Meet Lindsay Reed, Harvard’s Tequila Tastemaker
Last academic year, while I was sitting on my couch, bundled up in my pajamas and cueing the next episode of Tiger King, Lindsay W. Reed ’23 was changing the tequila game with KAWAMA Tequila & Soda, a company she conceived and founded from the ground-up during the Covid-19 pandemic. I know, #GirlBoss.
To learn more about how she started Kawama and to *selfishly* gain tips on how to be an absolute legend, I chatted with Lindsay and am here to share her wisdom with you. Take notes.
DMG: To get started, could you give the classic Harvard intro: your year, house, concentration, where you're from, and anything else you want to share?
LWR: Yeah, sure. So I am now Harvard Class of ’23. I took all of last year off because of the Covid-19 pandemic to start this venture with Kawama. I am concentrating in Economics, and I'm associated with Kirkland House. I'm also on the women's Ice Hockey team.
DMG: What inspired you to start your own business, Kawama, over your gap year?
LWR: When the pandemic started, we kind of were all sitting at home...and I came up with this idea. I saw the RTD market, which stands for ready-to-drink cocktail market, was absolutely exploding. It was a pandemic: everyone started to drink at home. Bars were closing. And all these sales were shooting through the roof. And so I was thinking, “Hey, tequila's my favorite liquor of choice. Why not try and put this in a can and see what happens and see if we can make a company out of it?” Because there is that demand, and people will love it if it's a hit.
DMG: Besides the fact that you were on a gap year at Harvard, was there anything else, like any class that you took, that made you feel prepared to start this endeavor? Or was it more the pandemic that encouraged you to do this?
LWR: I would say more so the pandemic that encouraged me to do this. I still am Economics, but leading into the pandemic, it was just my freshman and sophomore year. And during those years, you're taking very standard Econ courses...Now in my junior and senior years, I have more freedom to take classes that'll help with the business, but I think it was more so seeing the pandemic, seeing the amount of time, and then seeing the vision for the brand that inspired me to do it.
DMG: If you could have any celebrity sponsor Kawama, who would it be and why?
LWR: Celebrity? Probably George Clooney. He started Casamigos, the regular tequila brand. He's always kind of been my favorite actor. One of my favorite movies is Ocean's 11...I love that movie. I think that'd be a really cool celebrity to sponsor Kwama.
DMG: How would you describe the experience of owning your own business?
LWR: It's a learning experience. You always have to be on your toes...I'm extremely grateful for it too, at the same time, just because there are things that I've learned that school can't teach you: dealing with real people and dealing with real businesses, and making real decisions with real money. That is something that an Econ class can't teach you, that a finance class can't teach you, because I'm dealing with the physical...and learning from mistakes, and getting better, which a classroom setting could not teach you.
DMG: If Kawama was a music genre, what genre would it be? Would it be EDM? Would it be country? How would you capture the ~vibes~ of the brand?
LWR: Definitely not EDM or country, probably going more so for tropical...I like the Beach Boys.
DMG: Where do you see Kawama positioned in social culture? Is it something that's a little bit fancier? Something that's more casual? Who's the best consumer for Kawama?
LWR: I think the flavor profile speaks to all age groups. When I was first starting out, the main focus of our target audience was college-aged kids bringing it to a party or bringing it to the beach with their friends – in a similar stance to High Noon, where it's a premium beverage, where it's real tequila, like High Noon is real vodka, whereas you have other malt liquors – and bringing a better tasting, better for you, beverage into that drinking culture with the other malt beverages that might not necessarily taste as good. But when I first started, the parents were saying, “Wow, I love this too.” So it really appeals to all age groups. And everyone.
DMG: Since Harvard-Yale's coming up, would you say that you're a bigger fan of Harvard-Yale or Yardfest?
LWR: That's definitely a tough question…I would say Harvard-Yale. I've never been able to go because of my athletic schedule, but I know that everyone loves it. And I'm much more of an athletic-space person. I love competition. I think Harvard-Yale is one of the best, if not THE best rivalry in the entire world. So it's gonna be awesome. And people are just going to be there to have a good time and support school spirit.
DMG: Will Kawama be at Harvard-Yale?
LWR: Kawama will be at Harvard-Yale to the fullest extent. I'm bringing a pickup truck, filling the bed with it. And I'll have flags, bucket hats, koozies, banners, and everything else. Everything out the wazoo. So we're going full force, and it's going to be a lot of fun.
DMG: Do you have any final ~words of wisdom~ for the Harvard community, whether it's starting your own business, balancing your schedule, or making the most of your time at Harvard? Is there anything in particular that you learned over the years that you think is important to share?
LWR: I think the most important thing is not being afraid to ask questions or ask for help. I think, you know, Harvard students, you're used to seeing the best...wherever you came from. And I found that during this entire process, the resources that we have here, and the connections, and the alumni network, just starting the conversation and asking questions, it's never going to do harm, and it's only going to open up doors for you.