Carol is the founder and CEO of Makku. Leading up to Makku, she sat in the Ventures division of ZX Ventures (AB InBev), where she was responsible for a new product and category launch in China. Prior to ZX Ventures, she held operations and marketing roles in tech startups, the government, and a non-profit organization. She has a BA from the University of Michigan and and MBA from Columbia Business School.
What inspired you all to create this company?
I grew up in Flushing, Queens, NY, a predominantly Asian neighborhood.
Thus, I had memories of makgeolli (traditional Korean alcohol) since I was young, as I’d see makgeolli on restaurant tables whenever Korean elders would gather with their friends. However, that was the extent of what I knew about makgeolli as I never drank it myself.
Fast forward two decades later, on a family trip to Korea, my friends suggested we go to a makgeolli bar. I was surprised that there were entire bars dedicated solely to makgeolli, and that there were hundreds of makgeolli breweries all over Korea.
At this time, I happened to be working in the Ventures group for ZX Ventures (owned by AB InBev), and I knew that preferences for alcoholic beverages in the U.S were changing. Consumers were shifting away from beer and towards drinks with interesting flavor variations, heritage and brand stories.
I also witnessed the growing influence of Korean culture (K-food, K-pop, K-beauty) in the U.S. and thought it’d be a great time to introduce makgeolli, as our population is becoming increasingly diverse and global-minded.
I took a second trip to Korea to research makgeolli production, and then left my job a couple months later to start Makku.
What distinguishes your company and product in the market?
Currently, makgeolli only exists in small pockets of Korean communities around the U.S. There are a few brands that dominate the market, but they are all made with artificial flavorings and sugar, and the packaging/branding is not updated for the American consumer. We seek to contrast Makku with these other brands by making our product all-natural, true to makgeolli’s original ingredients and brewing techniques, and packaged for the American millennial – canned, with a modern design and a clean label.