30 Under 30: Gabrielle Mustapich is tasting success with Pilothouse Brands

The company's flagship product, Hardpops, has gotten exposure in the U.S. and now Mustapich is bringing the brand home

Gabrielle Mustapich | Age: 28

Co-founder, Pilothouse Brands

Life Story: The last time  BCBusiness talked to Gabrielle Mustapich was in 2021, when she was preparing to move to the U.S. Mustapich and Sheereen Price had founded Pilothouse Brands and its flagship product, Hardpops, an alcoholic freezie. But B.C. liquor laws meant the product couldn’t be sold in the province. So, the pair of North Vancouverites raised a pre-seed round of US$800,000 and headed south.

“It’s been pretty rewarding to watch it unfold,” says Mustapich. “We learned a lot more in the last two years than we probably would have if everything had worked out in B.C. from the beginning.”

In addition to landing in a number of independent stores, hotels and the chain retailer Total Wine, Hardpops became the official boozy ice pop of the Florida Panthers NHL team. That deal came with a branded Hardpops bar at the arena. “Because it’s a Florida stadium, it’s the only arena in the NHL that has an outdoor section as part of the indoor concourse. Once you’re in and admitted, you can go back outside and be under the palm trees having a Hardpop,” says Mustapich.

And while the company’s U.S. presence will continue to grow, Mustapich and Price have come back home and are set to launch a new product called 1983, a creamy, ready-to-drink espresso martini. The cocktail will launch in the U.S. this spring and the founders are confident it will be in Canada soon after that.

“There are a couple of other canned espresso martinis,” says Mustapich, “but they’re not to the standard that we would like. Really, they’re just cold brew and vodka disguised as an espresso martini.”

Bottom Line: Hardpops is in over 140 retail locations in North America. At press time, Pilothouse had an open seed round that valued it at over eight figures.