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Hidden Gems: Meet Sol Broady of Leilo

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sol Broady.

Hi Sol, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
Hi! For the last three years, I’ve worked as the Founder and CEO of Leilo. Our company provides clean relaxation in the RTD beverage space, and we are on a mission to de-stress a stressed out world. I’m 21 years old, and will be completing my degree at Columbia University in political science and ancient history this fall.

My eureka moment for Leilo came on the day I tried kava for the first time in 2018. I was on a random and fortuitous family trip to Fiji and hanging out with some locals I had befriended in a village near Pacific Harbour. We were sitting in a circle in one of their homes, sipping kava and speaking like old friends even though we had met only a couple of days before. It was the warmth, generosity, and sincerity of the Fijians, which they largely attributed to the calming, regenerative powers of kava, that really stood out to me, especially in comparison to my experiences in the States.

I felt extremely lucky to be included in this kava ceremony but simultaneously saddened that I couldn’t share it with everyone back home. I remember sitting at dinner with my family an hour or so after the kava ceremony, the dilemma still gnawing at me. Though it’s hard to top enjoying kava from coconut shells on an idyllic beach in the South Pacific, there had to be some way to share the magical properties of kava, as well as the culture of friendship and optimism of the Fijians, with a greater audience. I became obsessed with the idea of creating the ultimate relaxation product and saw kava as the ideal ingredient to counterbalance the caffeinated stress culture we’ve created in the West.

Though I didn’t have any experience whatsoever in beverage, my dream of creating the first real relaxation drink kept me going through the pitfalls of the development stage. I spent about two years on research and formulation, giving out samples to my friends at Columbia University as a perfect low-budget focus group and further refining the concept with each round of feedback. Eventually, I felt confident enough in my MVP to hire professional food scientists who helped me finalize the Leilo line sold in stores today. It was certainly challenging at times keeping the faith, but I’m glad I took my time and stayed patient through those many rounds of revision. I like to think that all that work behind the scenes enabled us to hit the ground running when we finally did launch in March 2020, and I’m happy to report that our products are now sold in over 200 retailers across 20 states.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
It has sure been one heck of a journey getting to this point, and challenges abounded almost from the onset. I could spend hours going over all the bumps and bruises, but here are some highlights:

First, I impeccably timed the launch of our first flavor with the initial COVID outbreak in NYC. We had retailers set up across Columbia University, launch events throughout the city, and lots of cool demos mapped out. The day before our scheduled rollout, we got evicted from our dormitories and sent home. My team was suddenly scattered across the country, our retail agreements in LA and NYC fell through as those markets basically shut down for several months, and we had to immediately pivot to DTC sales almost exclusively. I think that was a valuable lesson in maintaining optimism and agility in the face of dynamic circumstances. You can create the most detailed of business plans, but life rarely shakes out how you predict it. The pandemic is definitely an extreme and unusual example in this regard, but looking back at it, that period of being forced to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances has given myself and my team confidence as we grapple with whatever surprises might come our way in the future.

Beyond the COVID launch debacle, the most amusing challenge we ran into was found in the manufacturing of our new flavors. We went through a two months period in early 2021 when each batch of our Raspberry Hibiscus flavor turned to a glob of jello overnight in the carbonation tank. I remember having to write a lengthy email to a group of our angry retailers explaining that as much as we wanted to fulfill their orders for the new flavors, they’d be even more mad at us if we shipped them this gelatinous mess of a product. Despite how frustrating that situation was, my team never gave up and kept tweaking until we found a solution. Interestingly enough, it was the manufacturing processes which we had to invent over that crazy period that actually allowed us to obtain some pretty significant patents. What’s more, Raspberry Hibiscus has been our top seller ever since it came out. It’s funny how great challenges like this if overcome, can often yield the greatest rewards.

We’ve been impressed with Leilo, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Leilo is known as “calm in a can”, which is a promise to our consumers that we take very seriously. For decades, Americans have woken up to a coffee or energy drink, but what are they doing at the end of the day to relax? Unfortunately, people often turn to substances which come with significant drawbacks and don’t actually decrease their stress but only contribute to it. Why wasn’t there an option on the market that could provide this relief and release without compromising on the health side?

We created Leilo as the world’s first dedicated relaxation product to fill that very need. Using all natural ingredients and sourcing kava directly from Vanuatu, we like to say that Leilo helps you feel good, but you can also feel good about drinking it in the first place. We engineered our product with this health conscious focus in mind; we’re vegan, gluten-free, kosher, halal, and non-GMO, and our base product line contains only 40 calories. When you put it all together, Leilo is relaxation made responsible. Best of all, our formula really does work, and we believe the rapid growth we’ve seen is a testament to the need for this type of product in people’s lives.

That being said, our commitment to clean relaxation extends beyond our products. Our membership program plants trees with each purchase to reduce our carbon footprint, and we aim to achieve carbon negative status in the next several years. In the near term, we are working alongside Green Disco at the Deep Tropics Festival in Tennessee later this summer to ensure their event is entirely carbon neutral. Moreover, we’ve partnered and continued to partner with organizations which give back to the local communities around us as issues arise in the world—whether it’s frontline workers during COVID throughout LA county, food banks across the Northeast, or homeless shelters in NYC, we try to do our part in spreading awareness for and supporting groups serving those most in need.

Ultimately, we see ourselves as the market leader and trusted name in an emerging industry: relaxation. We’re on a mission to de-stress a stressed out world, and that requires not only fantastic products but a holistic brand touching a variety of industries. For instance, we are thrilled to announce that we recently became the first-ever “relaxation partner” in professional sports sponsorship history. Whether you’re looking to calm your nerves watching your favorite team at a big soccer match or simply looking for a way to unwind after a long day, Leilo is the product for you. We sincerely hope you join us as we continue to spread relaxation across the nation!

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