Startup Spotlight

Revvl: Clear expectations can protect startup cofounders from infighting, growing pains

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

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For many small startups, creating a strong company culture may not feel as important as securing and filling purchase orders or as fun as developing social media content – but according to the cofounders of the non-alcoholic beverage brand Revvl, setting clear expectations from the jump for employees – even if there are only two – is critical for long-term success.

“We talk about company culture because you have to start it from the beginning. It does not start when you hire your first person. It starts from the beginning,” said Revvl​ CEO Lexx Mills, who co-founded the company with her sister and Creative Director Livv Mills.

Lexx Mills told FoodNavigator-USA at an event in Washington hosted by Startup CPG​ that Revvl wants to foster a culture of work-life harmony, where wellness is championed and employees do not burn out – a potentially tall order for startups which are known for long hours and requiring employees to wear multiple hats. But one way she says she hopes to avoid burnout is by closing the whole company for the holiday season.

She also wants employees to know they are appreciated, which is why she sent an “official welcome email” to a friend when he joined the company as a digital strategy advisor. She also plans – and advises other entrepreneurs – to think back on jobs that they did not like or leaders who made decisions with which they did not agree and think how they could do it differently.

'The biggest challenge was when she almost fired me'

According to the sisters, creating a culture where employees can enjoy work-life balance requires offering more than time-off, it also requires clearly defining responsibilities and creating structures that help employees fulfil their obligations. And if and when they fall short of expectations, leaders need to offer clear feedback promptly – even if doing so is difficult.

“To me, we are a dream team,” said Livv Mills. But, she added while hugging her sister, “the biggest challenge was when she almost fired me. She is the She-E-O and she does not play around.”

Livv Mills explained when she was not delivering the way the company needed, her sister sat her down and asked her if she was all in on the business or not.

“I almost cried,” she admitted before adding that the discussion was a turning point because it helped the duo learn how to work together and “rise to the standards that we know we can achieve.”

Shared standards pave the way for a shared dream

Since the conversation, Lexx Mills says her sister has been “on fire,” and the two are making strides toward their shared dream of running a leading brand in the emerging non-alcoholic beverage set.

“The non-alcoholic market in the US is currently $1.8m and it is still growing and particularly being driven by Millennials and Gen Z who have realized that while alcohol is fun, it needs to be much more moderated – particularly for our physical and mental health,” Lexx Mill said.

As a mixologist, Livv Mills added that Revvl stands out from the competition with three complex flavors – Bacchanal, which blends pineapple and autumn spices; Carousel, which combines papaya-berry and ginger; and Debauchery – a concoction of blood-orange and cardamom-chili.

The beverages are available for pre-sale and the team will focus on bars and restaurants as a way to introduce their mocktails to consumers before launching them in shelf stable cans at retail.

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