Small Business Lessons: How Coupe Beverages took a shot with Duchess Cocktails

For our Small Business issue, we asked 14 B.C. businesses how they're surviving in this economy. Here's one of them

Even though she’s only in her mid-30s, Olivia Lovenmark has already lived a few lives. The former fashion blogger, tech entrepreneur and bitcoin early adopter started Coupe Beverages in 2019. A year and a half later, the company began producing its flagship product, Duchess, a high-alcohol, ready-made cocktail in a bottle.

  • Duchess is available in four flavours: Cosmo, French 75, Bellini and Lemon Drop. A margarita version is coming soon. All are 12-percent alcohol. “The ready-to-drink stuff isn’t really a competitor for us,” says Lovenmark. “At the end of the day our main competitor is wine.”
  • All of Duchess’s products are made with real juice. “It masks the alcohol, so it sneaks up on you a bit,” says Lovenmark.
  • “The glass bottle was non-negotiable,” says Lovenmark. “It needed to look different. If it was in a can, it would have been really hard to compete without a ton of marketing dollars to throw behind it. It needed to stand out on the shelf from first glance.”
  • At first, it was challenging to get the product into liquor stores. But fan engagement through online purchasing paved the way. “I thought you could just stroll up, pitch your product and they’d be excited about it, but it doesn’t really work like that,” says Lovenmark. “We started with e-commerce, delivered product to customers, they tried, it, loved it, and then they went into stores and requested it. The first 40 or 45 stores we got into were based on customer requests.” Currently, Duchess is in some 350 stores in B.C., with plans to be in Alberta and Saskatchewan by early fall.
  • Duchess moved into its own facility in East Vancouver about a year ago after originally co-packing its product. Having operated in the tech sector, Lovenmark wanted to buck the drink industry trend of taking investor money. Coupe, with its team of two full-time workers and a number of contract workers, is 100-percent bootstrapped. Lovenmark is currently looking to hire a couple of full-time positions.