Sugar-free, environmentally conscious, healthy, and natural. We present you Kailani, a young brand of ice tea whose aim is to become an alternative option to artificial sodas. Guy Morley, its founder, worked as a lawyer in London for several years and decided to leave everything behind to start this project. Now, based in sunny Barcelona, he’s making the boundaries between work and leisure disappear and expects to expand Kailani’s lifestyle. As he himself puts it, it’s “not about escaping your life but making the most of it”.
Healthy, natural, refreshing and it follows a philosophy focused on an active, dreamy and not-boring-at-all life. But who is behind this concept? Who is Guy Morley? I bet you’re not a boring person.
(Laughs) Let’s see if your readers get to the end of the interview before deciding whether I am boring or not. When you create a brand you put a lot of yourself into it and so I share a lot of aspects with the brand. I’ve always been active and try to be healthy – at least most of the time. More than anything else, I think I share a philosophy with Kailani to try and find the enjoyment in the everyday – to design a life which is complete and fulfils you –, not one which is divided between work and leisure, but to see it as a whole and make the most of all of it. And also not take yourself too seriously.
Kailani has a marine essence, something that makes you feel like going to the beach, enjoy the waves, the sun and the sand. Are you a sea enthusiast? How do you fit this joie de vivre into a little flask?
I love the sea – everything from looking at it to playing, surfing, sailing and swimming in it! I think it manages to give everything perspective. Our Instagram account robably best reflects Kailani’s joie de vivre and many of the images we use include the sea and the beach. But we also collaborate with people and organisations beyond the sea.One of the most enjoyable aspects of my job is working with Barcelona’s creatives and entrepreneurs. We partner with a great photographer who captures interesting people doing interesting things and who also are fans of Kailani; people who are living the Kailani lifestyle. Our website constantly features a different selection of them as there are so many to choose from!
Do you practice Kailani lifestyle? On what values/grounds does it stand and what others are incompatible with it?
I see the Kailani lifestyle as a complete one – not a balance between work life and leisure but an absolute integration of the two. I think you should aim to enjoy both. It’s about doing what you love, but that doesn’t mean lying on the beach every day. It’s about appreciating that hard work and challenges can be exciting and fun and can go hand-in-hand with catching some waves, grabbing a beer or ice tea with friends, or whatever else takes your fancy.
Kailani is not about escaping your life but making the most of it, creating it the way you want it to be – “create today”, as we say. So yes, I try to practice the Kailani lifestyle. I live next to the beach and go running or swimming there most days and make the most of living in such a sociable city, but I also work hard doing something I love.
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You move from London to Barcelona and start this project. There, you worked as a lawyer in the music industry, which I imagine is a job full of stress, paperwork, phone calls, and more. You suddenly leave everything behind to immerse yourself in the universe of ice tea. Did you always dream of doing something different? What makes you decide it’s time for a change?
Yes, I worked as a London lawyer in the media and music industries and handled the disputes of artists, record labels, producers, etc. It was great and I met some fascinating people and had some unreal experiences – at least for a lawyer. However, I always wanted to do my own thing rather than advising others on their affairs. It came to a point where that urge to start my own thing gave me the courage to take the jump into the unknown and leave the law behind and create Kailani.
You choose Barcelona as the place to develop Kailani. Why this city? What’s the reason behind this change? What came before, Barcelona or Kailani?
Before going into the law, I studied Hispanic Studies in London and Mexico and fell in love with the Spanish culture and way of life. Also from my degree I had friends living in Spain and in Barcelona in particular. After a few visits here, I decided it was the place for me. It is a great compromise city. Compromises often sound negative, but Barcelona is an international city that retains a manageable, friendly size.
It’s a creative place where exciting things happen and is a world leader in design. It has beaches, mountains, art and music as well as a thriving start-up scene. It’s a place where people really take advantage of what the city has to offer and a place where you really can spend most of your time outside – alone, with friends or with colleagues. So once I had set my heart on Barcelona, I had to think of a business that would work here and contribute to the city.
Nowadays, people value more and more those products that are of a high quality, promote a healthier lifestyle, are locally produced, and fit a more active and dynamic life pace. We can think of many products, but you chose ice tea and it couldn’t be more successful. Why ice tea? How did you come up with the idea?
I think the idea came from beyond just ice tea. The concept came from noticing a combination of various different trends – people drinking less alcohol, wanting less sugar, doing more exercise and being prepared to spend more for better. The ice tea category was tired and in need of innovation and rejuvenation. There were so few alternatives available to people and despite ice tea having a healthy image, the previous offerings were everything except that. In fact, the whole non-alcoholic drinks category seemed to be in need of a shake up. If I was out with friends and didn’t fancy a beer, the only alternatives were water or drinks full of sugar or artificial ingredients. With Kailani, we have tried to provide a healthy alternative but which actually tastes good too.
“Kailani is not about escaping your life but making the most of it, creating it the way you want it to be.”
You set up this alternative product, made in Spain, with mineral water from Galicia. But the name Kailani doesn’t sound very Spanish to me. What does it really mean, and how did you come up with it? What secrets does it hide?
Kailani is a Hawaiian name: Kai means sea and Lani means sky. Together, Kailani means heavenly sea and transmits a sense of general wellbeing and enjoyment of life. Choosing a name for a brand is one of the most difficult and personal things to do. I wanted something international and with a positive meaning that encapsulated what we wanted to transmit with the brand so that all the people we wanted to reach would be able to associate with what we represent. We are starting to sell outside Spain, currently now in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, with more countries coming soon, so the brand and its values need to be relevant internationally.
You began with a classic black ice tea with lemon and with a more refreshing one, green tea with ginger. Now you’re launching a new proposal: white tea with peach. How does this now flavour come about? What creative process have you followed to get to the conclusion that this is the new flavour you wanted? Is the public getting adapted to it?
Big companies spend millions on market research before launching a new product or flavour. We obviously didn’t have that available. We had me and the graphic designer – a good friend who did all the logos and designs of the brand. She and I alone created and refined the flavours before they went into production. It was a risk that seems to have paid off and our new white tea and peach is a great success!
You haven’t just put lots of time, caring and effort into the flavours, the ingredients and the fact that it’s environmentally responsible; you’ve also paid special attention to design. What is it based on? How did this proposal get to you? Were you always so design-focused?
It was always important to me that our drink looked good. I really believe beautiful design enhances daily life. The design process was one of the most frustrating but also enjoyable parts of creating the brand. We initially looked at working with a large design agency, but after chatting to a design student friend, we realised we shared the same concept and decided to work together. It was a risk as neither of us had experience in designing a brand, but we are really happy with the final result.
The designs of the labels themselves were created by submerging painted paper in water and seeing what shapes emerged. Everything was created by the water itself. We ended up printing the labels on recycled textured paper, normally reserved for wine bottles, as we think they look and feel better. The detail in the design has and always will be key to the brand.
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We could say that Kailani is like Hawaiian’s hygge! This philosophy, this way of understanding life has made you go one step further and think of the environment. Your bottles are made of glass and the labels are printed on recycled material, but in addition to that, you collaborate with Surfrider Foundation. Why was it so important to you to make these kind of actions? What are they exactly about?
The actual registered company behind the brand is called Buena Vibra Products. The name came from a surf trip I made to Costa Rica before starting the project. One day there was this opportunity to take a three-hour bus ride and then a two-hour boat ride – leaving at 5am – to a secret surf break. I wasn’t sure my surfing was good enough for the size of swell that was coming in and was reluctant to go. However, a local surfer put a lot of effort into persuading me to go. In the end, I went and had the best and longest surf of my life. When I came back, the local was sitting at the bar and I went over to give him a beer to thank him for persuading me to go. He was really stoked by this tiny gesture, grinned knowingly and said “Qué buena vibra” (what a good vibe, in English), which just encapsulated the whole day.
That story gives some sort of the idea of the essence behind Kailani and the spirit we try to evoke. We want the company to be successful but we also want to contribute positively to the world that offers us so much. That is why we collaborate with Surfrider and other similar organisations, to try and keep the ‘buena vibra’ going. We have also recently collaborated with the renowned artistic designer Chu Uroz to create a display for our bottles made out of recycled materials to help raise awareness of the problems plastic is causing in our oceans.
You’ve also collaborated with several events, like Stand Up Paddle World Series, and it actually sounds really fun. How is it? Any dream collaboration? Any new event, activity or organisation that you’d like to get involved with Kailani? And on a more personal level?
Yes, the World Series of SUP was one of our first events and it was amazing to see some of the world’s best surfers drinking Kailani so soon after our launch. The Rider’s Lounge ran out of Kailani and the mainstream soft drinks were left untouched! It was great fun for us to be involved in an event like that.
As the Kailani brand is based around the sea, we get to collaborate with some really great, fun events that are pure enjoyment for an ocean lover like me. For example, we have sponsored the Barcelona Surf Film Festival for two years in a row – it fits so well with our brand by combining culture, creativity and activity. We like to support events that have cultural aspects such as music and art as well as active ones. We will be focusing more on supporting these types of events in the coming months.
What’s next? How does the future look like for Kailani? And for Guy Morley?
Our most important priority is to consolidate and grow Kailani’s presence in Spain and become the healthy soft drink of choice – an alternative not just to the mainstream, sugar packed ones but also to the ‘caña’. We will also be exploring more export opportunities in our efforts to make Kailani a truly global brand but we will always go at a pace where we can maintain our core values and enhances peoples’ lives. As for me, I just feel privileged to be along for the ride!
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