Today we’d like to introduce you to Justin Neill.
Justin, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
In my earlier 20’s I was pursuing acting and this was the most difficult experience of my life. However, this made me very resilient and provided me with the ability to sell anything. My first real job was in the entertainment industry as an assistant at a talent management company but ultimately discovered my talent was in building brands and around that time, I co-founded one of the first electronic cigarette companies called SmokeStik.
I enjoyed working with such a novelty item and was amazing to see how much impact I could have in building awareness. I was able to leverage my entertainment network to gain massive exposure, not only to my company but the electronic/vaping industry altogether. From there, I was recruited by the marketing company, Brand Allies, where I was able to work with many different brands, specifically many spirit companies.
In 2015, friend and business contact Lin Dai approached me with an idea for a drink app that he described as a “universal drink ticket”. My company Brand Allies was brought on to consult and launch Los Angeles in conjunction with the launch of New York City. The idea was simple. Members pay $9.99 a month and receive one drink a day from participating bars and restaurants around the city.
New York and Los Angeles were the first 2 cities in the app, launched in 2016. Due to the extensive background in brand building and product launching, I offered as full time as one of the founding team members and accepted the offer understanding it wouldn’t be easy but the education I would receive would be priceless… and it has been!
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Absolutely not! Every single day is long hours of heavy lifting and putting out fires. Things move so quickly with a start-up that you just have to be prepared daily for whatever comes your way.
We are dealing with a launching a new company, a NEW disruptive idea, in the hospitality industry where the decision makers are already far too busy. The bartenders are at the bar are really the face of our company but there is high turnover so we are always checking in to make sure they are aware of the app. A member can have just one bad or awkward experience that’s all it takes for them to cancel membership.
Tech struggles include app bugs from one day could lose several members. Since we are a startup, we are limited on bandwidth for the sprawling LA landscape. Just when you think you get the hang of it, the company pivots. Finding and retaining good talent.
Currently, we have teams in all 12 markets, including Hong Kong so every time we launch something new we spend days on video calls planning out the operational strategy then each market executes.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
HOOCH is a marketing platform that curates a portfolio of top shelve lounges, bars and restaurants. Members pay $9.99 a month and can redeem a cocktail a day while exploring new venues in the city. Marie Claire Magazine calls the “class pass for cocktails”. We are the first and the largest business of its type.
In addition, we have recently launched HOOCH BLACK, a higher end service that members submit an application and pay $295 per year. Members receive hotel deals, VIP experiences, concierge service and an elevated cocktail experience at premium bars and restaurants.
At the end of the summer we are rolling out our latest project called TAP COIN, that is a customer rewards program for bars that are built on the blockchain.
I am the General Manager of West Coast, however, LA is my baby. I oversee the marketing teams, member acquisition, venue acquisition, and all operations. I’m proud we took this from an idea to a company that just got valued at $20 million. We have now partnered with 1500 venues, 150,000 members across all markets.
In Los Angeles specifically, we are the second biggest market growing very quickly(NYC is the largest). We are very good at providing bars new foot traffic for the price of a cocktail.
What were you like growing up?
I was a very outgoing kid who loved sports and lacked attention in school… I have always loved people and learning as much as I can about what makes them tick.
In high school, I was the class clown. I was Interested in the latest trends, styles, shoes, movies, tv shows and of course sports. My Dad tells the story that one year for Christmas he was excited to get me a tractor set.
However, when I opened it I showed no interest but was overwhelmed with excitement when I received new clothes.
- HOOCH is $9.99 a month.
- HOOCH BLACK is $295 a month. Application only.
- Website: www.HOOCH.co www.HOOCHBLACK.com www.TAPCOIN.net
- Phone: 310-936-0213
- Email: Justin@hooch.co
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hoochapp/?hl=en
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hoochapp/