like a model, which is a setback to women in general. Here I was the manager of one of the largest markets and was being treated like a promotional model. Unfortunately this was the norm in this industry at that time but also a reason that my sister and I wanted to turn this industry upside down a bit and make way for some female leaders and entrepreneurs.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
The people in our lives have been the biggest contributors to our growth and being who we are today. There’s something to be said about unconditional love and we have a lot of family and friends that are supportive of us and believe in us. Without them, we wouldn’t be as strong as we are today.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
#1 Be present and aware — it is so hard to be focused but it’s essential in life. We’re all so busy all the time so I am working really hard to make sure that I am really present in situations and not focusing on the past.
#2 Listen & learn — I’ve learned over the years that I don’t know everything. I have a very strong personality, but in this business you have to be willing to hear others out and listen to constructive criticism. My way is not always the right way. I continue to work on listening better to others and not being afraid to ask for help. It takes a village and you need all the help you can get when starting your own business.
#3 Surround yourself with positive energy (people and things) — this one is so huge for me. I’ve always been picky about who I bring into my circle. It amazing how much energy and drama from other people can weigh on your own personality and mood. It’s so important to see the positive and live in the positive. I don’t hold grudges, that kind of negativity will bring you down.
#4 Take Risks — If you don’t try, you’ll never know. Life is too short and we cannot be afraid to take risks and believe in our abilities. My sister and I question if we started this business at the right time or we’re too late but it’s a risk we’re both willing to take. We believe in our brand and believe in each other and there is no other person I would be taking this journey with.
#5 Believe in yourself — none of the other steps work if you don’t first believe in your own strength.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
The movement I’m passionate about and was a huge reason we started this company isn’t a movement we started but one we are proud and honored to be a part of and that is empowering females. Being able to sell with purpose and give back to inspire others is the reason we persevere. We need to lead by example. Every influencer counts and if we can change even just one person’s life, it’s all worth it.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
Lauren: Lady Gaga for me is a symbol of empowerment. She dared to be different and pushed boundaries and is not afraid to stand up for what she believes in. She really is someone to me that stands for a cause and message and is using her platform the right way and empowering people across the globe. For me as a woman, it’s important to have strong women to look up to. I think what’s she’s done with her career and her foundation are truly inspiring and I admire her strength and belief in herself.
Rachel: Tony Robbins! I have read his books, listened to his tapes and even went to one of his electric seminars. If I could pick a mentor in this life it would be him! I would also love to sit down with Sara Blakely, what she did to build her company today amazes me and she is also all about giving back which I find complete synergy with. She is someone I admire and look up to.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Both of our brands are on social media : @SugarMommaWines and @InfluencerWines
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!