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Two members of the Class of 2024 sling non-alcoholic “shocktails” in their new venture, Everything But The Booze

celeste and catherine holding cans of e b t b in front of the brandcenter mural in basement

Celeste Chance (Copywriting, 2024) and Catherine Emblidge (Strategy, 2024) are diving into small business with a product that started as a Brandcenter student project. The two entrepreneurs credit supportive Brandcenter faculty, VCU Shift Retail Lab, and the Richmond community for helping Everything But The Booze get off the ground. 

The concept behind Everything But the Booze (EBTB) began during a group project in their very first semester at Brandcenter. As part of the course Creative Thinking, faculty member KT Schaeffer (Professor, Creative Director, and alum Art Direction, 2001) assigned a group project with the mission to create a potential “side hustle.” The groups included students from every concentration of Brandcenter programs (Art Direction, Copywriting, Creative Brand Management, Experience Design, and Strategy). At the time, Celeste was a manager for the local distillery Cirrus Vodka and brought up the idea of a mobile bar for events. However, a fellow team member lamented feeling left out at social events because she did not drink alcohol.

Addressing the need for a different experience for non-drinkers struck a nerve. 

As the strategist of the team, Catherine summed up the initial findings of their research, “Gen Z is drinking less than any other generation, for a variety of physical and mental health reasons. They are owning that decision not to drink, not letting it dictate whether they go out…but there’s a missing social component of what alcohol used to be.” The team completed secondary research, focus groups, one-on-one interviews, surveys on current drinking habits, and an assessment of competitors to develop their product. 

They saw a niche to fill. If mocktails are an imitation that can never beat the real thing, what product could replicate the fun, party vibes of traditional cocktails? EBTB and their “shocktails” were born. From the start, the idea was to create a drink that could “rival cocktails in taste and attitude,” Catherine says. With her experience bartending, Celeste led the process in creating the actual recipes. “People would come into Cirrus looking for mocktails so I had to get kind of fancy with what I had on hand,” Celeste said. “That definitely helped us when we were crafting these drinks.” 

EBTB created three shocktails based on the flavors of traditional drinks: Phat A$$ Mule (a ginger and lime infused concoction based on a Moscow Mule), It’s Sangria Biotch (a fruity take on a spiced fall sangria), and Margarita That’s Hot (a spicy, booze-free margarita with a jalapeno kick). They use fresh ingredients, powerful flavors, and a bit of carbonation to make you sip and savor, and the fun branding is supposed to “empower, not embarrass.” 

The original group project that brought the EBTB brand to life also included Brandcenter students Christine Choe (Art Direction, 2025), Andrew Harper (Creative Brand Management, 2024) and Hunter Chambers (Experience Design, 2024). Celeste and Catherine were able to keep the project going after KT’s class and turn EBTB into a business, and say they were lucky to have the support of both the Brandcenter and greater VCU communities. As the team’s faculty advisor, KT has been a positive and supportive influence throughout the process. Celeste says, “KT has been amazing. She’s been there every step of the way, in and out of the classroom.” KT turned them on to VCU’s Shift Retail Lab and connected them with a professor in the School of Business who helped them create a business plan. In addition to KT, Brandcenter faculty like Berwyn Hung, Scott Witthaus, and Ashley Sommardahl have helped the duo make connections with important contacts and supported them directly through purchases.

Shift Retail Lab is part of the VCU da Vinci Center for Innovation and helps entrepreneurs and innovators test their ideas through sales and customer feedback.  Catherine says “The great thing about Shift, we had all the branding, but they helped us incorporate the business aspect—competitors, bringing stats into our presentation, that sort of thing.” Through Shift, EBTB was able to pitch to the CEO of Kickstarter and enter Shift’s Annual Demo Day, where they won the featured product category! The pair highly recommend Shift’s resources to folks at VCU thinking about entrepreneurship.

And what’s next? Celeste and Catherine just graduated with the Class of 2024 and plan to keep the enterprise growing while they also build careers in advertising. Production has moved to Garden Grove, and the duo gush about how wonderful the local brewery and Richmond community has been. The two say they are “so fortunate to be growing a business in Richmond where there’s such a supportive network.“ EBTB is currently working to expand their offerings to kegs, and they hope you’ll see EBTB products in Richmond restaurants and breweries soon.

If you’d like to support, you can donate to EBTB’s Kickstarter Campaign (they have until June 17th to meet their goal!) or purchase cases by emailing [email protected]

Brandcenter will be rooting for them every step of the way. Cheers!

Want to Support Everything But The Booze?