It’s only been a few months since we last talked with PARCH, but we’re already craving more: and who can resist their cocktails—and their team? Thankfully, we found a solid reason to lure in Ila Byrne, PARCH’s co-founder, once again—this time, to celebrate women and their achievements in the non-alcoholic sector.
Ila’s personality shines through PARCH’s brand packaging: she’s bright, positive, and innovative. Named by Forbes as one of the ‘Women Running the Liquor World,’ Ila’s strategic recs inspired even such giants of global alcoholic beverage business as Diageo to ideate and address the 'low & no' opportunities even before the hype. Below you’ll find the scoop on female entrepreneurship in the NA industry, learn how empathy, vulnerability, and diversity as core tenets are enriching PARCH’s formula—and its customers’ lives—and how to use ‘the rule of three’ to navigate a night out balanced and not dry out the morning after.
Has starting a wellness business changed the way you care for yourself and what can we do to balance our work and personal life?
Absolutely. My relationship with alcohol has changed dramatically, and for the better. Pre-pandemic, I enjoyed wine & cocktails regularly, which increased to nightly consumption throughout the two years of the pandemic. But since we created PARCH, I have seamlessly been able to sub out a glass of wine for a PARCH and leave the alcohol to the weekends. Even then I started 2023 with a new rule of three for nights out: start with a full-proof drink, move to mid-proof for my second drink & finish with non-alc for my third (or vice versa). Always interspersed with water & food to ensure balance. For me, my work & personal lives are integrated, as you are always on as a startup, thus the balance I need is ways to feel rewarded & indulged without feeling compromised.
Society’s finally starting to recognize how inherently feminine skills&qualities such as resilience, empathy, ability to recalibrate goals, etc. help businesses drive success. Can you share an example of how your being a woman improved your brand and let it stand out?
I think my personal experiences & upbringing have been imprinted into this brand, but they are more about me as a person than me as a woman. I carry a lot of empathy & feel deeply about issues of exclusion, instilled in me at a young age by my parents. PARCH was built with inclusion & community at its core — we are for all adults who drink (whether that's alcohol or not) and we are obsessed with ensuring there are high quality options for people when they want to switch off, socialize, or celebrate more mindfully.
As a wellness brand in the beverage industry, who’s your current consumer, gender-wise, and what are some of the consumer segments you’d like to tap into more?
We hear a lot about Gen Z driving the NA trend, which I love & thoroughly embrace, but in its brief six months of life, so far PARCH seems to resonate with so many different groups of people. Although more women engage via our Instagram, we are truly a genderless brand. We have millennial parents who love mezcal but can't drink as much as they used to due to shifting responsibilities, hospitality industry veterans & musicians who overconsumed for many years and now don't drink much but want complex flavors, the mindfulness brunchers who balance work & play, and my favorite mainstream group — oat latte lovers who make one small switch that doesn't compromise their rituals & routines. In relation to NA, this is where we hope to get to: by switching one alcoholic drink to an NA alternative, the positive impact is enormous.
What does wellness&mindfulness mean to you and how does that apply to your brand ethos?
Wellness & mindfulness is really about balance in all aspects of life, and for us at PARCH that extends beyond just balanced consumption & balanced flavors — it’s also about ensuring & preserving balance in nature. So we celebrate the rich biodiversity of the Sonoran desert in each of our drinks under our ethos: what grows together goes together.
What are some of the roadblocks you observed as a female founder?
This isn't a roadblock I've experienced due to my gender, but due to our lack of financial, celeb, tech & startup contacts to help with fundraising. A lot of so-called startups have endless mystery Seed money from deep family ties, rich alumni networks, famous friends or Daddy Dollars! We have sold our homes, taken out credit cards & maxed credit cards to get PARCH off the ground.
What’s at the top of your wish list for women founders and how can we be a support system to the female business owners in our lives?
Support each other & build this category together. Just as there are 1000s of choices of spirits there is plenty of room for us in this sandbox.
With the rise of female entrepreneurship, the girl boss notion recently backfired and turned into a slur. What does being a female founder mean to you and how do you achieve this balance of being empowered, yet not unethical and tyrannic?
I love this question! When you deify something entirely manufactured like #Girlboss it's bound to come apart at the seams. It's the same unattainable artifice we see in the perfection of IG. My plan with PARCH is threefold: lead with vulnerability (I have so much I don't know, so I will delegate to those who do), celebrate diversity (our team is multi-racial, gender diverse, cross-generational, regionally diverse & lgbtqia proud), & be human (jargon free, minimal meetings, use common sense, ad-hoc spontaneity, elevate individual decision-making).
What pushes you out of your comfort zone now?
E-commerce consumer acquisition costs, ensuring 3PL logistics run fluidly as we scale across omni-channels, and convincing mega liquor distributors & retailers that non alc is a critical future vertical.
Are there any questions you’re tired of being asked as a female founder (we hope none of the above), and what should you be asked instead? And what’s your answer to this question?
Nope, I love this area of discussion, and we need to continually explore and improve access, visibility & leadership styles.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to be like you?
Ha. Don't be like me. Be yourself, but do follow your gut, heart, passion & solve a real problem for consumers the best way you possibly can.