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American Made: Red & Brown

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Happy New Year’s Eve! If you’re like me, you’ve been indulging in lots of treats during the holidays and, come summer, Red & Brown‘s cocktail cherries are next on my list. Made with fresh New York State cherries, these flavored garnishes taste delicious in your favorite drink, but they also shine on top of milkshakes, ice cream sundaes, and other desserts. Read on for business advice from Lauren and Jake, the duo behind Red & Brown (hint: you’ve got to love what you do!).

What was your “aha” moment that inspired you to start your own business?

For us it was always a natural inclination to make our own things which, combined with our entrepreneurial spirit, made it a natural next step for us to start a business. Back in 2010, Lauren actually began her own ice cream business (spoon’d ice cream) as a side project, while I have always had the creative bug—making my own bitters, as well as dabbling in men’s accessories like ties and pocket squares. Last summer while traveling in upstate New York, we kept meeting all of these small business owners and thought, “why not us?” The rest is history.

How did it feel to quit your day job and venture out on your own?

As an editor at Martha Stewart Living working in food and on American Made, I had spent the past 5 years finding great products and meeting tons of passionate American artisans. With each maker I met, I yearned more and more to start out on my own. It was definitely scary, but the satisfaction of trying to build something special (especially with someone you love) outweighs it. To make ends meet for now, as we’re still a growing business, I do some freelance work and Jake still has his full-time job, so we have a safety net.

What is the key to a successful start up?

Planning, plain and simple. We’ve already learned the pitfalls of procrastination the hard way. Make a plan, make a schedule, and give yourself plenty of time. You’re going to hit speed bumps no matter what, so you may as well know what comes next and that you’ve still got the time to get things done.

What technology helps you run your business?

Definitely our phones. Now that there’s an app for everything under the sun and that data speeds keep getting faster, it’s easier for us to do blog posts when we’re on the road, make purchases we need at the moment we think about it, and document all of our adventures on the fly. We’re looking forward to getting Square in the new year, so the world becomes not only our inspiration, but our storefront.

On the flipside, do you forgo technology and do anything the “old fashioned” way?
As far as our products go, we try to do everything the old fashioned way. Things are called “classics” for a reason and we feel that the best way to get quality results is to do as much as possible by hand. Regardless of what it is—from cocktail cherries to bespoke suits—you know when you’re using something that was made with pride and care versus a “me too” that was spit out of a machine. Reputation is important as a small business, especially in an age where you can buy your groceries, clothes, furniture, and car tires all from the same store. People pay a premium for small batch products with the expectation that they’re getting something special and that’s a sense of trust that we never want to break.

Any can’t-live-without-products or things that keep you organized and make your business run smoothly?

Coffee and bourbon. But seriously, notebooks are the core of our business. Jake always has several Moleskines lying around for different things; one for recipes, one for designs and graphic ideas, one for travel, you get the idea. Also, music. We’ve always got music on when we’re working and the right songs make things so much better.

What inspires you?

Other makers and creators. Seeing, hearing, touching and eating (when possible) the success of other small businesses gets us both excited for the possibilities. We love that America is going back to its roots of Main Street U.S.A.: knowing your neighbor and turning to your community instead of only big businesses for the things in life you need and want. Plus, the community of small business is awesome. It seems as though everyone we’ve met has had direction, resources, or a person to reach out to for help for us. Any advice from someone that’s a few steps ahead is priceless for a small business that’s just starting out. 

What’s on the horizon?
More! We were lucky enough to collaborate with AHeirloom this holiday season with a cocktail kit featuring their beautiful cocktail muddlers and our 4 varieties of cocktail cherries and cocktail nuts. It was such a great learning experience and a success (they’re all sold out!). As we only make the cherries in-season (we’re waiting eagerly for June to come), we’ve been experimenting with other products from the bar and beyond, including our handmade bar cart that we’ll soon be taking pre-orders for. Beyond that, we dream big for our own storefront filled with things we’ve made by hand. 

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