Q & A with Nellie Coffy ’10, Entrepreneur, Beverage Inventor, Surfer, Culture Changer

Director of Alumni Affairs Holly Donaldson Casella ’04 caught up with alumna Nellie Coffy who left her job at Google in December to launch a non-alcoholic, caffeine-free beverage company called Sun Chaser.  
Q: Tell me a bit about your educational and career path and what led you to where you are today? Did you study anything in school that started you on this path? 
Coming from public school, my time at NCCS was an amazing introduction to institutions of higher learning. There were so many opportunities that really challenged me as a student and a person. I was well prepared for rigorous academics and experiences at Hotchkiss.
I spent a lot of time at NCCS exploring who I was – it was such a fabulous place to learn what I really cared about in the world. I realized I was a creative person. I realized I loved numbers. I had an amazing French teacher named Maureen Sanders who helped me with confidence in French, and also as a person.
The whole time I was at NCCS and Hotchkiss I firmly believed I would be a lawyer. I was even pre-law at Cornell! I majored in government and international relations and assumed I would be headed to Washington, DC. 
Q: When did you know you wanted to be an entrepreneur? 
The 2016 election was a turning point for me. I began to realize how much more powerful business can be than government. Micro-impacts often come from business but usually not government. All of those creative ambitions I had discovered, coupled with curiosity to learn more about the world and make a big impact, I realized I would be stifled in Washington. I wouldn’t be able to realize my full ambition. 
So instead, I decided I want to build businesses - I want to impact culture. If you want to build your own business - you need to know how to sell. That led me to a sales role at Google.
The old saying, “Rejection is your friend,” really helped me build confidence in myself and in my creative potential.  
Q: What was your experience working at Google? And what led you from there to Sun Chaser?
I met my Sunchaser co-founder, Joce, at Google. We were very like-minded in how we felt about how our sales roles could transition into business building. We were ideating together for some time while still working together at Google. We discussed and researched all kinds of ideas. 
One day, we came across a study that said that there was a significant decrease in alcohol consumption among the millennial and gen z populations. Like a 25-40% decrease year-over-year from 2015 to 2019… so we saw a growing space for non-alcoholic beverages. We also saw an increasing demand – a 200% increase in consumption – for low-alcohol spiked drinks. Drinks that are portable, ready-to-drink, mixed, easy to bring along.
Once we came across this data everything just clicked. It matched our personal experience. We knew it to be true for us and for our friends. Joce is a kite boarder. We both surf. We are up early and get out. We can’t drink a ton the night before and then get up early and perform. My friends and I are diligent about health, trends around wellness and understanding what we’re putting in our bodies. 
We are always the girls at parties with a glass of water. It’s not a “fair trade” to give up health at the expense of having a fulfilling social life.  
Q: Tell me about Sun Chaser, your new venture.
Joce and I officially left Google Dec. 31, 2019 to start Sun Chaser.  Before launching it, we had to do months of research. We had to create a recipe that people would love. We held tasting events with friends for the first iterations of our formula. It was important to have a good flavor and get the buzz right before taking next steps. Finally, we created a recipe they loved.
We launched Sun Chaser Feb 10. It’s an alcohol-free, caffeine-free drink designed to give you a buzz. 
Q: Who inspires you?
I am inspired by several different entrepreneurs including: Sarah Blakley (Spanx), Hotchkiss alumni Tristain Walker (Bevel), Seth Goldman (Honest Tea) and Richard Branson (Virgin Atlantic) to name a few.
Q: What is next for you and Sun Chaser? 
Pop-up events. Music festivals. Experiential marketing opportunities. Test retail locations. Direct to consumer – in addition to events and our on-the-ground strategy. 
Q: What advice would you give our current NCCS students?
Your time at NCCS is a formative time of life. Look out for teachers who you care about and who care about you. Understand and leverage the power of mentorship. This was really one of the biggest lessons I learned at NCCS. I was really lucky to find a couple of fantastic mentors at Country School who helped  guide me though what was oftentimes a tough, chaotic time of growth. 

For more information, please visit drinksunchaser.com
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