Proving Your Market & Preserving Peace of Mind: Starting Sincerely Sabella
Kendra Kuppin wears many hats. She’s an entrepreneur at large—and an intrapreneur at ZX Ventures. Her latest and greatest project is Sincerely Sabella: a new premium sparkling wine spritz brand she is developing in collaboration with ZX. In Kendra’s own words:
When people ask what I do, I sometimes say “intrapreneur,” other times I’m a “founder,” a “global manager,” or that I work in “new product innovation.” At its core, I am an employee of ZX Ventures, the global growth and innovation group within Anheuser-Busch InBev, paid a salary like any other company employee; however, I’m given the freedom and decision-making rights of an entrepreneur.
With a previous cocktail-startup launch already under her belt—and an MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management—Kendra brings at least as much firepower to her partnership with ZX as we provide in return. Below, we pick her brain about how she got here, where she’s going next—and her advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.
What was the inspiration behind creating your brand?
In my experience, the drink options available at events are consistent: wine, spirits, and beer. In other words: mostly very sugary, with a high ABV to boot. I’m rarely excited about these old standbys, especially if I’m only seeking a mild buzz.
The same goes for quick, convenient alcohol options you might pick up on the way to a party. These drinks are largely targeted to a younger demographic—with the same boozy, sugary downsides.
After some research, I decided the gap in the market was real. I wanted to create a drink for people like me: something light, refreshing, not too unhealthy and not too sweet, with a moderate ABV. My unique offering would combine the appeal of convenience with premium quality. That was the genesis of Sincerely Sabella.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs who are trying to secure funding?
It’s vital to go out into the market to prove why the product will work. But stay positive—don’t let yourself get discouraged. When you see successful startups conquering the world, remember that it's taken them a long time and an enormous amount of work to get to that point. Success is determined by your ability to stay in the game and remain optimistic in the face of rejection.
In what ways did the Zxlerator change your approach to entrepreneurship?
Sincerely Sabella isn’t my first launch. My previous venture was also a cocktail company, but I didn’t do enough preliminary market research proving why the business was needed.
Being part of the Zxlerator has made me more disciplined. Through their program, I’ve gained a better understanding of—and invaluable experience with—demonstrating consumer excitement via product testing.
What kind of challenges have you faced?
You have to learn to wear many hats as an entrepreneur. Since starting Sincerely Sabella, my role has changed every three months: from collecting and analysing deep consumer insights, to overseeing manufacturing and production, to branding and design, and so on. You have to learn to rapidly realign your brain to new roles and needs in a way that is unique to entrepreneurship.
How do you de-stress?
I immerse myself in nature. I love being near water: it helps me reflect and reset.
Working out is also crucial—for both my body and my mind. It helps me get out of mindset traps and gives me perspective. Sitting at a desk all day will inevitably create blinders on your worldview—but you can remove them by placing yourself in a new environment.
Whatever approach works for you, just do it. Destressing is incredibly important—all of my other skills depend on it. You aren’t good at anything if you're too stressed.
What are your goals moving forward?
My personal goal is to make sure my experiences outpace my age. For example, I’m trying to keep my tally of countries visited higher than the number of years I’ve been alive. So far so good.
My other big goal is to build a community of female entrepreneurs, especially in London. The power of community is real—we can achieve things together we could never achieve alone.