In this ongoing column, The Digest, Entrepreneur.com News Director Stephen J. Bronner speaks with food entrepreneurs and executives to see what it took to get their products into the mouths of customers.
Sometimes, you just have to create an opportunity for yourself. That’s exactly what Roly Nesi did — and it helped him eventually launch Roar, a beverage company that’s sold nationally.
Four years before he launched his company, Nesi reached out to a college friend, whose family had started AriZona Beverages, a billion-dollar company. While the company was already popular in the U.S., Nesi saw an opportunity: AriZona practically had no presence in Asia, despite American brands Coca-Cola and Pepsi doing well there. While Nesi admits he had no beverage experience, he was able to convince executives to take a chance on him and sell the brand in Asia. They granted him nonexclusive brokerage rights.
“I was there for a number of years, and it was a crazy life — three weeks there, a week home, three weeks there, two weeks home,” says the New York resident. “It taught me about adjusting the brand to your customer, and while I was doing that, I was learning so much. It was a crash course in the industry, and I just loved the business.”
Four years after starting at AriZona, where he saw success with retailers such as 7-Eleven, Nesi got the entrepreneurial itch. An avid Gatorade drinker, he wondered how he could improve on the top sports drink.
“It’s that ticking clock,” he says about the decision to start a company. “If I don’t do this and someone else figures it out, I’m going to kick myself in the ass every day the rest of my life.”
He founded Roar Beverages, which had its first product, a sports drink catered to teens, by the next year. During that first year, the company was in an office “closet” in a Long Island town with its warehouse in the garage of Nesi’s parents’ home. He would deliver every account himself.
The company now has 18 employees in a New York City office and offices in Los Angeles and Texas. This year Roar raised $ 5 million in funding and is part of the incubator program of LA Libations, a brand funded in part by Coca-Cola.
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Roar drinks are sold in more than 4,000 retail doors throughout the U.S., and the company says it has grown year over year by more than 300 percent with $ 3.5 million in revenue last year. Roar now has three lines of products: Roar Kids, Roar Electrolyte Infusion (its sports drink) and Roar Organic.
It’s that latter product, launched in 2016 and which Nesi describes as “Coachella meets Lululemon,” where he sees the most potential.
“I’m looking at the green juices of the world and the drinkable apple cider vinegars and I’m like this stuff is gross,”he says. “I was like, if we can make something taste good and be affordable in the space we can make a lot of money.”
It’s apparently already seen success. Nesi points out that Roar Organic in five months won over more retailers than his other products did in three years. The first account for the product was Facebook‘s office in New York City, which goes through 2,200 bottles a week, Nesi says.
Click through the slideshow to see Roar Beverages’ ingredients for success — and what you can learn from them.