Bringing the Good Life to the Canned Cocktail Scene
“We wanted to spread the maple gospel, which is a big part of our lemonade. It’s a nostalgic and simple thing that lifts you up and makes you happy. Alcoholic beverages have the same ability to do that on the light side—to lower inhibitions and to spread community,” said Mad Lemon Co-founder Shona Paterson.
The lemonade has a wow factor when people taste it. Mad Lemon naturally sources the ingredients and serve a bright flavor without artificial sweeteners. Customers can choose from the Mad Classic, Raspberry Key Lime, Ginger Pear, or Pineapple Jalapeno. The 4-pack ready to drink (RTD) unit retails for $19.98 with psychedelic colors on the packaging reminiscent of the 1960’s and 1970’s.
Paterson grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania with her cousin and co-founder Corina Remer. Their third co-founder, Maxwell Hawk, lived in the next valley over. Before they started Mad Lemon, they served beverages at Colorado festivals and fairs through a former startup called Cowgirl Lemonade.
“There still is a spirit here of striking out and doing something new, the wild west feeling, it’s an image. It definitely has the vibe that feeds the atmosphere here. Colorado and especially the Denver area is so welcoming to small and local business,” Paterson said.
They put their drink recipe in a can to sell more drinks at events. After launching in October 2021, they’ve acquired nearly 150 accounts. They held a small fundraising event for family and friends and bootstrapped the rest to get started. Now they’re about to go into a series A round of fundraising to attract angel investors and take Mad Lemon to the next level. As they expand, they must grow beyond manufacturing and distribution in Colorado to remain competitive.
It can be a hassle for liquor stores to write personal checks for local distributors. When beverage companies use a wholesale distributor to deliver in bulk, it makes business easier.
“It’s such a great lemonade. That’s why they’re sold out. They’re a little bit expensive but that’s because they don’t cut corners. They’re a cool company, they’re self-distributed, they’re women run, and they drive a cool van that looks goofy and silly and cool,” said Petty John’s Liquor Store Salesman Patrick Bowe.
The Mad Lemon founders have a wholesale liquor license, but they do not yet have a wholesale distributor. To get one, they’ll have to give up some of their profit margins. They use a manufacturer and a co-packer in Golden and Longmont to create the beverages and get them ready for distribution. They loan their recipe to the manufacturer, and then they buy the canned beverages back. Currently they are in discussions with Park Street, a third-party that navigates liquor licenses between states, which could open up e-commerce for nationwide distribution.
While building grassroots following in Colorado, they have also connected with prominent venues such as Albertsons and Meow Wolf in New Mexico. They often visit liquor stores, restaurants, and bars in person to hold pop-up events. That’s why they’re involved in the Physical Product Showcase at Denver Startup Week on Sept. 23. It’s all in the spirit of their tagline—be happy and live madly.
“Denver Startup Week is great because so many people come through—fellow investors, consumers, and entrepreneurs. It’s a unique opportunity and Denver Startup Week is something special that would be very cool to get our name out there,” Paterson said.
If you would like to be a vendor at the Physical Product Showcase, get your application in soon!