Sech's cans wit and berry-flavored malt beverage for college students

Mary Yost

Young local entrepreneurs appeal to their own demographic with branding.

It might be hard to say that without a chuckle, but three local 20-somethings hope to laugh all the way to the bank. The ambitious owners and founders of SECHS LTD. produce the berry-flavored malt beverage and are enjoying early success, selling it for $1.95 a can around the campuses of Ohio University and Ohio State University.

Short on resources but long on energy and passion for their product, Mason Estep, Shea Wilson and Gabriele Galli have worked hard since September 2014 to bring their original concept to market. Sales began in December and have already consumed 20 percent of their initial production of 25,000 24-ounce cans. They plan to add a new product-Morning Sech's Mimosa-later this year and expand sales to other Big 10 Conference schools.

"We're in touch with our demographic," Estep says. Besides the obvious appeal of the product's name to their target market of college students, the three contend their "cocktail in a can" is one of the best-tasting flavored malt beverages on the market. Sech's is a play on the word for six in German and originally referred to the alcohol-by-volume percentage in the beverage, but their market "demanded more," Estep says, so the ABV was upped to eight percent.

Meeting compliance requirements in the highly regulated industry was one of their biggest challenges, Wilson says. They didn't have a lawyer, so when approval of their application to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau in the US Treasury Department lagged, they traveled to Washington DC and knocked on doors at the TTB, securing what they needed in a day, Galli says.

How big could SECHS get? The owners note another young entrepreneur sold Sparks, a malt beverage energy drink, in 2006 to the Miller Brewing Company for $215 million.