Brian Makela: The Entrepreneur Behind the Breakthroughs in Alcohol and Non-Alcoholic Beverages

Brian Makela

Follow Us:

  • Brian Makela’s passion for innovative, high-quality alcohol and non-alcoholic beverages developed in record time inspired him to create his own company, Formulated Ethanol Solutions (FES) LLC in 2019.
  • Brian’s 20-year management/technical career in R&D with Campbell’s Soup, Nestle, Diageo, and McCormick laid the foundation he needed to take beverage development and commercialization in ready-to-drink (RTD) and ready-to-service (RTS) to the next level.
  • In less than 5 years, FES has helped clients develop and commercialize award-winning spirit beverages.

If Brian Makela knows one thing to be true, it’s this: Innovation, quality, and speed are the keys to success in the beverage industry.  The key is a highly skilled virtual team throughout the world that he can tap into at a moment’s notice.

He is the CEO and founder of Bad Ideas LLC, a company that develops and markets novel and high-quality spirits. Brian leverages his vertical integration expertise, technical analytical skills, and ability to solve problems most cannot.

Mirror Review recently spoke with Brian, who says the key to disruption is to be the first novel product to market, not a “me too.” He believes in leading the way in innovation rather than following the crowd. This mindset has been instrumental in his success and continues to drive his approach to business.

Mirror Review: Tell us about your background and career journey. We’re especially interested in your past professional experiences.

Brian: Bachelor’s degree in Food Science from Purdue University and a Master’s degree in the same field from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. I have 2 patents. My professional journey began in 1995 with an internship at Campbell’s Soup Company in Camden, NJ. From there, I moved on to Nestle, where I spent 10 years in Operations and R&D, specifically in Confectionery.

My next stop was Diageo, where I spent 15 years in their Technical department. I eventually led the Liquid Research & Manufacturing Technology function for their North American business.

In 2019, I left Diageo and founded my first company, Formulated Ethanol Solutions LLC. I managed this company for five years before launching my second venture, Bad Ideas LLC. During my tenure at FES, I also spent a year at Flavors of North America (FONA), leading their beverage alcohol flavor unit.

Mirror Review: “Bad Ideas LLC” is certainly unconventional. Could you please share the story behind the name and the company’s core philosophy?

Brian: At Bad Ideas LLC, we believe in authenticity. We create products using high quality, real ingredients, crafted by real people, and backed by real stories. We create products that big companies can’t or won’t. Why do we do what we do? Because we can, where others have failed.

The concept of Bad Ideas was sparked by my friend and client, Will Blum, the CEO of Bluebird Hardwater. He challenged me to lead the company, and the name is the opposite of what we do, which is amazing ideas plus execution.

Bad Ideas LLC is a mix of executives, entrepreneurs, and technical experts specializing in beverages. We transform breakthrough ideas into top-notch alcoholic and non-alcoholic products.

Since our inception in 2023, we’ve catered to well-funded visionaries, delivering quality at a speed that outpaces larger companies by a factor of nine. We’re not just in the beverage business; we’re in the business of making the impossible possible.

Mirror Review: Your company has a reputation for delivering top-tier products to high-profile clients and celebrities. Could you elaborate on your products and services?

Brian: Let me illustrate with a few examples. Take Via Carota Craft Cocktails, for instance. They represent the pinnacle of Ready-To-Serve cocktails, having won over 110 awards in just 12 months. Then there’s Bluebird Hardwater, a white-space Ready-To-Drink product that’s rapidly gaining popularity across the country. Will, the CEO, and I have a pending patent for the process we developed to create it.

Most of our clients approach us with a problem they’re facing. Typically, they’re high-net-worth individuals or serial entrepreneurs who’ve hit a roadblock. We help them find a solution, and once we do, they often engage Bad Ideas to continue innovating on their behalf.

Often, the client walks in with an idea and, within a few weeks, walks out with a product ready for manufacturing. We handle everything from commercialization to distribution. Additionally, we offer technical due diligence for brand acquisitions, root-cause problem-solving, and data analytics, and we connect non-beverage clients with resources that can assist them.

Mirror Review: As the leader of the company, could you describe a typical day in your role? What parts of your job do you find most fulfilling?

Brian: My day typically involves networking, promoting the company, creating prototypes in our lab, and assisting people in creating top-notch products. The most rewarding aspect for me is the opportunity to help people, even with the smallest tasks.

Mirror Review: Tell us about your team. How do you foster a culture of creativity and innovation within your team and organization?

Brian: Honesty is our foremost principle. My team comprises seasoned professionals who have excelled in their functional areas and can execute new ideas at a pace that no one else can.

We’re always brainstorming new concepts and approaches, and by doing that we hit on true consumer insights from our personal experience. Also, we use real-life examples of what’s important to us, our family, and our friends to inspire our products.

Mirror Review: You’re launching five new products this week, which is quite ambitious! Could you share the rationale behind this disruptive strategy?

Brian: To truly disrupt the market, one must be the first to launch, not a “me too”. In this competitive landscape, if you’re not first, you’re last.

Over the past few weeks, Via Carota Craft Cocktails and Bad Ideas have launched their Spritz products. No other company matches our level of quality, pace, and taste.

Mirror Review: What are the biggest challenges you faced in your entrepreneurial journey?

Brian: Building the virtual infrastructure to enable high-quality and fast production for large and small volumes.  We only use top-notch food scientists, ingredients, and co-manufacturers. That’s what has enabled our success. We are nimble because of the virtual organization we have in place.

Mirror Review: What are your plans for scaling up your start-up? What are your short-term and long-term goals for your company? Where do you see it in 5 years?

Short-term: Marketing our services to large beverage companies who need innovation and fast-to-market products, small companies who don’t have the resources to bring innovative products to market, and entrepreneurs, such as celebrities with novel ideas who want high-quality, healthy beverages.

Long-Term: Continue building virtual company infrastructure with high-quality co-manufacturers, developers, and testing capability.  Transfer from technical and market expertise to the team.

Mirror Review: How do you manage to have a perfect work-life balance? What are your hobbies/interests beyond the cabin?

Brian: I’m an avid mountain and fat biking enthusiast, and I also enjoy using Peloton. Health and nutrition are other areas I’m passionate about. I maintain an active lifestyle, working out 5-7 times a week through a mix of biking, swimming, running, and strength training.

In my view, balance is a myth. You’re either moving forward or you’re not; there’s no standing still. That said, my priorities, in order, are God, self, family, and work.

Mirror Review: What key lessons have you learned throughout your career journey?

Brian: What did I learn? Nothing is easy, never give up.

Mirror Review: Many entrepreneurs hesitate to take risks or explore unconventional ideas. What advice would you offer to those aspiring to break the mold?

Brian: Embrace fearlessness. Don’t let the opinions of others dictate your actions. The greatest freedom is not caring what people think of you. I wake up every morning and think about the possibilities of each day. No fear.


Brian Makela quote

Also Read: The 10 Most Disruptive Entrepreneurs of 2024

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Get updates and learn from the best

More To Explore

Scroll to Top

Hire Us To Spread Your Content

Fill this form and we will call you.