For those of you that read MBA: The Blog, I’m sure that you are like wait – I thought Morgan wasn’t looking for an internship! Truth be told, I in fact was not. I did not attend one corporate conversation or recruiting event. I don’t even think that I looked at the jobs board once. Alas – life works in mysterious ways.
I have been known to hang out in the Winter Garden at Chicago Booth’s Harper Center and constantly show people whatever idea I’m currently fixated on. Working on ideas during class has become a not so great habit of mine – but sometimes it’s when I do my best ideating and thinking. So, last quarter during microeconomics I was slightly obsessed with the rise of hard seltzer and that’s where this internship story begins.
When I moved to Chicago last May, I had never seen hard seltzer being consumed. At first I would see a White Claw or Truly here or there. But, literally overnight, my friends were buying them by the cases. Choosing Claws over beers. Buying Claws at the bar instead of vodka sodas. Bars running out of Claws and apologetically giving patrons Trulys instead. It blew my mind. I found myself choosing a hard seltzer over other options and realized that this was something big. I also realized that none of my friends from Atlanta were posting pictures or videos with Claws or Trulys the way that my more diverse friend base in Chicago was.
I started to do research about the space and learned that the hard seltzer industry did in fact blow up overnight . Currently a $1.5B industry, it is expected to be $2.5B by 2021. In my lifetime I have never seen a consumer consumption pattern in the spirits space change so radically. And apparently this trend is here to stay. However, this product across brands was not targeting people that look like me: multicultural millennials. This product was made and targeted directly to white consumers – I mean the biggest product is called “White Claw”. But, I felt like my friends would buy, drink and enjoy hard seltzers if a new product was branded, packaged and marketed to them. They’re easy to drink, taste like soda, and still get you drunk. What’s not to love?!
So, in a micro-economics class I began to create the vision for my brand and started to sketch out what it would look like. I started out with sketches of Nefertiti and Pyramids. I wanted something that screamed for the culture, but not too much so. I knew that I wanted the cans to be black to differentiate them on the shelves. I also know that people react to animals and they make for great brand marketing materials. So, I scrapped the Egyptian-esque theme and began to imagine a snake. A diamond back snake with triangles that represented the flavor. I mocked it up and started showing my friends what I was now calling “Fang” – an urban branded hard seltzer:
One of my classmates, Nick Jaroszewicz, worked at Anheuser Busch InBev (ABI) prior to Booth. I was sharing Fang with him, he immediately said “Have you heard of ZX Ventures?”. Of course I had no idea what it was. He went on to say you have to check out ZX Ventures, they do really cool stuff like this and I think they have an accelerator or something of that nature. At first I didn’t really look into it. But, I ran into again and he asked if I had checked it out, so then I felt obliged to do so. Needless to say, I’m incredibly happy that I did. (THANK YOU NICK!)
ZX Ventures is the disruption and innovation arm that sits within ABI. The group of about 2 thousand employees globally function relatively independently from the parent company and is totally focused on disrupting the beer industry from within. Their verticals range from mergers and acquisitions of craft breweries and companies like Bon and Viv, to creating products within the cannabis, wellness and non-alcoholic space to tech products for international markets.
ZX Ventures summer internship is an 11-week program called the Zxlerator, with the goal of “building new businesses that address unmet consumer and commercial needs. To keep perfecting our industry-changing, hustle mentality, our interns have the unique opportunity to pitch ideas directly to internal investors.” So at a high level, interns are put on a team with one full-time ABI employee and a few MBA interns. We have the summer to create and pitch a business to ZX’s internal Venture Capital team for funding. How cool is that?!
For students that are interested in being startup founders or entrepreneurs our application comprised of four rounds. First round: resume and cover letter. Second round: a pitch deck for one of your ideas. Third Round: two forty-minute video conference calls with ZX team members. And if you make it to the last round: a trip to New York to attend ZX’s Dream Bigger Summit and final in-person group interview.
I pitched “Fang” as my startup idea. You can see my pitch deck including typos below (I didn’t realize until the day the application was due that a full pitch deck was required, hence the typos).
After the new year I had a long conversation with my Mom about my life post-Booth. As an entrepreneur herself, she is also trying to give me valuable insights and forewarn me of traps that I can avoid. She said ” I don’t want you to an entrepreneur searching for a problem. I want you to be more open to being an intra-pranuer within a venture arm of a company or working for a startup. Do not be fixated on starting your own business immediately. When the right problem and solution shows itself you will know.” This time I actually listened.
I headed up to New York to attend the 2 day immersive “Dream Bigger Summit” at ABI & ZX Venture’s Chelsea office. As you can imagine their office is dope: beer fridges and taps on every floor, people working and collaborating in open spaces in t-shirts and jeans, branding everywhere. I got to meet my peers and and learn more about each piece of ZX and the group’s culture globally. We were placed in groups and came up with new products and pitched to ZX employees and our peers. And finally ended the summit with group final interviews. My panel consisted of the head of ZX ventures alongside employees from global offices. By the end of the two days I found myself hoping that the offer would come through.
Opening my mind to accepting pathways outside of building my own business outrightly brought this opportunity to my door as well as an opportunity to work with a classmates startup called Ruby, which I will be sharing shortly. My original intention of going to the Chicago Booth’s Polsky accelerator was rooted in the notion that I wanted to have a summer to ideate a business and see it through the start of execution. There are certain milestones that I wanted to accomplish this upcoming summer and I thought that Polsky would be my only option. Luckily, I was wrong. I’ll be able to reach the same goals, but with the backing of one of the biggest CPGs in the world.
I always told myself that I would do a summer in New York if the opportunity showed itself. I guess the time has come! My biggest fear is that I’ll love New York and want to come back after graduation.
Life is funny. I wasn’t looking for an internship, but found one that seems perfect for me. I stayed in my lane. Sports and Beer – gotta love it. These industries completely align with the verticals that I am passionate about and bring me joy: Food & Bev, People and Sports. I am incredibly excited to share this journey with you this summer – hopefully my team and I will pitch a solution worth funding. Stay tuned.
Sidenote: I am also looking for an apartment / room to sublease May 30th – Mid/End of August in or near the Chelsea area. If you or anyone you know is looking for a subletter please let me know! firstname.lastname@example.org
See y’all in New York all Summer 2020!