What do Patrón, puppies and pad thai have in common? They’re all things you can have delivered to your house. We can’t speak for dogs or dinner, but Boston-based Drizly is making it easier than ever to raise a glass without leaving your home.
Surprisingly, the journey to get that bottle to your doorstep was no easy feat. From complicated liquor laws to tough tech challenges, creating an online alcohol marketplace from scratch was a tall order. Luckily, the team at Drizly believes that the answers to the biggest problems won’t be at the bottom of a glass — they just might be in the mind of the person sitting next to you.
We got to chat with some key players of the company to learn how equal parts collaboration, problem-solving and care has helped Drizly make a splash in the beverage industry.
WHAT THEY DO: Drizly is an online marketplace that is your one-stop-shop for alcohol. What’s more, its retail partner will deliver your drink of choice to your door in less than an hour.
WHERE THEY DO IT: Boston
CHEERS TO PERKS: Drizly takes its motto “We Care” seriously. Employees are provided with third-party counseling through the app Bravely so they can gain the communication skills needed to thrive professionally.
Nidhi Kumar, General Counsel and SVP of Industry Affairs
The world of alcoholic beverages can be a tricky one to navigate. Luckily, Drizly has Nidhi’s team to save them from a wicked headache. She uses her legal experience to ensure the company is operating in accordance with the strict laws that govern controlled substances.
Before Drizly, you worked in law firms and healthcare companies. What inspired you to make the jump to Drizly?
I never thought I would work for a company in the beverage alcohol space, let alone an e-commerce company. My professional experiences had mostly been in corporate environments within larger, matrix organizations. While I enjoyed the work and had awesome colleagues, I would get frustrated by the layers of decision-making, lack of transparency from leadership and limited ability to influence business direction. Friends and family who were familiar with startups suggested that I consider working for one. They were totally right: I prefer the agility and adventure, and I like that I get to create things from scratch.
Drizly challenges me to identify workarounds and view things in a different way so they can work. Though it is scary at times to not have an answer key for what I am doing, I never feel like I am alone in figuring anything out.
Controlled substances can be a tricky field to work in. What are some challenges you and your team face? What is a recent victory you’ve experienced, and since Drizly is such a part of so many people’s celebrations, did you do anything special to celebrate?
One of the challenges we constantly face is when regulators misunderstand what we do. We spend a lot of time educating them and others in the industry about how we work with licensed retailers. Also, because we are dealing with a tightly regulated industry, we have to overcome legal obstacles. To enter a new market, we may need to wait for certain legislation to pass, allowing us to operate. A recent win was when Louisiana legalized alcohol deliveries. Drizly is a part of many people’s celebrations, but in this instance, I chose to celebrate with my sons over ice cream!
Though it is scary at times to not have an answer key for what I am doing, I never feel like I am alone in figuring anything out.”
Let’s touch on Drizly’s culture. What are some things you do as a company to get to know each other?
One of my favorite activities has been knit night because it tends to be a smaller group where I can really catch up with folks — and I finally learned how to use my knitting needles! Another favorite has been our lightning talks, when a few folks get up and share an interest of theirs that’s unrelated to work, all within a prescribed time period. A few years ago, one of our colleagues shared tales from her days in casting and another taught us all about horse racing, and each of them did so in less than two minutes!
Brian White, Director of Customer Experience
As the director of customer experience, Brian ensures that Drizly’s customers and retailers have an experience as smooth as an expensive, barrel-aged whiskey.
How does Drizly support their employees when it comes to continuing education and career growth?
A lot of companies don’t realize that this generation wants to keep learning new skills, so to keep talented folks at the company you need to offer them opportunities to move around. From fireside chats, workshops and access to outside career counseling services, I think Drizly is doing a great job fostering a learning environment for its employees. As for me, my role has changed so much over three years and I don’t see that stopping anytime soon. That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning and excited to come to work.
One of Drizly’s values is “We Care.” What does that mean to you and the rest of the team at Drizly?
I think everyone shows they care in a different way, and that is important because it should be something you do individually that speaks to you. For example, we were missing some basic functionality for an address coverage tool we use internally. It was nothing that would make it up the priority list per se, but one of our engineers rebuilt the tool on his own time, and it is still being used to this day. Naturally, we thanked him by having his image blown up and hung it on the wall, where it is still hanging to this day. It was a small build for him but had a huge impact on a few colleagues.
...My role has changed so much over three years and I don’t see that stopping anytime soon. That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning and excited to come to work.”
Speaking of teamwork, Drizly’s Denver and Boston teams converge for All Hands Week every year. What goes on at this event?
It’s a mix of work, team-building and social activities, and this year we put everyone in the company into small groups to discuss and solve a large problem we were facing. It was amazing to see individuals that don’t always work together come up with some amazing solutions, some of which I think we will eventually build out. The connection you build with colleagues during that week stays with you the rest of the year and allows for deeper connections that you don’t get without meeting someone face to face.
Janelle Flaherty, Software Engineer
Janelle is a software engineer, responsible for making the fulfillment process a simple one. From merchant onboarding to fraud detection, she ensures a top-shelf experience for all of Drizly’s clients.
How have you grown as an engineer at Drizly?
I've grown a lot here at Drizly, mostly because I've had the chance to work on a lot of different and interesting features over the two-and-a-half years I’ve been here. I’m often challenged at work because as I learn, I’m given the opportunity to do new things, contribute in new ways and work on features that are important to company growth.
One of Drizly’s values is “We Solve It.” What does that mean to you?
For me, this means caring. It’s hard to get everything that needs to be done into a product roadmap, so it’s important to help out other teams whenever possible to make everyone's day better.
I’m often challenged at work because as I learn, I'm given the opportunity to do new things, contribute in new ways and work on features that are important to company growth.”
We’ve heard about one of Drizly’s traditions, the Solve-it-Athon. What is it, and why is it important?
The Solve-it-Athon is an opportunity to fix problems we see every day that aren’t necessarily on the radar. It’s an opportunity for cross-team collaboration — which is vital to getting work done quickly, efficiently, and correctly — and to try working on problems that might not be typical for your team.