Founder and CEO of Ghia
Mélanie Masarin is the founder and CEO of Ghia, a new beverage brand made of botanical extracts to give you all the highs of life without the booze. Melanie was inspired by the Mediterranean aperitivo culture of her childhood in Lyon, when she created the ultra chic Ghia drink.
Before Ghia, Mélanie worked at both Glossier and Dig Inn. At Glossier she was the Head Of Retail and Offline Experiences, where she led the offline and experiential strategy at Glossier, bringing our philosophy of engagement and people-powered interactions to life in physical spaces.
I had the honor of asking Mélanie a few questions about her journey starting Ghia, the first steps she took to make Ghia happen and how she envisions the brand evolving:
Firstly, how did the idea for starting a spirits-free apéritif, Ghia, first come about?
Growing up, I spent many summers with my family in the South of France centered around entertaining friends, and I’ve always loved bringing people together. Those memories are what inspired me to create something that challenges the way we have traditionally thought about drinking and socializing. I wanted to make the occasion of enjoying a drink more about the social connection than the intoxication. Over the last few years, I realized that alcohol wasn’t for me and there weren’t many non-alcoholic alternatives on the market that were easily adaptable to people with different lifestyles and comfort levels with drinking. On a trip to Milan two years ago with friends, I started thinking about how I could bring more intention to drinking, in the same way that there’s so much intention behind enjoying a great meal. I looked around the table and saw people sipping on Aperol Spritzes and wanted to bring that same element of togetherness and spirit to drinking (without the alcohol).
What were some of the first steps you took to make it happen?
We went through 55 weeks of R&D to perfect the formula, landing on key ingredients with geographic origins in the Mediterranean, the very place Ghia was inspired. All of our ingredients are sourced mindfully and as close to their elemental form as possible – nothing that will keep you up or make you snooze, only pure juices and extracts. The signature flavor profile is bright and bitter with hints of florals and citrus from gentian root, orange peel, elderflower, lemon balm, yuzu, ginger and rosemary.
What were some of the obstacles you had to overcome?
When we launched it was at the start of the pandemic, and we had to overcome what seemed like endless hurdles with sourcing, production, packaging, design, and photography just to get off the ground. Now, we face obstacles every single day and work together as a team to solve problems thoughtfully and strategically.
Although this number has slightly fluctuated in the last few years, less than 3% of VC funding goes to female founders, how was your experience pitching/seeking investment?
It’s extremely important to find your champions. I found words of encouragement from my friends and people that I trusted. Early on and without knowing, I was able to build buy-in, and those people who were key to encouraging me to launch Ghia ended up becoming my investors in the business.
How do you want Ghia to evolve?
We are genuinely focused on inclusivity and creating meaningful connections, so we want to continue creating products for everyone made with real ingredients that are easily adaptable to people with different lifestyles. We actually just added "Ghianduja" - a chocolate hazelnut spread made with EVOO - to our permanent product lineup. Nutella was a staple in my house growing up in France (every Sunday my mom would let me & my siblings make dinner and we would make crepes with Nutella for ourselves) and because it was an ingredient that’s so central to my childhood, I wanted to make a grown-up version with only the best ingredients and half the sugar.