ICED COFFEE BREWED WITH SUNSHINE, FRIENDS & SHEER WILL
We caught up with creative couple #2298 Kristina Mueller and #10241 Chris Mueller to discuss their newest venture: creating and branding an iced coffee company called Venice Cold Brew. After Kristina and Chris moved to Los Angeles, Chris saw "a chance to dig in and become a part of the city we lived in, a chance to pour my drive, energy and excitement into something completely new." The Art-Director-and-Photographer couple brought their particular skill-sets to the table, and were further assisted by some additional WNW Members, which Kristina definitely appreciated: "Ask for help. Lots of help. It really does take a village to create a brand. Without the help of so many different people with unique talents, the brand would not be nearly as dynamic as it is." For all of you Angelenos out there, Venice Cold Brew is available in a lot of cool stores from Venice to Downtown, and will help you survive LA's incoming summer, its hottest yet.
How did Venice Cold Brew come about?
Chris: I’ve always wanted to start a business. I’ve always wanted to take an idea from start to finish and make it fly. When our family moved to Los Angeles I quickly realized that the opportunity was now. It was a chance to dig in and become a part of the city we lived in, a chance to pour my drive, energy and excitement into something completely new. Coffee is something that I’ve always been crazy about and now I’m able to combine that with my love for design, photography and problem-solving into one tangible direction.
How did each of you apply your skill-sets to the project?
Kristina: Chris quickly began to develop a photographic voice for the brand through photos he was taking at the beach and on the streets of Venice. I was able to use my experience in branding and design to help develop a signature logotype to screenprint onto the front of the bottle. From there, along with the other assets we commissioned, I built the website as well as other elements for social media and print collateral.
What were some of the unexpected challenges of starting a coffee company and building its brand?
Chris: Time. Until you begin building a business from scratch you really have no idea how long it takes to make the vision reality.
Relationships. What you realize is how valuable the relationships are that you already have in place and how hard it is to make new quality connections in seemingly endless categories.
Money. This has been big. There are so many hidden costs that you can never be prepared for – permits, trademark attorneys, certified commercial kitchens, insurance, etc...
What about this whole adventure makes you the proudest?
Chris: Making it happen. I’ve always been driven by a challenge – a direction without a roadmap. The thought that through a culmination of friends, life experience, passion, drive and sheer will you can do anything. Past that it’s seeing the bottle on store shelves and knowing that someone will see the product, and based on its presence they are compelled to purchase it and enjoy it.
Did any other WNW members help develop Venice Cold Brew and its brand?
Kristina: Yes definitely. The writer Tatum Shaw contributed early on to help shape the voice for VCB and coined the mantra “Take your coffee with sunshine” which has been a pivotal theme for us. Alexander Barrett then took that phrase and others by Tatum, and illustrated them beautifully. Once the bottles were printed, filled, and capped, Justin Fantl shot some gorgeous product photos. And a shout out to Dana Bruington for her set creative direction!
What’s next for you, and Venice Cold Brew?
Chris: Growth. We have begun taking on larger customers like Whole Foods which is pushing us to create more product with an eye on service and sharpening the brand experience. This is going to require more people. In March we plan to raise capital to bring on employees than can assist in manufacturing, sales, marketing and social media.
How many cups of coffee do you each drink a day?
Kristina: Chris probably drinks his weight in coffee everyday, partly because all his meetings are all done over coffee, and of course making sure the product is consistently tasting great. I drink less only because I like to sleep.
What are some top tips you can offer to WNW members thinking of starting their own company or brand?
Kristina: Ask for help. Lots of help. It really does take a village to create a brand. Without the help of so many different people with unique talents, the brand would not be nearly as dynamic as it is.
What came first, coupling up or work? Tell us the how-you-met story!
Kristina: Coupling up came first. It’s embarrassing to say, but we met because we lived next door to each other. But I learned early on that Chris was a very talented photographer. That definitely piqued my interest.
Do you frequently collaborate on projects, or do you tend to keep working and not working separate?
Kristina: Our work is usually very separate, although many years ago I did hire Chris to shoot a magazine cover for me. We shot it in studio and I remember wanting to kill him. Working together on VCB has been a great meld to our sets of talent but there has been plenty of disagreements along the way, mostly over the fact that Chris expects less than 24hr turnaround times.
Do you find that it helps to promote the fact that you’re married? Ever hide it?
Kristina: We haven’t promoted nor hid it at all really. But I guess the cat’s out of the bag now.
How would you describe the creative scene in Venice?
Kristina: The creative scene in Venice is really strong. There are a ton of independent professionals making all kinds of great work here. Filmmakers, writers, illustrators, photographers, professors, ceramicists… We’ve only lived here a few years, but everyday we meet more and more makers living and working in Venice.
Anything else you’d like to add?
THANK YOU. Thank you to everyone who’s played a role in making Venice Cold Brew a success. Thank you to everyone who believed in the vision and were willing to lend a hand to make this fly.