August 28, 2023

Paul Geller's BASBAS: A Toast to the Spirit of Ibiza

Artistry in a Bottle: The Story of BASBAS, Paul Geller, and the Spirit of Ibiza


In a world that often feels pigeonholed, it's refreshing to see a story that defies the odds. Paul Geller’s journey from politics to religion, and finally to the alcohol industry is a testament to adaptability, passion, and strategic thinking.

As the founder of BASBAS, a liquor brand that is steeped in tradition and craftsmanship, Geller has navigated a path that showcases the importance of understanding history, tradition, and the necessity of smart, strategic planning in a competitive industry. This article will delve into Paul Geller's journey, highlighting the key moments that led him to create BASBAS and the lessons learned along the way.

Paul Geller - The Founder of BASBAS

A discussion with Paul Geller, founder of BASBAS

Could you give us a brief introduction of yourself and what inspired you to start the current company?

Yeah, so my background is primarily in marketing and tech, with a bit of politics as well. I worked on a presidential campaign in 2016, but my candidate didn’t make it. After that, I got into spirituality and became the CMO of the Kabbalah Center. So, I transitioned from politics to religion, and then, somewhat facetiously, the only place left to go was alcohol. But, in all seriousness, I enjoyed being around people doing interesting things, and the adult beverage business is full of passionate people. It’s been a fun journey.

Interesting. How did you come across this specific product?

I have a photo of the exact moment I discovered Hierbas, the category of our product. It was originally created by monks in the 16th century in the Balearic Islands - Ibiza, Majorca, Minorca, Formentera. I was transitioning from my role at the Kabbalah Center and wanted to do something I loved. As I pondered over a bottle of Hierbas, I realized I loved Hierbas but couldn’t get it in North America. That’s when it hit me – I’m the customer, and there’s a need not being served.

Cool. It’s been four years since you launched BASBAS. How has the growth been, and what specific marketing tactics have been most effective?

Alcohol has unique constraints in the U.S., with the three-tier system disempowering direct-to-consumer e-commerce entrepreneurs. So, entering this business, I wanted to make direct-to-consumer work better for alcohol businesses. This required custom programming and trial and error with fulfillment companies. The pandemic resulted in two lost years for us, with products stuck at the Port of New York for months due to backlogs.

Once we were back in stock, we leveraged our scarcity. Many brands are going direct-to-consumer with high CPAs, which isn’t sustainable for a low-margin product like alcohol. We opted against performance marketing and capitalized on our legitimate scarcity, which led to us selling out every time. It’s a luxury product that is genuinely scarce, so our constraints are production and getting the product to the U.S.

Were there any initial challenges in launching the product or brand?

The challenges were mostly in import-export. The product itself has been produced for centuries, and we worked with a family with a generations-old recipe. The hard work was in the logistics and selling direct-to-consumer in a technically challenged industry. We had to deal with customer support issues but had no control over them. It required custom coding and a willing fulfillment partner to innovate in the industry.

What was the marketing engine for your business in the past four months? Did you see a significant jump in sales due to a change in marketing tactics?

Initially, we tried performance marketing with Meta and Google. Although our CPAs decreased, they plateaued around $25, which wasn’t sustainable in a world of profitability-focused investors and operators. Our first successes came from morning newsletters, which was a risk since there’s no testing or iteration. But we got lucky, and it converted wildly, leading us to repeat the process. Eventually, diminishing returns set in, but by then, our mailing list had reached critical mass, and word of mouth fueled our growth.

That’s fascinating. On a more personal note, how do you stay motivated, given your extensive entrepreneurial career?

Staying motivated is a challenge, but I’ve realized that I struggle with authority unless I deeply respect the person. I can’t help but see ways to improve things, even if it’s not wanted. So, in a way, entrepreneurship is the only job I can have because I can’t stop myself from wanting to improve things.

What are your short-term and long-term goals for BASBAS?

Short-term, I aim to be profitable this year as we pivot from growth to profit. Long-term, I expect major brand extensions and partnerships, transforming BASBAS into a household name, and competing with the giants. Ultimately, we aim to build an LVMH for the next generation of consumer – authentic, mission driven and good natured.

Finally, do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Trust your gut. Entrepreneurship looks fun and exciting from the outside. But when you're in it, there's a lot to navigate. So, if you have a conviction, even if it's contrary to what someone you look up to is saying, trust your gut.

Chris Choi: Great advice. Thank you, Paul, for sharing your insights and experiences with us today.

Paul Geller: My pleasure, Chris. Thanks for having me.

Key Takeaways

Lessons from the Journey

  • Adaptability and Openness: Paul Geller's journey emphasizes the importance of staying adaptable and open to new opportunities, even outside your initial area of expertise. 
  • Understanding History and Tradition: Geller's success with BASBAS underlines the importance of understanding the history and tradition behind a product.
  • Strategic Planning: The necessity of smart, strategic planning in a competitive industry is another key takeaway from Geller’s story.
  • Passion and Belief: A reminder that passion and a genuine belief in one’s product are integral to overcoming challenges and ultimately achieving success.

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