Where Are They Now? Follow Up with Hartford Flavor Company Co-Founders Lelaneia and Tom Dubay
Innovation Destination Hartford spoke with Hartford Flavor Company Creatrix & Infusionary Lelaneia Dubay in November 2015. Since then the startup has been on an upward trajectory with growth and success. One thing has remained certain: The company has remained committed to making a name in Hartford. IDH recently checked in with Hartford Flavor for an update.
HARTFORD FLAVOR COMPANY: We have seen further growth in our Wild Moon Liqueurs product within restaurants and retail stores across Connecticut and the other states where we are distributed (also Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, Florida, and California) as well as in our tasting room here in Hartford.
Wild Moon has won awards at international spirits competitions and is receiving more and more industry recognition.
Hartford Flavor Company Chief Executive Officer Tom envisioned and is President of the Connecticut Spirits Trail (think wine trail). He’s working to get the word out across the state and across the spirits industry countrywide that Connecticut makes great spirits. The idea is that the Connecticut Spirits Trail will help raise all boats across the state’s distillers.
Within our own growth at Hartford Flavor, we have increased the size of our team in terms of production, tasting room operations, and marketing. We have a relatively small but mighty team that is very knowledgeable and passionate about our mission.
IDH: Have you experienced any major pivots since we featured your story?
We’ve opened larger markets both near and far—Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, Florida, and California. We’re getting ready to launch in Colorado in another month or so with the country’s second-largest distributor, which has operations in more than 20 states. We hope to grow across the nation with them over the next few years.
We’ve been able to focus on sales efforts in our new markets because we have an outstanding new production manager. This enables Lelaneia, as creator of the product, to get out into the trade in our new markets and tell our story.
IDH: Have you been involved with any entrepreneurial organizations of events in the region?
HARTFORD FLAVOR: Tom was on the initial steering committee for the Innovation Places group that submitted an application to the CTNext grant contest for Hartford/East Hartford. Hartford/East Hartford was one of the winning applications and is now in its early stages of implementation. The focal points in the application were InsurTech, medical innovation, and advanced manufacturing. Initial successes are happening—most notably within the InsurTech sector.
We also helped Upward Hartford at its grand opening party at the Stilts Building in May 2017, where we ran the cocktail program. That was quite an event and showed Hartford can certainly put on a great party!
In April 2016, Lelaneia and Tom appeared on the Pulse of the Region, a weekly broadcast by the MetroHartford Alliance. The topic, The Spirit of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, featured Innovation Destination Hartford Website Curator Nan Price and Back East Brewing Company co-founder Tony Karlowicz.
IDH: How are you building a customer base?
HARTFORD FLAVOR: We focus a lot on doing tasting tables at events across the state and in our other states of distribution. We continue to work within the Connecticut community at fundraisers and special events at venues across the entire state and by hosting events in our tasting room/production space.
We put a lot of focus on our tasting room/tours each weekend, where we have public hours on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, and by hosting public and private events in our space. Of course, social media and digital marketing are very important as well.
IDH: Where do you see the entrepreneurial landscape heading?
HARTFORD FLAVOR: We see increasing entrepreneurial activity—both in terms of new startups and startups moving into growth phase and, perhaps more importantly, we see an increase within the public at large acknowledging these trends.
A couple of years ago, there was less startup focus, but with new ventures creating more excitement we are meeting more and more people who are recognizing the trend. It’s heartening to see folks who live outside Hartford acknowledge what is going on now.
IDH: Tell us about the importance of encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation in Connecticut.
HARTFORD FLAVOR: It is extremely important. Connecticut has always been a place where innovation happened (we’ve always been at the top or near the top in patents per capita), whether it was in small companies or within Fortune 500/1000 settings.
Innovation has and continues to be more important than ever to create a healthy economy. The speed of change continues to get faster across most industries, so of course the ability to innovate becomes more important than ever before.
We’ve seen firsthand that innovation alone is great, but it really needs to be accompanied by the ability to effectively tell your company’s or product’s story. Effective storytelling not only helps to increase sales revenue, but it also helps to attract investment needed to grow.
As much as we need innovators, we think storytelling capabilities have to become stronger as well. It would be great if marketing/PR/advertising firms could get involved with entrepreneurs to help storytelling match our innovation capabilities. Innovation Destination Hartford been doing a great job with this!
IDH: Aside from funding, what do you need most to move your company forward?
HARTFORD FLAVOR: We need to get into new states and we have a plan to do so over the next few years. This will make Wild Moon a national brand with the possibility of exporting as well. We think the United Kingdom and Europe will be great markets for us one day. It really all comes down to sales and marketing, so lots of travel is in our future.
When we envisioned our initial business plan, we thought Wild Moon would let us see the majority of the United States and then perhaps other countries—and that now seems more definite than probable.
At some point, we’ll need to expand our production space. So, it seems like it will all come down to time, effort, and money.
IDH: What’s next?
HARTFORD FLAVOR: Our Colorado launch is really important, so we’ll focus a lot on that to show our distribution partner that Wild Moon will be successful across the United States. We’ll grow our sales team in the distant markets and need to run a more far-flung operation. But, at the same time, we will make sure we don’t take our eye of the ball in terms of our home state and our commitment to be an asset to the local community.
Find out more about Harford Flavor Company