We’re believers that every delicious dinner should begin with its very own pre-game. For the perfect pairing, cue some good tunes, tapas, and our next guest, Melanie Masarin, Founder and CEO of Ghia, a stylish spirits-free apéritif. As one of our favorite hosts out there, Melanie is also a powerhouse whose background paved the way to becoming the entrepreneur she is today.
Without further ado, take a seat with the passionately driven, Melanie Masarin!
Tell us about your entrepreneurial journey. How did you get started?
I feel as though my entire career helped pave the way for launching Ghia. In my previous role as the Creative Director and Head of Marketing at Dig Inn, I led the re-brand of the company overseeing everything from messaging, communication, store design, branding, digital presence, paid advertising, and offline marketing, which taught me so much about hospitality and the value of customer service. As the Head of Retail and Offline Experiences at Glossier, I led the offline and experiential strategy including conceptualizing permanent and temporary spaces and leading the team that brought them to life. Glossier is well known for being focused on the needs of their customer – that level of connection and really listening to our community is something I’ve carried over to Ghia. Starting my career at Goldman Sachs was a really important foundation to understand what makes a healthy business and how critical attention to detail is in every facet of business.
Walk us through the inspiration behind creating Ghia!
I’ve always loved bringing people together – whether it’s been through hosting dinner parties for my friends or creating safe spaces that spark real, meaningful conversations. Growing up, I spent many summers with my family in the South of France near the Mediterranean centered around entertaining friends, cooking together, and having conversations that lasted until dawn, all fueled by my grandmother’s homemade limoncello made with fresh-picked lemons. Those memories are what inspired me to create something that challenges the way we have traditionally thought about drinking and socializing. I realized there wasn’t a non-alcoholic beverage that was for drinkers and non-drinkers alike with a bitter profile and minimal sugar – something that wouldn’t make people feel excluded in a social setting. I wanted to make a bitter drink that had the complexity of an alcoholic drink – I love bitters and setting out to get the right flavor while also being health-conscious (Ghia has zero added sugar), was both fun and challenging. We asked ourselves: how can we make a bitter that tastes like you make it with real plants and herbs picked from your garden? 37 iterations and 1,001 pours later, we did it.
What have been some of the biggest roadblocks you’ve faced prior to getting to this point in your career?
One of the biggest roadblocks was finding the courage to take a risk and bet on myself. For 18 months after I left Glossier, I was doing consulting for other people and didn’t have the power to execute on the ideas I brought to the table. That experience pushed me to finally make the decision to go out on my own.
What’s something you’re most proud of achieving professionally?
I’m so proud of everything we’ve accomplished with Ghia so far, from the continued growth of our team, to winning Esquire’s 2020 “Drink of the Year” Award (an accolade no NA brand has won before), to launching three new products this year including our Le Spritz cans in two flavors (Ghia Soda & Ghia Ginger) and our brand new Le Works Holiday Tin with a mini panettone, Ghianduja (our custom version of Nutella with olive oil instead of palm oil). I have to remember to reflect on everything amazing we’ve accomplished this year and let that push me to reach even higher goals next year.
What’s the most valuable advice you’ve ever received, either professionally or personally?
Just because something is a good opportunity doesn’t mean I have to take it – which was advice given to me by my friend Nic Jammet at Sweetgreen when I got offered a very attractive job after Glossier. These days, I spend most of my time protecting the team’s focus and having to say no so it definitely gets applied a lot.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start their entrepreneurial journey?
My biggest piece of advice to anyone starting their entrepreneurial journey is to be steadfast in your goal but flexible on how you achieve it. Launching any type of business takes an incredible amount of time and energy, and it also takes a lot of problem-solving. It’s really important to use your creativity when things are not going to plan and make peace with the fact that so much is outside of our control.
What are your thoughts on work-life balance? Is it achievable?
I definitely think having a work-life balance is achievable, and if it’s something that’s important to you I think it’s something you’ll prioritize. I achieve balance by understanding the times in the day that I am most productive and following the rhythm of my mind and body. I do my best thinking work before 11am, so I try to keep that time free of meetings a few times a week to keep pushing the business and strategy forward even if the rest of the day is hectic. Since I have limited personal time, it can be hard balancing time for wellness that doesn’t compete with my hobbies. So I’ve looked for activities that do both, like cooking, gardening and surfing. They’ve all become a favorite part of my weekly routine and allow me to achieve this balance by keeping me healthy and happy.
You are an incredible hostess! What are your top three tips for someone hosting a gathering at their home?
What’s your go-to meal when cooking at home?
If I’m having friends over on short notice, I’ll roast a chicken or make hand-chopped svizzerina – it’s so easy and always a crowd pleaser. My all-time favorite thing to cook, though, is pasta. It’s so therapeutic for me, and there is something about serving a dish of pasta rolled one by one that truly says ‘you are welcome here.’
What are five things you can’t live without right now?
1.Crown Affair Scrunchies – such an affordable luxury, and yet invaluable!
2. This Semi Hoop from Kimai. There is no such thing as a clean supply chain for fine jewelry unfortunately, but Kimai uses recycled gold and lab-grown diamonds that are made using renewable energy. I bought my first one when we launched our Ghia Spritz back in the spring and love stacking them.
3. My Thermomix. I have used this all-in-one magical appliance every day of the past decade, but with the holidays it’s now working double shifts. Can never recommend it enough.
4. My Peter Shire mugs, I get a new one every year at his Open Studio in Echo Park. It’s a quintessentially LA object.
5. Ghia! I went through a Spritz phase after we launched but with the holidays, I’m back to my OG bottle for its versatility. Lately I’ve been playing with it with orange peel and clove and a splash of sparkling water.
1.5 oz Ghia
1 oz cranberry juice
2 oz sparkling water
1 lime wheel
Mix 1.5 oz Ghia and 1 oz cranberry juice into a highball glass.
Add in a 2 oz splash of sparkling water.
Serve on the rocks and garnish with a fresh lime wheel.