By Taryn Skees for Amplify — June 10, 2021
Modica is the world’s first superfood cocktail mix inspired by co-founders Eric Wentworth and JD Mitchell’s desire for a better-tasting, better-for-you cocktail.
While Eric has a decade of bartending experience, owns two bars and infuses his own syrups JD admits he can barely squeeze a lime.
Eric Wentworth has co-owned several businesses including The Hub Louisville and The Champagnery. He earned his M.B.A. from University of Louisville in 2018.
JD Mitchell has worked in sales and account management roles at a range of organizations. He also earned his M.B.A. from the University of Louisville in 2018.
Read more about these local founders and hear what inspired the name, how they source their ingredients, and some of the challenges they’ve faced throughout their entrepreneurial journey.
Eric and JD met while earning their MBAs in Entrepreneurship at the University of Louisville in 2016. By then, Eric was already a co-owner of The Hub and not much later, he’d open The Champagnery. He has a decade of bartending experience at restaurants throughout Louisville.
On the other hand, JD likes to joke he can barely squeeze a lime. JD has experience in sales, marketing and customer service at organizations ranging from nonprofit start-ups to Fortune 500 companies.
“We clicked right away,” said JD. “We both wanted to enjoy a cocktail at the end of the day, but we were too tired to make something from scratch and all the mixers we found at grocery stores were full of sugar, preservatives and chemicals.” Ultimately, that led to a desire to combine their experiences to create a better-tasting, better-for-you mix that anyone could use and enjoy.
They launched the business while still in business school, and although they originally planned to bring Modica to market in March 2020, they were delayed until October due to Covid.
That delay aside, one of the biggest hurdles they encountered during the process of getting Modica off the ground was coming up with a name. JD said, “We really underestimated how hard it would be!”
They knew they wanted something unique that encapsulated the brand and eventually settled on Modica – from the word “modicum” – which is a small amount of a great thing. “We both love the idea of having a ritual cocktail or mocktail at the end of the day as a way to take some time for yourself.”
As you might imagine, developing and taste-testing cocktail mixers is exactly as fun as it sounds. They wanted mixers that made recognizable cocktails (margaritas, old fashioneds, etc.), but also wanted to give them a twist with the incorporation of superfoods.
They started with 3 types of cocktails in mind: something crisp and refreshing, something spicy and bright, and something warm and comforting. They experimented with all kinds of spices, berries, fruits, and even a couple of vegetables to find the flavors we wanted. But just as important as the flavors, they wanted the mixers to be a better-for-you alternative to what was already on the market.
Modica doesn’t use any preservatives or artificial ingredients, and uses about a third of the sugar that other mixers use. All three of the mixers use naturally-sourced ingredients and are fortified with B vitamins and antioxidants. After testing with focus groups, they brought the initial products to market — and found a few other iterations that might show up on shelves one day.
When it comes to advice for other entrepreneurs, JD and Eric say to just go for it as soon as you can, which is usually sooner than you think. “It’s easy to get stuck on something and lose momentum. When that happened, we always felt energized after talking to other entrepreneurs.” They have leaned on the entrepreneurial ecosystem here in Louisville and say that as gay founders, becoming members of CIVITAS (the local chapter of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce) was a great way to connect with other LGBTQ-owned businesses. “Surrounding ourselves with other entrepreneurs really energized us and kept us going when things were tough, especially after our initial production was delayed due to the pandemic.”
As for their all-time favorite libations? Eric’s is a negroni “It’s a classic, but there are a thousand ways to make it.” JD’s is a margarita saying “It’s not just a cocktail. It’s a state of mind.”
For more information and learn where you can purchase Modica products, visit www.drinkmodica.com.