It isn't so much that I get bored easily, it just that once I realize its not what I'm looking for I don't see any reason to waste anytime hanging around. So far I'd been an electrical engineer, a software engineer, a systems engineer, software sales person, insurance management intern, a consultant, law clerk, door-to-door cable salesman and when I finally took that meaningful step in the right direction, creating Jin+Ja, I was a patent attorney. It was discouraging to realize that after going through three years of law school that the field I picked wasn't the right one for me. But settling is the first step toward failure and it was just too many rounds left in the game!
Although patent law wasn't for me by no means would I consider my time in law school a waste. It was actually my legal education that put me on the right track to figuring out what I really loved. It's called 'synthesis,' figuring out the common theme from specific instances to understand the essence of something. I found it very easy to apply it to the various cases I studied so I would apply it to my various career and life experiences to figure it out. I was looking for my calling, that something that you do so well, that comes so naturally that it feels more like breathing than work, that thing I did exceptionally well and enjoyed. Its where you get lost, where you feel alive in the moment, that's what I was looking for and that what I was going to find.
Like many great things the creation of Jin+Ja was an unintended surprise. It was the summer of 2009 and I was having some friends over and wanted to make something special and thought a cocktail mixer that neutralized the nasty alcohol burn in the back of your throat would be fun. I thought a ginger simple syrup would do it and I was right! But it tasted all wrong :(. We had to make due with soda that night. I did want to give it another try so I went back to the green grocer and got some fresh ginger, mint leaves and a couple of lemons. I cut the ginger up and let it boil, strained it and added the mint leaves and some sugar. After it cooled I squeezed a fresh lemon. It was perfect. It was better than perfect, it was amazing!! It was so good I drank the whole batch by itself. I added some ice and just enjoyed every sip. The fresh lemon was so clean and sharp. The mint gave it a relaxing aroma and the ginger felt alive. The spiciness of it was so stimulating. It gave it a, “Wait, what was that?!? Whatever that was I WANT MORE!!” I was still reveling in the sensation when I looked down and noticed it was all gone :( The “it was all gone” story is how most people describe their first Jin+Ja experience). I discovered that green tea gave it a smooth flow and cayenne pepper made it sparkle at the end like a carbonated soda and Jin+Ja as we know it was born (but not yet named).
It became my go-to drink for the summer. If I was tired I would drink it and be revitalized. If I had an upset stomach, a few sips and it would be gone. Hangovers, sore muscles... whatever was ailing me. I seriously thought I's stumbled on the formula for a magic potion! It wasn’t until I started to research the benefits of ginger, cayenne pepper and green tea that I began to realize that nature was doing most of the work. As it turns out ginger and cayenne are very powerful anti-inflammatories and metabolism boosters which explained why it helped with sore muscles and gave me so much energy (it was turbo charging my body!). When I noticed that I felt even better the next day after making cocktails with it is when I started to look into the health properties of the ingredients.
My sister and brother came to visit in August of that year and of course I had them try my newest ‘thing’. I wouldn’t say they are close-minded to new things but I have shared enough duds with them from my travels that they had a healthy amount of skepticism when I dipped a cup into a kitchen pot. They were blown away! If my sister ever lets me share the video of her talking about tasting Jin+Ja you are in for a treat! I should make it an exclusive for people who are signed up for the newsletter (sign up! :) We had a great time that weekend and my sisters parting words were, “You should do something with this.” That meant a lot to me for a couple of reasons:1. she is my big sister and her encouragement is a big motivator and 2. there were a lot of projects I’ve left unfinished and that regret is worse than never trying. Leaving a good idea unfinished leaves a bittersweet taste whenever you think about it. I did care about this, whatever ‘it’ was. I liked making it, I liked drinking it and I liked sharing it. Heck, I loved it so much I did it for free in my spare time (and sometimes when it wasn’t even my time! :) AND I was really curious as to where this would go…
I started staying home on Friday and Saturday nights to work on turning this potluck potion into a product. For the next four months I would spend my time looking at different bottles, figuring out what I would name it, how I would sell it. It had a magical taste and made you feel amazing after drinking it so I wanted the packaging to communicate that. I found some potion bottles online and a place that sold cork tops and a wine supplier that sold the wax like the Maker’s Mark bottles (but in purple!!).
I started giving away little prototypes (think Gummy Berry potion bottles for everyone who was a kid back in the 80’s) to friends that I would meet and asked for feedback. I gave out about 80 samples and most people personally loved it. However, they thought it would be too spicy for everyone else. Getting feedback for something you’ve done can be hard to hear because nobody wants to hear critical feedback but without it you can’t figure out how to really connect with folks. When I put my scientist hat on and looked at the objective data I learned two things. 1. Everybody liked it. 2. Everybody thinks they like spicy stuff more than everybody else!
I gave one sample to the manager at my corner grocer, Food and Friends, in Rittenhouse Square. She asked me if I would make her a gallon for a New Years Eve party and she would even pay for it. Pay for it? I was blown away! No one had ever offered me money for something I made in my kitchen (wait, when I was ten I used to sell chocolate chip cookies that I made to classmates, but that’s a story for another time). She asked for another sample and promised to deliver it to the owner and maybe if he liked it he would carry it in the store…
About two months later during one of my visits she asked me if I had time to speak to the owner. He really liked the drink (by this time I had settled on the name Jin+Ja, another story) and wanted to stock it in his store. He told me to not get my hopes up too high because most businesses don’t work out. I promised not to but deep down inside I knew that I had something special and I would see this through and not leave it unfinished. We walked up and down the long cold case, it ran the length of his store, as he thought about where he would put it. He eventually decided on a really great space at chest level close to the front. We started pulling out the bottles that were there(a good lesson to learn: Something always has to be removed to make space for something new).
I went home and ordered a bunch of bottles, corks, and wax. I had neck hangers made at TAWS, a local print shop in Philadelphia. I had the first order ready on Friday, March 26th 2010. It was about 2:45pm when everything was finally ready. I was standing in my kitchen and a wave of doubt made me pause. Would people really buy this? If they did could I keep making it like I was, IN MY KITCHEN?!? I don’t know how to scale this up, hell, I don’t know anything about the beverage industry! If I just walked away now not many people would notice, that’s not too embarrassing. It would only hurt worse if it failed later…
If I didn’t even try now I could avoid being disappointed later…
Ah, so that was the issue! Classic example of the past blocking the future. I was tired getting excited and then disappointed. But that is not a good enough reason not to try! That was the final thought that got me moving again. I would never know what would happen unless I actually put it on the shelves and gave people a chance to like it or not like it. I would rather know with a certainty that it didn’t work (and why) rather than wondering for the rest of my life. It went on the shelves that afternoon and sold out two days later. It kept selling out every 3 days for the next three months and the rest is history.
The Story of Jin+Ja continues.
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