These HBCU Grads Are Delivering Alcohol to Your Door With QuikLiq
When two HBCU Grads and fraternity brothers have an idea, the world better listen. Navarr Grevious and Mikael Pyles founded QuikLiq while attending Clark Atlanta University in 2011 and officially launched to the public in 2018. The two college friends turned business partners have built a game-changer for the alcohol industry. QuikLiq is a digital platform for wine, beer, and spirits delivery that operates out of Miami, Florida, and will be expanding to Georgia in early 2021. QuikLiq is the first Black-owned online alcohol marketplace and seeks to make ordering alcohol easy and convenient while being committed to growing a culture of drinking responsibly.
The Quintessential Gentleman caught up with co-founder, Mikael, to talk QuikLiq's growing brand and early beginnings.
What was the inspiration behind creating QuikLiq?
Have you ever been at a party or social event where everyone is having a great time, but then the alcohol runs out? When this happens it can ruin the energy of the party, and on top of that, no one wants to leave the party to go get more alcohol. This scenario happened in 2011, when Navarr and I were at a social gathering. We realized that there was a huge void in the market for an on-demand service that could deliver alcohol right to your door. QuikLiq was created to fill that void—and many more!
How has your upbringing shaped the way you do business?
I would not be the successful businessman that I am today if it weren't for my incredible upbringing. Although my parents were not wealthy, they were both hard-working, loving, and ever-present role models in my life. They made sure that I had every opportunity that any other kid had, and never allowed me to feel like I was at a disadvantage in life because I was Black, even if society felt otherwise. The confidence my parents instilled in me early on has persisted to this day, and has fueled my ambition to build such a revolutionary company like QuikLiq. Business is very hard and challenging and sometimes unfair; so it takes an immense amount of self-confidence and drive to be successful. Thankfully, I had parents that instilled those character traits in me, and my mission is to make them proud in all things that I do.
Let's discuss the beginning stages of creating QuikLiq, what were some of your earliest obstacles?
The biggest obstacle for QuikLiq early on was understanding all of the nuances of the alcohol industry and figuring out how to navigate such a highly-regulated industry. When we came up with the idea for QuikLiq in 2011, there was no such thing as on-demand alcohol delivery. In fact, the very concept was illegal in most states. So even though we had this incredible idea, it was truly ahead of its time, and we had to be patient for the market to catch up to us. In addition to the regulatory barriers, we had tremendous financial challenges. QuikLiq was created as a bootstrapped, self-funded business with no help from outside funding or loans. Thus, in the beginning, it was a constant struggle to operate and scale the business, while also having to take care of all of our personal financial responsibilities. Fortunately, all of our sacrifices and hard work has paid off, as the business is thriving and we now have enough sales/investor capital to cover expenses and grow the business.
How does it feel to be the first Black-Owned business that is occupying this space?
Being an African American entrepreneur in tech that graduated from an HBCU is so rewarding, because I know that my journey is so much bigger than myself. The African American community is grossly underrepresented in tech and entrepreneurship in general, so I am uber-motivated to succeed in order to be an example to my community and the younger generation that we can accomplish anything. It's cool that QuikLiq is the first Black-owned business of its kind, but what we are building is so much more than that. QuikLiq is a vehicle to further our legacy; it is our contribution to Black history. The more successful QuikLiq becomes, the more we will be able to give back by establishing scholarships for HBCUs, internship programs, and more opportunities for underrepresented minorities to thrive in business. Words can't even begin to describe how special that is.
As entrepreneurs, how are you taking care of your mental health, knowing the Black mental health is important?
This question is so important! It is very easy to ignore your mental health as an entrepreneur—especially a Black entrepreneur—but the secret is finding daily balance and having open and honest communication with your team. You can't just work; you must do other things to balance out your life and contribute to your positive mental health, such as reading, exercising, spending time with family, etc. When you take time outside the business to do things that bring you joy, you will find that you are much more productive and motivated to work. Additionally, it is imperative that you communicate openly and honestly with your team/business partners. If you need to take some time away from a task or project to focus on your mental health, then do it! A successful team will make adjustments and tag-in to support you when you need it.
How has COVID-19 affected your daily work tasks, and how are you pivoting to come out successful?
While the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected many industries and businesses, it has actually been a blessing in disguise for QuikLiq. Overall sales for off-premise locations (i.e. liquor stores, grocery stores) are up tremendously, and revenues for delivery platforms like ours have grown exponentially. People have not been able to go to their favorite bars and restaurants to socialize, watch sports, and enjoy a cold beer or cocktail. Instead, due to nationwide shutdowns and mandatory curfews, more people than ever have been forced to take their alcohol to-go. That's where we come in! Not only have we been able to deliver alcohol to customers that couldn't find a local store that was open in their area, but we help keep people safe during Covid by allowing them to stay socially distanced while our drivers bring their orders to them.
Why was Miami the perfect place to build your company?
Miami was the best place to launch QuikLiq, because it is a year-around destination for tourists/travelers, as well as a diverse, multi-cultural epicenter that allows us to understand a wide array of customers and demographics. With its world-renowned beaches and ever-pleasant weather, Miami has great energy all year and a plethora of customers looking to find their favorite adult beverages night-and-day.
How do you stay inspired?
At QuikLiq, we have a diverse and talented team that keeps me on my toes. Whenever I am feeling low, I can always count on my team to provide me with the inspiration and motivation to keep going. We do a great job of holding each other accountable and thriving off each other's energy; at the end of the day, I don't want to let my team down, and I know that if I win, we all win. Additionally, I get a great deal of inspiration from my family, which is the fundamental reason I work so hard to be successful. For me, building QuikLiq is not about getting paid and being able to buy nice things, it's about creating a legacy for my family—building something that can create generational wealth that I can pass down to my future children and be an example for the Black community.
What are your hopes for QuikLiq after expanding to Georgia?
After expanding to Georgia, we plan to continue growing and introducing QuikLiq to new markets and cities across the Southeast. Eventually, we want to expand all the way West so QuikLiq can become a "household name". When you think of e-commerce, you think of Amazon; when you think of food delivery, you think of UberEats or Door Dash. When people think of alcohol delivery, we want them to think of QuikLiq!
What advice do you have for others as they start their first business?
My advice for people who are venturing to start their own business is to utilize their resources and leverage their network. Entrepreneurship is not easy, and oftentimes there is no roadmap for success. Too often, entrepreneurs try to do everything themselves and quickly get burnt out as obstacles arise and things become overwhelming. By leveraging your network and finding people to assist in bringing your business to fruition, you can build a system that allows you to work on your business instead of in your business. People must understand that one of the keys to success in business is knowing that it is a marathon, not a race.