A North Huntingdon native who is a senior strategist for a New York City hedge fund will be on a nationally televised show Thursday promoting a different kind of business — his kit of a customized cocktail pitcher with five “rulers” listing the ingredients and amounts needed to create 20 drinks.
Lee Morgan, a 1989 Norwin High School graduate, will be on USA Network’s “America’s Big Deal” at 9 p.m. hawking his EZ-Drinks kit. He will be competing against other entrepreneurs to see who can sell the most product on live television. The entrepreneurs, who can pre-sell half of the inventory they have committed to the show, are competing for a deal with one of three retailers: the QVC/Home Shopping Network, Macy’s or Lowe’s, Morgan said.
Those who want a kit to help them make mixed drinks for a holiday party can buy Morgan’s EZ-Drinks for $25 during the show, a deal compared with the regular price of $35.
“It has been one of the best investments I have made,” Morgan said.
Morgan, who works for Abingdon Global, learned this summer he had been selected to appear on the show after undergoing an audition and a lengthy application process. A two-minute video pitched his idea much along the lines of how it might be presented on television. He also sent product samples to the team that decided who would make the final cut.
“I am sure they made some cocktails from the samples,” Morgan said. A spokesperson for the USA Network could not be reached for comment.
Whether he is a winner of “America’s Big Deal,” Morgan already had his product in about 100 Giant Eagle stores in four states for the 2020-21 holiday season, and they sold out. The kit has been sold in multiple independent liquor stores in four other states, Morgan said.
Enhancing sales opportunities, Morgan has a worldwide market for his product by listing it on the RangeMe online retailer platform, which has almost 18,000 buyers globally, he said.
Morgan’s initial business plan was to sell directly to the consumer, but with the product displayed on RangeMe, his focus has shifted toward selling the kit to retailers, through wholesale dealers.
“This has been our most successful year since the shifting of gears and focusing on wholesaling,” Morgan said.
The concept for EZ-Drinks was born on a Fourth of July, Morgan said, when he was celebrating with family and friends. Instead of mingling, he found himself making cocktails one at a time, which he said was tedious and time consuming.
At that point, necessity became the mother of invention. He started the journey into an easy way to make cocktails, with a Kickstarter campaign five years ago. It received $21,080 in pledges from 193 backers as of February 2018. He was working alone when he was awarded three patents — granting him the exclusive rights to use his invention — and a trademark to protect his logo from competitors.
The business is based in the Penns Woods area of North Huntingdon and, because the manufacturer puts the entire kit together, he does not need a warehouse for assembling it.
“Our plan as we grow and add lines of different beverages to our rulers, the goal is to do all of that in-house,” Morgan said.
“If you do not know something, search out people with experience in the areas you have questions,” Morgan advised.
With a job as demanding as working for a hedge fund, he made time for starting a new business.
“I have always enjoyed learning new things,” Morgan said. “Life is too short not to absorb as much as possible and then apply them to life.”
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, [email protected] or via Twitter .