Welcome to Talking Top 10, a recurring series in which we feature the founders, CEOs, creators, and leaders who are shaking up their industries. Ahead, read our Q&A with Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Haus, and keep scrolling to shop her Top 10 must-haves.
Helena Price Hambrecht is the co-founder and Co-CEO of Haus, the brand creating products for how we gather today. Prior to Haus, Helena was a Silicon Valley creative who helped shape brands like Facebook, Fitbit, Google, Instagram, Microsoft, Nike, Pinterest, Slack, Square, Twitter, and Uber. Her work has been featured on ABC, CNN, The New York Times, Fast Company, Fortune, Glamour, The Guardian, and Inc. For more on Helena and Haus, be sure to follow @helenapricehambrechat and @drinkahus on Instagram and check out drink.haus!
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Walk us through your career and experience. How did Haus get its start?
My husband and I founded Haus together, and we joke that it took a Silicon Valley techy marrying a wine and spirits guy for Haus to exist. Before Haus, I was doing brand work in Silicon Valley. I was producing commercial photoshoots and doing storytelling projects for most of the tech companies you’ve probably heard of. I ended up marrying Woody, and very quickly got immersed into the world of alcohol. In that process, I learned fast that alcohol is kind of a dinosaur—it’s an industry that hasn’t changed in 100 years. The drinks that we drink are very boozy and corporate, and we’ve been drinking the same things for as long as we’ve known because it’s an industry that hasn’t changed. I was also going through a drinking dilemma that I’m sure you guys can relate to where, being a business person, I was presented with opportunities to drink all the time. Business dinners, industry events—I was around alcohol five to seven nights a week. While I love gathering around food and beverage—all my best relationships and a lot of great career opportunities have come out of these gatherings—there were downsides that were really starting to get to me. It was never my goal to be drunk at any of these events, and that can happen when you’re drinking high-booze stuff. It was also never my goal to become hungover but sometimes that would happen too, and then there’s the calories. All of these things were really starting to get to me and I kept asking myself over and over, “why is there not a better way to drink?” Ultimately, coming from Silicon Valley, all these other industries had been disrupted by direct-to-consumer brands. Why was there not a Glossier for alcohol? That was enough for me to start doing some research, and I quickly learned that millenials basically felt the same way that I did. They don’t really care about being drunk, and they were really looking for the same thing that I was looking for: a better way to drink. And no one in the traditional industry was doing it for them. That’s when I started talking to Woody, and after putting our heads together, we realized that we had the ability to make that company for our generation.
What sets Haus apart from the typical brands sold at liquor stores?
The bar was low, so we were lucky in that regard. If you look at traditional alcohol branding, it’s pretty much all made by corporations, and historically we’ve seen branding that’s kind of misogynist or out of touch with what our generation values. Everything kind of seemed stuck in the past when I was looking around and doing my research. Product-wise, it’s just amazing how low the bar is. I’d say the most popular aperitifs in America are Compari and Aperol, and they are so so full of sugar—more than you could ever imagine. They’re loaded with red food coloring, they have a ton of artificial ingredients. I think one thing that people don’t realize about drinking in America is that your hangover isn’t just coming from the alcohol, it’s coming from all of these sketchy ingredients that have been in corporate alcohol forever. It’s kind of like eating McDonald’s, but in booze form. So this was great for us, because we could go with something that had all-natural ingredients and none of the trash that corporate stuff has in it. We could just make something that was really clean and natural and really delicious, but take out all the bad stuff.
Haus has such a unique visual aesthetic compared to big-name liquor brands. Can you tell us more about it?
Direct-to-consumer brands have changed packaging a lot. Before DTC, everything was sold through retail, and a lot of purchasers were making decisions at a store, so it was the job of the package to sell the product. So you would end up seeing all these big, cheap packages with crazy colors and marketing messages all over them, and that was because the product had to sell itself on the shelf. Thanks to the internet and direct-to-consumer, the website gets to do that marketing work instead, so the burden doesn’t fall on the package anymore.
That’s really exciting for us, because we’re the first direct-to-consumer liquor company ever. So we had to think—if we could reinvent what purpose the bottle serves, what would that be? And at the end of the day, we decided that the whole purpose of the Haus bottle was to look beautiful in one’s home. We wanted to make something that was very neutral, so it would fit into as many homes as possible. We wanted it to blend in with one’s home rather than take it over.
With your creative skills and your husband’s wine-making skills, the two of you make quite the dream team. What’s it like running a business together?
It’s pretty good, surprisingly. I think the real secret to being married co-founders is that we don’t really have many overlaps in our skill sets. Woody’s a very creative guy, but at the end of the day, his expertise is making a beautiful product. He created the recipes, he built out the production facility, he knows everything about fulfillment and compliance and legal—that’s his jam. With my background in PR and branding, I know everything about building a brand and getting it to market, so I was able to own the front of the house while he owned the back of the house. While we’re two very stubborn people who need to feel really good about decisions that are made on both sides of the company, we’re able to have a really good dialogue with every decision that we make, and ultimately defer to the person who’s got that expertise. So, it’s worked out great. That said, we do have coach-slash-couples therapist that we see every week, and we would whole-heartedly recommend it to couples and also any co-founders in general. It’s almost like getting your oil changed—when things are good, it’s a good way to check-in and strategize and be aligned, and when there are things that we can’t quite figure out ourselves, we have a coach to help us through it. I’d recommend it to everybody.
Besides Haus, you also own Dagmar Studios. How do you balance running two businesses?
I literally do nothing for Dagmar anymore. My team totally keeps it running, and they’re amazing. It’s been an awesome transition.
What’s your favorite way to drink Haus? Do you have any go-to recipes?
Yes! It depends on the season for me. I think what makes me so excited about Haus is that there are ways to drink it in the summer and ways to drink it in the winter and it keeps things from getting old. No one wants to drink the same cocktail over and over again for the rest of their lives. So, in the summer, I’m totally a spritz person. I love mixing it with soda water and fresh juices—I love making cocktails that are bubbly and light that I can drink by the pool. In the winter, I’m more of an on-the-rocks kind of person. I’ll actually pour either flavor on the rocks, squeeze a whole lemon in it, and it’s like the most delicious cocktail I’ve ever had. And because there’s a whole lemon in it, it almost feels medicinal, like I’m taking care of myself. It’s also really really good with hot drinks during the winter. You can mix it with apple cider or a hot toddy, and it’s so tasty. I love hot cider and hot toddies, but I don’t like the taste of hard liquor, and now I can do it with aperitifs and it’s so much better.
What would we find you wearing on a typical workday?
Oh gosh, I would not call myself a fashionista. I’m the queen of athleisure during the week. You’ll almost always find me in black workout pants—probably something from Outdoor Voices—with white Nike sneakers, a puffer coat, and usually some sort of beanie. That’s my uniform. We do events at Haus HQ, and I’ll put on some sort of dressier outfit for that, but I kind of hesitate to pull out the good clothes unless I really need to these days.
How do you decompress after a long day?
Oh my god, that’s such a good question. How do I decompress? Usually, when my workday is done, momming starts. I have a toddler that's a year and a half old, so when 6:00 hits, I usually put the laptop down, kiddo’s home, and I hang out with her in the living room. Not to be cliche and talk about my own brand, but I usually pour an aperitif depending on how stressful the day was. Having one at night while playing games with my kiddo is just a fun tradition. Having a toddler is very stressful, of course, but any mom will tell you that it’s also the most rewarding thing ever.
What’s your advice for someone looking to start their own business?
I would say get ready for a lot of people tell you no, but it’s okay. You just have to be ready to persevere and have a really challenging few years and overcome a lot of adversity, but it makes for an amazing story at the end. If you’re really passionate about what you’re doing and you really believe in what you’re building, then the naysayers don’t actually matter, and you’ll go build something great despite them.
What’s next for Haus?
We have a big year next year. We’ve had such an amazing six months—we’ve only been around since the middle of the summer which is crazy. 2020 is big for us. It’s all about continuing to create a good experience for our customers, but also meet a ton of new people and continue to solve this problem for more people across America. We just opened a New York headquarters for our team so we’ll be there a lot, we’re doing a ton of events, we’re starting to do wholesale—there’s so much happening. We want to take over the world. So, hopefully, you’ll see a lot more of us.