LIVINGSTON, NJ - When 1986 Livingston High Graduate, Nancy Ramus Cirillo went to a dinner party at her friend Connie Kocherga’s house, she had no idea how monumental that night would be—it was the night that the two of them came up with their novel business idea called Drink Inks®.
“I was looking around for those charms you put on wine glasses so you know whose glass is whose, and Connie couldn’t find hers,” said Cirillo. “Then Connie asked her daughter to go and get some stickers and she brought us back some decals of different animals, from a board game, which were like the color forms I played with as a kid.”
Cirillo said that when the night was over they looked at each and said, “What a great idea.” And the rest was going to be history.
The party occurred in December of 2009, and the women spent the rest of the year and part of 2010 coming up with the name for their product and hammering out the details.
“We began by tossing around names for the company and decided on Drink Inks,” said Cirillo. “We then researched the name and were excited to find out that the name was not trademarked.”
Cirillo and Kocherga then began discussing the look and feel of their product.
“We wanted our Drink Inks to be unique, edgy and descriptive ice breakers and conversations starters and we didn’t want them to be boring. Basically, when you use typical wine glass charms, you have to remember what yours looks like, and because they aren’t personalized, it can sometimes be hard to remember if you had the pink one with two beads or the purple one with three beads. And, by the time the night ends you usually can’t remember which one was yours at all. With Drink Inks, there is no guessing whose drink is whose. You just pick a descriptive term to describe yourself or your mood, or use a blank one and write your own word or simply write your name.”
The women came up with 16 themes for their packages of Drink Inks, ten of which are as follows: 80's Phrases, Hip Phrases, Terms Of Endearment , Men with Attitude, Sports Phrases, Women with Attitude, Multicultural Toasts, Good Times, Holiday Fun, Wine Time. The other six are Write-Your-Owns using each of the company’s six different colored borders: black, green, hot pink, orange, red and turquoise.
“What makes Drink Inks so unique and much better than wine charms is that they work on stemless glassware too,” said Cirillo.
Cirillo also said she had some great advice along the way.
“My husband and I are restaurant/bar owners, so we worked with our business’ graphic designer on the colors and fonts, and took the advice of our printer to outsource the printing of the decals. I also asked for advice via Facebook, and even after being out of touch for twenty years, Rob Kalishman, Marc Lapides and Mike Zakkour, who graduated LHS with me in 1986, reached out and advised me on business, sales and marketing. They went out of their way and not only called, emailed and messaged me often, they stayed in touch and continue to check in with me and follow my progress.”
Cirillo said it was not all smooth sailing along the way.
“We made a few mistakes and learned a lot. It took us a while to find the correct die cuts and actual decal materials. One batch came in where the die cuts were off, in another batch the decals were too thin, and with another the borders were printed askew. Our first large order of 13,000 arrived as stickers and not decals and had to be sent back.”
All mistakes aside, they finally arrived at a product they liked and were proud of. The partners did their first trade show in 2011 in Los Angeles, California and won the Outstanding Exhibitor Award of 2011.
Drink Inks first took off in the local market by lining the aisles of California stores and wineries like: Belle Marie Winery, Keil’s Food Stores, Siesel’s Meats, Iowa Meat Farms, Great News Discount Cookware and Cooking School, Pangaea Outpost, Pangaea Outpost Flower Hill Mall, Leaping Lotus, Wine Country Gifts, Mermaids, Thorton Winery, Uncorked- The Wine Shop, and With Gratitude in Baltimore, MD, as well as a few stores in Arizona and on the East Coast.
Cirillo said that Drink Ink’s big break came in April of 2013 when Party City agreed to do a test run of 13 themes in 50 stores in Texas, Georgia, Florida and Chicago, and a test run of the “Women with Attitude” theme in over 100 stores across the country and online.
“It is a really exciting time. We were told that with the run of all 13 themes, some stores sold out and that the line running in 100+ stores is selling well too.“
Cirillo said her hope is that Party City makes Drink Inks a permanent product on their shelves to be put in their 800+ stores.
When Cirillo isn’t jotting down future marketing plans for Drink Inks, which are easily removable, reusable, hand washable, and can be stored on other packaging, she is discovering more uses for Drink Inks, which adhere to glassware, crystal, acrylic and plastic.
“I like to use the ‘Write-Your-Own’ Drink Inks for organizing things in my home like plastic shoe boxes, coffee and tea canisters, as well as craft bins, and food in the fridge and freezer. I also love that I can remove anything I write in permanent marker with rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover, and then write something else on the Drink Inks when I reuse them.”
As Cirillo waits to hear whether Party City will be placing a larger order, she is enjoying the notes she receives from customers who buy her products via her website www.drinkinks.com. She especially likes one from a woman with seven kids who said she wrote the names of each child on a decal and reuses them daily on mason jars to keep her from wasting glasses or plastic cups all day long.
“Drink Inks are so smart, so easy and are a no-brainer to add fun and excitement to any party, whether it is girls’ night out, a dinner party, bridal shower, baby shower, children’s party, etc. They also prevent waste and are cost-effective. And, they fit anywhere. In fact, we made them oval to fit at the base of a wine glass.”
Cirillo resides in San Diego, California with her husband Mark and children Matthew, 12 and Carli, 14. She enjoys brewing her own tea, playing tennis competitively with her son Matthew, and watching her daughter follow in her footsteps as an avid and accomplished softball player.