Lifestyle Podcast Post

Alcohol Alternatives with Julie Cielo

George Grombacher December 14, 2021

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Alcohol Alternatives with Julie Cielo

LifeBlood: We talked about alcohol alternatives, starting a company to meet the rising demand, the benefits of fermentation, and what gray area drinking is with Julie Cielo, Founder and CEO of Ferm Fatale, a leader in the adult non alcoholic probiotic mocktail industry. 

Listen to learn how cultures all over the world have always had their own cultures!

You can learn more about Julie at, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

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Our Guests

George Grombacher


Julie Cielo

Episode Transcript

george grombacher 0:00
Come on Leffler This is George G. And the time is right welcome. Today’s guest is strong and powerful Julie clo Julie how you’re ready to do this?

Julie Cielo 0:20
Let’s go.

george grombacher 0:21
Let’s Let’s go. Julie is the founder and CEO of firm Patel. They are a leader in the adult non alcoholic probiotic mocktail space. I’m excited to have you on. Julie, tell us a little about your personal life’s more about your work and why you do what you do.

Julie Cielo 0:42
Awesome. Thanks so much for having me, George. So I’m from rural Pennsylvania. I grew up as a child medium that people started talking to me when I was eight I had a fascination with death and art and science which led me to a career in mortuary. So I’m a trained in Balmer, and knew that I was off my path while I was in my last semester of mortuary college and decided to become a healer and use my intuitive skills to work with the living. So I had a career for over 20 years and Florida healing clinic. Basically, doing energetic and bodywork taught yoga class. Meditation for many years, moved to LA about a decade ago, and started firm Patel and I created a brand new beverage category called the probiotic mocktail. The name of the product is called TRUBLUE, chia, and it’s shrub which is vinegar based fruit juice mixed with fermented tea into classic cocktail flavors with again, zero sugar, zero alcohol. That’s what I do now.

george grombacher 1:52
That is probably the most interesting introduction that anybody’s ever had on the show. So that is awesome. Wow. Truth be told, truth be told, I think that there is an entire podcast with every stage of your life, certainly. So.

Julie Cielo 2:09
But let’s look. The joke is I used to ferment people, but now I ferment beverages.

george grombacher 2:13
Boom, awesome. See, I got a million of those. Awesome. All right. So how if you’ve had a ton of success, you’re essentially creating a new category. You’ve raised over a million dollars, you don’t have any employees, no sales reps. So I guess, walk me through, you came up with this idea. And now here we are, it is it is now in the world.

Julie Cielo 2:41
Yeah, so there was a moment in time that really inspired this. And the moment in time was I was 24 years old. I was living in Atlanta, Georgia. And I was sick with what they thought was an autoimmune disease. I was bedridden for six months, it was horrible. It turns out, it was likely Epstein Barr. But at the time, the doctors couldn’t help me and I was really, really sick. I couldn’t, I couldn’t have anything to eat or drink. It was bad. But I was at a Dave Matthews concert, dating myself a little bit. And, you know, watching all my friends, tap a keg. And I felt really left out. Because I was eating a salad with not even any dressing on it, I was so sick. And in that moment of feeling left out, I realized that if you’re not drinking alcohol, are not really a part of the party. So 15 years later, when I moved to LA, I hired a couple consultants to help me to direct my new career and help me to flesh out some of these ideas. They call it a discovery session. So I hired these two consultants and I was pitched an idea to do an online program called rhythm lifestyle based on the seasons with diet movement and philosophy advice, and they were like, you know, it’s just too complicated. Which category do you really are you passionate about? And I said, Oh, definitely diet. And they said why? And I said, Well, I was an Italian fat girl, you know, grew up my whole life has been around food. You know, and I and I just I love diet nutrition. And I especially love it because I had to get a degree in nutrition to nurse myself back to help after that autoimmune collapse. I got a degree in natural health studies and specialize in digestive wellness and, and they were like, wow, that’s so cool. So what kind of food are you passionate about? And definitely fermentation. I grew up with an Italian immigrant grandfather, we were eating sauerkraut and you know, he fermented everything and whenever I got sick, I had to go back to my roots. And they were like, alright, we’re on to something so close your eyes and what’s the name of your new company and I just blurted out perm Patel, and they said, You did you just come up with that? And I’ve never said those words before. I have no idea where it came from. It must have been like sitting under the surface. of my of my consciousness. So, long story short, I told them that it was a line of fermented cocktail mixes, this was in 2014. Okay, so this is long before anyone was talking about social beverages. And interestingly enough, I got six figures of funding, opened up a production facility, formulated five different fermented cocktail mixes, which at the time, I was calling the convertible social beverage to try to ride down the center of the highway and appeal to everybody. I later learned not to do that. But at the time, I, you know, I was like pitching and they didn’t have zero sugar, they were kind of loaded with sugar. And, you know, I but I, again, it was an idea that I needed to bring into the world. So long story short there. Bev net, picked me up for startup beverage of the year showdown was the only company pre market. And I’m up there on stage talking about, you know, social beverages. And, you know, at the time, nobody had said anything like that yet. And they were just like, huh, who is this crazy woman, you know. And I ran out of capital A month after Bev net lives and pretty much spiraled out and lost everything, including my entire retirement fund that was homeless in LA, it was a bad time. So how did I get from there, to then launching the brand? Well, it took coming to the end of my rope pun intended, because I actually did hang a rope, and I was going to commit suicide. And I heard the voice of my Italian grandfather, and he said, very sarcastically, Sinead, you know what you’re living for. And that was very powerful. That was very powerful. In that moment, I realized that I needed to get back on the horse and follow my dream. And

I thought, you know, I need a life coach. That’s what I need. And then I heard Ding, ding, ding, become one, become a life coach. So that’s what I did. I became a life coach, and I coach myself back up on my feet, I practice my own advice, which at the time was fake it to make it and I started doing probiotic Mocksville pop up in downtown Los Angeles, pretty much all of 2019. And my former investor, my current partner, she saw me doing this and saw the effort I was putting in and she said, you know, maybe now’s the time, I said, Well, if you’re gonna do this with me, you need to ride it out the whole way. So she agreed, and I built the company again, but this time, not with my own production facility with with a co Packer in a fulfillment center off site and base, you know, took me an entire year to build the company again. And then Erawan, which is a chain in Los Angeles with, I think they have six or seven locations now. So it’s kind of the creme de la creme of grocery, they picked us up first, I was the first adult non alcoholic beverage on their shelf, and had to teach them who like I said, they’re kind of top of the food chain, when it comes to retail in the nation. I had to teach them about this new category. And then I had to help them place my competitors next to me in order to create that, that shelf visibility the way that it needed to be. So we were at Erawan shelves for a couple years. And then I launched e comm from on January 2020, as you know, pandemic hit a few months later. And I had to make a pretty big executive decision at that point. And I’m really, really glad that I didn’t give up because we saw our sales go up 400% With the pandemic. It was pretty staggering to see a movement that I believe, you know, we were definitely a part of creating. But that movement really came into solidification during the pandemic because so many people realize that they had Oklahoma problems and we’re leaning into using alcohol as a crutch and a lot of people decided to either cut back or cut it out completely. And we certainly benefited from that. So that’s that’s kind of how the company you know reemerged was was through, you know, me just pulling up my bootstraps and getting back on the wagon and having the wherewithal to, you know, do Do it again. But I’ve got a, I’ve got a family member who’s probably the most successful family member. And she invented something called the clipper vac system. And pretty revolutionary. She was a dog groomer down in the basement. She was like, you know, I wish that I wish that I could suck this dog hair up while I was trimming it. And she invented it. And I asked her at one time in her life before she got dementia, what what do you attribute your success to? She said, just be the last one standing perseverance. So I hear that advice, and the voice of my grandmother, who’s with me every day, and she’s very much alive. And her words are one step at a time, Julie, just one step at a time. And I live by those words so much. I’m thinking about getting tattooed on my arm, George. Nice.

george grombacher 11:02
Well, what a journey and certainly congratulations on on on the success. So I certainly appreciate that. So many people recognize that they maybe were drinking too much had a problem, whatever, during the pandemic. And so this certainly makes sense. It is our, or this is, this is a unique thing, because it’s very healthy to drink. But it’s also an alternative to a cocktail because it tastes similar to a cocktail.

Julie Cielo 11:34
Well, you know, a lot of people feel like, you know, it’s not so much about a cocktail, it’s about the ritual. You know, it’s about the reward. At the end of the day, it’s about shifting from work into relaxation at five o’clock. And so many of us have been brainwashed by big alcohol, to think that we need ethanol in order to give us that six in research shows that it only that six only lasts for 20 minutes. And the the you know, there’s there’s no real benefit. After those 20 minutes, then you’re just dealing with, you know, getting fat, having anxiety, you know, just all the negative. I mean, it deteriorates your gut lining. I mean, I could go on and on about the negative effects of alcohol. But, you know, people people are starting to recognize this, and a lot of people fit into this gray area. So if you put in hashtag gray area drinking, you’ll be shocked to see what kind of movement is happening with people. But they’re starting to say, You know what, I want to feel good in the morning, I want to go I want to meditate, I want it you know, and I don’t want to have this constant conversation with myself of why did I do that again? I don’t I do that again. In you know, your friends might not think you have a problem because you’re not blowing up your life. You’re not, you know, getting DUIs and shit. It’s like you’re just a normal person. In society. The problem is, is alcohol has become so normalized. So to answer your question, yes, it is an alcohol alternative. Does it taste like a cocktail? Well, most cocktails are loaded with not only ethanol but sugar, sugar, and ethanol is liquid sugar so you know it’s not going to taste exactly the same. But in my opinion, if I pour a madam you’ll shrub buta into a car copper cup with a squeeze of lime. I’m completely satisfied. You know, I feel like I’m enjoying in you know, our bottles are custom glass. I’ve gone through great, great lengths to keep our packaging sustainable. And the custom glass bottles are just cute novelty. So when you’re holding on to them, it feels like an orange Gina. You know, like a San Pellegrino orange in a bottle. That was what I was really emulating the bottle after because the drink was inspired by the stories my grandfather used to tell me about, you know, Italian immigrants out in the fields drinking shrub, which is a vinegar based drink and it would cool them off in the summer heat. So whenever I was creating it, it was really being inspired by these old stories as well. So yeah, we’ve got no Hito Matt Amule Margarita cosmopolitan all under the shrub booja label. And then I’ve got a new one called iconic water, which is basically fermented water into a probiotic tonic water, and that was designed to accompany the non alcoholic spirits that are flooding the market. People might not know this, but there are a lot of alternative gins, tequilas rum. None of them have asthma. So we create I created the iconic water to accompany what I see coming down the pipeline. And what I enjoy most is recipe formulation. I can’t wait to crank out some more formulas, but you know, I’m one individual, one human,

george grombacher 15:20
only so many hours in the day.

Julie Cielo 15:23
Got it and one step at a time.

george grombacher 15:25
And, and one step at a time. That is exactly right. Well, that’s so cool. I didn’t know you could ferment water, Julie? Yeah. Can you ferment everything?

Julie Cielo 15:41
Pretty much. Pretty much I used to watch my grandfather ferment and oil. He would ferment peppers and oil. And I remember being out in the barn, looking at these bubbles of oil, and I thought, I wonder if we’ll all die here. I was a morbid kid. How I’m some I’m still a morbid kid.

george grombacher 16:00
Like Like, like, like, that’s really what you thought. Are we all gonna die here?

Julie Cielo 16:04
Yeah. Are we all gonna die together? Eating these hot peppers, you know? Okay. And you know what, I’ve never had to put knock on wood. I’ve never had food poisoning my whole life. You know, I really, I really think that getting that good bacteria in the form of you know, he basically fermented everything really did populate my gut. And then unfortunately, I caught Epstein Barr Virus, nine years old. And I believe that’s what kind of knocked me off the rails. But yeah, for centuries, many, many centuries, all cultures have their own cultures. You know, so, the Russians have crevasse and the Ethiopians have Pez, and the Mexicans have Pokey, and to paci and if you go to our dirty dozen page from, I’ve got 13. So I’ve got like a baker’s dozen in there. 13, different ferments from all around the world. So I don’t just bottle fermented drinks and sell them. I educate people about the cultures of the world, as well.

george grombacher 17:16
That’s awesome. cultures have their own cultures?

Julie Cielo 17:19
Passionate? Yeah, yeah. And that’s what kept them healthy. Yeah.

george grombacher 17:24
I love it. So you mentioned that you talked or your grandma talks to you, or you talk to grandma everyday still? Do? Do? Did people talk to you all the time? And if so, are they just caught? Like, like, is somebody trying to get your attention all the time? Are they? Or are they polite? And do they wait until you’re kind of free?

Julie Cielo 17:48
It’s not quite like that. It’s very random. And, you know, I wouldn’t consider myself to be the most skilled medium. Otherwise, I’d be doing it full time as a career. But generally what happens, what happens is, someone will come to me, and they don’t know why they’ve been guided to me. And all I need to do is feel into their energy field and, and there’ll be somebody that, you know, recently passed, or somebody that’s been trying to get them a message. So, you know, it’s very random, like, things like that happen in the grocery store, you know, like, it’s not like something I go chasing. But whenever I had my practice, I would literally get into the energy field of the person on the table. And it was it came very naturally and easily to me, but now that I don’t do that work any longer. It’s, it’s much more random. It because I’m not seeking it. But, you know, when I was in mortuary college, I had tons of babies that were homicide and accidental death victims. And they were non stop talking to me. And that’s the reason why I left I left my last semester, because I couldn’t handle it. It was just overboard. And I didn’t know how to turn it off. And I wasn’t sleeping for months at a time, you know, and just became sort of delirious from it, because they were harassing me. But, you know, since then, I’ve learned how to protect my own energy. And I’m not obviously around a bunch of people that have been murdered. Thank God. But it’s, it’s to answer your question. It’s, it’s quite random. You know, if I put some time and energy into one individual, I feel confident that if there was somebody that wanted to get a message through, it would happen. But it’s not something that I really go out seeking. Other than, you know, my grandmother, I mean, I don’t even have to seek her. She’s there. I can feel their presence with me all the time.

george grombacher 20:07
How many people are in a in a class and mortuary university or mortuary college? And is that a mean is? Are there a lot of people who are attracted to that? I’m not your you’re the representative for mortuary college right now on the show, Julie?

Julie Cielo 20:25
Yes. So I went to Lynn University, Boca Raton, Florida, also known as God’s waiting room. And there were eight of us in the class and I was the only female. Okay, I was bullied quite a bit. Just like I was bullied growing up, but I was bullied because I was the only female and they were like, Let’s make her sick. Let’s give her the worst cases ever. Great. And yeah, yeah, so that’s unfortunately, you know, boys club. That’s, that’s what it’s like, as a female to sometimes. But it made me it made me a lot stronger. I certainly was able to do things that the boys weren’t able to do, like, removing a human brain was a cranial side age 19 All that came pretty naturally to me, because my grandfather and I were, I mean, I pride myself on gutting deer, you know, and so it wasn’t it wasn’t a real big leap to get people I know that probably sounds really gross, but

george grombacher 21:34
that’s that’s like, we got it.

Julie Cielo 21:38
Yeah, and and I would say that the childhood trauma that I had with a mentally ill parent fortunately and unfortunately helped me to disassociate you know, when you’re around somebody, you know, you died a horrible death. And you know, you’ve got your hands on them. If you allow yourself to go into their story, it can be emotionally debilitating, and you’re not able to do your work. And I, I found that because I had a lot of childhood trauma, I could disassociate easily. And I was able to do things that other people weren’t able to do without getting sick. So it’s kind of disturbing, but true.

george grombacher 22:23
Fair enough. Well, getting back to disassociating from work and easing into relaxation, and to doing so without having to worry about putting on a inner tube or a tire on my stomach or waking up with a hangover. Where can I get where where can people learn more about from Mattel? And where can they pick up some of your product?

Julie Cielo 22:46
Oh, thank you for asking. So we are we have chain stores all over Seattle, Southern California, Portland, Oregon, we’re in Chicago, in New York City, as far as retail goes, but most of our clients and customers buy off firm And when you sign up for our Culture Club, which is our newsletter, etc. We offer 25% off the first order

george grombacher 23:19
Well, if you enjoyed this as much as I did show Julie your appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas go to firm That’s fer and check out all the great products that Julie has created and join the Culture Club yet another amazing term, Julie, and get 25% off your first order. Thanks good, Julie.

Julie Cielo 23:46
Thanks so much for your time, George. Appreciate it.

george grombacher 23:48
And until next time, keep fighting the good fight. It’s we’re all in this together.

Transcribed by

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