Starting a business is never easy, especially when the odds are stacked against you. Those odds haven’t stopped Cool Cat founder Rocco Venneri, who identifies as a black / mixed-race gay man, from chasing his dream of creating a low-calorie portable drink in a largely male-dominated industry. heterosexual whites. Launched last April, Cool Cat is an all-natural, gluten-free wine spritzer that is already making waves with consumers as well as the beverage industry. The brand’s first two spritzers on the market — Original (Elderflower Mint Lime) and Citrus — were named “Best Ready-to-Drink Drink” and received a Gold Medal from The Fifty Best earlier this year. In an interview, Venneri talks about his transition from fashion to running with “cool cats” with his popular portable wine spritzer.
What was your background in the alcohol industry before creating Cool Cat?
I spent 15 years working in the fashion industry as a Marketing Manager to develop and successfully execute digital campaigns, social media, print campaigns and activations for global lifestyle brands , notably Tommy Hilfiger and Armani. During this time, I have worked closely with premium alcohol brands on bespoke events and activations. I also have close friends who work in the industry who were able to help point me in the right direction during the development of Cool Cat.
Why did you decide to create a new line of naturally flavored wine spritzers?
There is an urgent need for more diversity and inclusiveness in the spirits and wine industry. As a minority myself, I wanted to see a performance, so I created a non-sexist, original and high-quality product that included all genders, ethnicities and sexual orientations. We are a brand that brings together like-minded people who share similar values and experiences, that is, an intrepid community of Cool Cats. The idea for Cool Cat was born during a barbecue for Mother’s Day. Building on the increased consumer interest in health and wellness, I set out to create a tasty, low-calorie portable drink made from natural ingredients. With a modern design and a globally recognized name, Cool Cat is more than “just glass”. We’re a unique lifestyle brand that delivers refreshing wine cocktail experiences with the ease and convenience of a canned drink.
How has the white-dominated industry treated you since you started your business?
We have been very fortunate to find distribution partners who support our brand DNA and our product. We have built a brand, not just a drink. Our partners focus on marketing and innovation, which Cool Cat continues to promote as the industry evolves. We recently published our first ad which you can find on our Instagram account @drinkcoolcat. I wrote an original song with my good friend that best describes and represents the attitude of a Cool Cat. We like to approach everything we do with an optimistic mindset, after all, we launched during the COVID-19 pandemic.
What are your plans for the future of Cool Cats?
This year, we plan to increase our on-site and off-site presence in our core markets (NY, CT, NJ, GA, FL) and build on our two inaugural flavors (Original and Citrus) by introducing two new delicious flavors. –Berry and Grapefruit – in the spring. Like many people, we are also excited to host and participate in consumer tasting events once it is safe to do so. I recently moved the company to Miami (from New York) which will provide new opportunities to evolve and grow the brand. With much of the Northeast Coast locked down, we saw an opportunity in South Florida (off season) and Georgia to introduce the brand to a larger consumer base. We plan to expand to the Western region in 2022 and the Central region in 2023. We also recently introduced Cool Capz, reusable can lids that work with any 12oz (355ml) can. ) to help prevent accidental sharing of cans with the ability to customize each can. Cool Capz also prevents waste and spills.
What do you think the industry needs to change in order for more minorities to start businesses?
The largest spirits and wine conglomerates must step up their efforts and commit to supporting and investing in businesses owned and operated by minorities. We’re starting to see this with industry leaders Constellation Brands and E&J Gallo, dedicating time, money, people and resources to help minority brands succeed. It is very important for brands to partner with like-minded businesses, regardless of what is on offer. There should be honest dialogue and mutual respect for what each one builds or has built. When these align, great things happen.