Fort Collins, Colorado
Potential customers are "always convinced they're going to get pulled over by a police officer and hassled" because they think they'll smell like alcohol, says Erica, the company's CEO. "We have a lot of police officers that use Pit Liquor on active duty," she says reassuringly. "You have to drink alcohol to smell like you've been drinking."
Since the alcohol evaporates, there's no risk to pregnant women of the liquor entering their bloodstreams, either, according to another answer on the web site. And even after the alcohol dissipates, there are still essential oils and other essences lending their pleasing aromas, as well as additional antibacterial constituents. Examples of their products include Whiskey Lavender, made with dried lavender and lavender essential oil; Coconut Rum with Lime, containing vodka, coconut, and lime peel; and the limited-edition Grapefruit and Juniper, featuring vodka, juniper berries, and grapefruit essential oil.
And then, according to another FAQ on the site, there's the products' moniker: "Did you know the name Pit Liquor sounds like Pit Licker?" The company's reply: "Yes Karen, we're aware. It's called a homonym, you choose to hear/do what you want! We won't judge." In a marketing sense, Erica says about the brand name, "It's sticky and it's funny, and it gets people talking, and it helps people remember it."
But how effective is vodka at killing the bacteria that causes pits to stink? Quite effective, the Feuchts say. That's why bacteria-destroying alcohol can be found in hand sanitizer. In fact, after being disappointed with all the brands of natural deodorants she tried while she was pregnant, Erica put hand sanitizer on her underarms one day out of sheer frustration before leaving home. "And it worked!" she notes. But it wasn't exactly healthy in terms of its other ingredient, though, the Feuchts reasoned. So Jason -- an IT specialist with a degree in materials engineering -- set about creating a natural alcohol-based product. "I thought it was a preposterous idea," says Erica about her initial reaction to the prospect of a whiskey deodorant, before Jason's resulting efforts made a believer out of her.
In addition to whiskey and/or vodka, the deodorants also contain arrowroot -- which is "antibacterial, and it's an astringent, which means it dries your pits out," says Jason. Tea leaves -- extracted within the whiskey and vodka -- add antibacterial properties as well. "There's a number of natural plants that are very antibacterial," Jason notes. "Essentially, what we do is put them in the vodka when it comes in, and in the whiskey, and we just let them steep." Those plants include Greek mountain tea, elderflower, and sea buckthorn.
The company started by giving away samples to followers on Facebook and soliciting feedback during its research and development phase. After a Kickstarter campaign, Pit Liquor released its first product.
Presently, Pit Liquor works out of a 1,500-square-foot warehouse space in Fort Collins, where the spray and roll-on products are manufactured, using whiskey in barrels from Feisty Spirits as well as a commercially sourced vodka. The deodorants are purposely designed to be denatured -- unsuitable for drinking -- similar to commercial vanilla extracts.
Given that the products are catching on through their online efforts, the Feuchts are in the process of moving a few doors down into 2,200 square feet of rented office and factory space. "We've grown really rapidly," says Erica. "We've tripled our [sales in our] first three years in business and grew substantially last year as well." Most of that consists of e-commerce business.
The products are so effective, Jason insists he hasn't washed his pits since 2017. That's partially in the interest of scientific inquiry: He wants to see how long he can go without any unpleasant aromas emanating from him. So far, so good, apparently. Jason has even asked people to smell his pits through his clothing on Boulder's Pearl Street Mall -- the subject of an early Pit Liquor promotional video.
The couple incorporates organic ingredients into their products as often as possible, and they express concern about the sourcing of even their glassware -- making sure it doesn't contain trace amounts of formaldehyde. They point out how formaldehyde is actually an ingredient that's allowed within commercially-manufactured deodorants, as well as BHT -- which Erica points out is considered a "neurotoxin." The aluminum in some antiperspirants can clog pores, as well.
"We work really hard to be as clean and healthy for our customers as possible, while still being price competitive," says Erica. "And we take those things seriously and put them above profit margins."
She adds, "We've truly reinvented deodorant from the ground up."
Challenges: "Navigating in a world where there isn't value on integrity, and trying to hold integrity, is hard," says Erica, pointing out how the company's competition often labels questionable -- and perhaps unhealthy -- ingredients within its products as "fragrances."
Opportunities: "Connecting with people in a much more genuine and personal way," says Erica about the brand's upcoming wholesale push. "We wouldn't still be here if we didn't believe this would work."
The couple have produced a series of amusing videos, which serve as educational and promotional tools.
Needs: Awareness. "People being aware of the need for a cleaner product," says Jason.
Capital is another need. As of early 2022, the Feuchts were getting set to conduct their second and final Wefunder campaign.