“So I decided to create Figlia for those who don’t want to prove, for whatever reason. Create an active community and place for fun. The type of dinner table that always has a place open for all experiences and stories. Where no one is an outsider and there is something special to sip for everyone…” —Lily Geiger, Founder and CEO, Figlia
According to Mental thread, there is good precedent for people being creative and productive beyond their normal capabilities during quarantine. Shakespeare wrote “King Lear”, Isaac Newton developed his theory of gravity, and Edvard Munch painted his “Self-Portrait with the Spanish Flu”—all during the pandemic period. Lily Geiger, who lived in Los Angeles before the COVID-19 pandemic, moved into her mother’s house in Ashley Falls during the August 2020 quarantine and began working on an idea she had for a new soft drink. By September she had an LLC, and in April 2021 she launched Figlia, a non-alcoholic aperitivo, making $13,000 in the first week.
Geiger was born and raised in New York. After graduating from Wake Forest University, she moved to LA and worked in brand marketing at Beautycounter, followed by a job at a small boutique consultancy, gaining experience with brands such as Summer Fridays, APL and Heyday. She was 24 (and living in the Berkshires) when she first conceived the Figlia product, then developed it with the help of RoAndCo, a design-focused branding agency based in LA. They met over Zoom and sent samples back and forth. At the age of 25, she launched a brand with one flavor — Fiore (Italian for flower), made with rose, bitter orange, and clove—now sold in 400 locations across the U.S. and was featured in The New York Times, Vogueand GQ (to mention only some publications).
Born from passion and personal experience
“I always felt inspired to do something that meant something to me,” says Geiger. “When I asked myself what I was passionate about, that was the idea that stuck with me.” Geiger grew up with an alcoholic father and knew from an early age that her family was different. “There was a lot of embarrassment and shame.” Growing up in Manhattan, she also noticed an “accelerated rate of drinking”—how social environments revolved around alcohol.
While in college, she began to think about how the habits that children began to cultivate during those years carried over into adult life. A few years later, Geiger noticed an increase in drinking habits and alcohol sales during the pandemic. “Everyone was bored during COVID and wanted some rituals to help them survive. Drink was one of them.” She used 2020 as a time to reassess her drinking habits, to notice how she felt waking up after drinking the night before. “I wanted to find a nighttime ritual that didn’t make me feel bad and also tasted great.”
The non-alcoholic options offered at most restaurants and events seemed juvenile and degrading. “Being the one drinking soda while everyone else is drinking a glass of wine can disconnect you from the conversation and the people you’re with,” Geiger explains. “I wanted to offer something up to the caliber of what everyone else was drinking – something sophisticated, with an edge, to be enjoyed. There was no such thing there.”
She’s not alone in that thinking—aside from dry January and sober October advocates, many people are interested in giving up booze these days, and Geiger can’t wait to appeal to that crowd.
“There’s a wide range of people who want alcohol-free options,” she notes, “and for many different reasons.” Whether you’re pregnant, struggling with addiction, have a health or medical condition, or your usual drinks just aren’t working for you, Figlia offers a fresh, new alternative to change things up. No-Resistance Elixir helps you create “sophisticated drinks for memorable, casual moments.” It’s for “sipping with intention. Not for the hungover” (according to the website).
Trusting your intuition—and developing strategically
Based on her past jobs, Geiger had some confidence when she thought about starting her own business. But with no food and drink experience, she relied heavily on writing homework. She emphasizes, “To be successful, you have to do a ton of research, but then it’s important to believe in yourself and keep going.” She credits her creative team at RoAndCo for helping her create her brand (images, colors, mood) and her copywriter for helping her develop her story and identify keywords that will drive her marketing.
“I’m just a startup, I don’t have any investors — yet,” says Geiger. But considering the fact that she only started with an Instagram account (@drinkfiglia) and website (drinkfiglia.com), these bands proved to be quite strong. “My community expanded to include all these other communities,” she says. “We’ve broken our sales record for the last four consecutive months, and that’s with no paid magazine ads, just some social media ads.”
And as for investors, can we take “more” as the key to future funding? “Definitely. I want to climb alongside our competitors in a healthy way,” he smiles. With one full-time employee and one part-time contractor, it’s still a small enough operation that you wonder how Geiger is keeping up with the growing demand. “I’m just working harder,” she replies. “Everyone I work with I went to college with. We’re all women and we enjoy working together. We know who we are as a company and we have an attitude that won’t change easily.”
Creating community, one bottle (or can) at a time.
What sets Fiore apart? A taste, for example, that is not intended to mimic wine or other spirits as many soft drinks do. Description: “Fiore bottles the lushness of Italian gardens and the energy of sidewalk dining in New York. It’s an ode to spritz, a symbol of leisure and a reminder to take your time…We recommend Fiore over ice, garnished with orange peel.” Bright red color. Beautiful bottle. Name (Figlia means daughter in Italian), a nod to her inspiration for creation and the culture from which the drink comes. The way it’s made in Utah—the only place where the special hot-fill process required by Figlia (heat sterilization and then hand-sealing) can be done. And the fact that they don’t use any ingredients that alter serotonin (which people on anti-depressants must avoid).
In addition to creating drinks, Geiger is committed to encouraging people to have honest and inclusive conversations about alcohol consumption. “Figlia aims to better support ourselves, our community and our planet,” the website explains. “But we can’t do it alone. That’s why we support non-profit organizations that work hard to help fight addiction and support the environment.”
One such non-profit organization is Partnership in the fight against addiction (dedicated to empowering families through a unique public health approach to addiction, rooted in science and compassion). Figlia calls this act “sipping forever.” The company also donates to local environmental nonprofits based in New York 1% for the Planet.
So for anyone having a hard time getting through a dry January (or forever dry), hang in there. Help is on the shelves or you can order online. Try something new that promises “all the glam looks, no regrets.” Who knows? Maybe Fiore will become your new nighttime ritual—and your drink of choice “for all the moments you want to remember.”