SHITI Coolers brings bold attitude to alcoholic beverage industry

 SHITI Coolers brings bold attitude to alcoholic beverage industry

Wyandotte-based company prides self on affordability, quality

Like its buzz-worthy name suggests, SHITI Coolers isn’t shy about breaking into the alcohol-carrying cooler industry with bold bravado.

The Wyandotte-based company — run by brothers Trevor, Austin and Luke Zacny — did what most successful start-ups do: developed an in-demand product (high-quality, cost-efficient coolers for people who like to party at festivals and NASCAR races) related to a recreational activity (drinking alcohol) that isn’t going away anytime soon.

The SHITI story all started in 2016 at a Faster Horses musical festival at Michigan International Speedway when Trevor Zacny marveled at how many of his fellow partying festival attendees were hauling their liquid spirits in expensive coolers.

“I realized everybody had overpriced coolers and tumblers,” Zacny recounted. “When I got home, I started making fun of why people needed overpriced coolers.”

The SHITI Coolers backpack is ideal for carrying beverages to the beach concerts or NASCAR races

A short time later, Austin Zacny bought one of the coolers Trevor was dissing and, well, a company was born.

“I took a napkin, wrote SHITI on it and taped the napkin onto the old cooler we had in the family for years,” Zacny explained. “I made a Snapchat that basically said, ‘Who needs a Yeti cooler when you can have a SHITI cooler?’.”


Three months later, Zacny developed the idea of manufacturing SHITI stickers that people could stick on old coolers.

“That concept took off online and blew up (in a good way),” he continued. “I learned about creating Facebook ads and a bunch of other marketing stuff along the way.”

The Zacnys still sell the stickers, but have transitioned into dedicating their time toward selling backpack coolers with the SHITI brand name.

“It was tough to make a profit on selling stickers, so earlier this year we went all-in on selling the backpack coolers and some cool accessories that can be attached to the coolers,” he said. “You can buy one of our high-quality coolers — with gadgets — for about half of what you’d pay for a more-established brand.”

The gadgets include bottle openers and Solo cup holders that attach to the coolers.

Zacny resigned from his job as a special-education teacher so he could commit more time to growing SHITI Coolers.

The start-up journey hasn’t always been smooth sailing, Zacny admitted.

“One big hurdle was transitioning from a sticker brand to a cooler brand just because you’re pivoting your message and the crowd you’re entertaining is used to one thing,” he said.

“COVID was another hurdle. We actually crushed it during COVID, but the hangover after COVID was rough. We had to spend more on shipping, we had a lot more returned items because we couldn’t fulfill our orders in a timely manner because people weren’t going to work at the warehouses we hired out.”

Pardon the pun, but Zacny called the COVID hangover a “shit storm” — one they’ve weathered quite well.

He said SHITI has a marketing advantage over the established cooler businesses.

“The reality is people use alcohol as an escape in the world we live in,” he said. “We can have fun with this because we’re an e-commerce business. Igloo, for instance, can’t market the drinking concept because they’re a family-oriented company.”

Trevor Zacny enjoying a day at the beach

SHITI hired an employee who attends practically every NASCAR race, setting up a 10-by-10 tent to sell the product.

Not everybody is sold on the company’s unique name, Zacny said, “but that’s okay.”

“It’s a polar thing,” he said. “Some people don’t want anything to do with it because of the name while others are intrigued by it, realizing, hey, it’s a drinking cooler.

“I think the name makes it what it is. It plays to the boldness of the brand.”

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Ed Wright

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