The term startup often conjures up images of a couple of people banging away at keyboards in someone’s garage trying to come up with the next great app that will take investors by storm.
But that doesn’t define every startup, and it certainly isn’t the only path to success. Sports drink startup KonaRed (konared.com) is proof positive that the recipe for startup success takes more than equal servings of tech and geek to work.
The seeds of success
A successful startup needs to meet demand, and there is plenty of room in the premium juice market for newcomers. So when Shaun Roberts, founder and CEO of KonaRed, came across a press release touting the health benefits of the coffee fruit he began to investigate a bit further.
After a conversation with a friend of his who served as the president of the Hawaii Coffee Association Roberts learned that the coffee fruit, a by-product of the coffee bean, was just thrown away by growers. The Kona district of Hawaii alone was disposing of about 20 million pounds of it a year. And that’s when the idea for bottling it into a health drink came to fruition. But there was a catch.
Coffee fruit starts to ferment within a few hours after it is split to extract the bean. Once this happened, the fruit was of no value to Roberts so he had to figure out how to harvest the ingredient so it could be used.
“We basically take it right there and we work with the Kona farmers to be able to dry the product right away,” Roberts said. “We dry it in these big horizontal drum dryers you normally would use for drying coffee, but we converted to drying what they call skins.”
After a year of experimenting with the ingredients KonaRed was introduced in January of 2010.
At first, KonaRed was only found on store shelves in Hawaii, however it was soon found in stores along the West Coast but it wasn’t an overnight success. “The beverage space is very competitive. It takes a lot of promotion of the brand. That’s really what we’ve been doing, building the foundation of the company, and the branding. Building brands takes a lot of my energy,” he said.
And all their work building the KonaRed brand paid off as stores like Whole Foods Market, Costco, Kroeger and others in the mainland US started carrying the product. Just recently it was announced that the beverage would also be distributed throughout Canada as well.
Refusal to rest on their laurels
To strengthen their brand and reach out into new markets KonaRed recently inked a deal with Aida Aragon of Verdi Consultants, a sales and brand development company, to launch their RX line of nutritional supplements. “One of Aida’s main objectives during the next few months will be to help introduce our brands to new accounts, ranging from specialty to mass retail outlets,” stated Mr. Roberts. “We are very excited about this new relationship and look forward to working with Aida and her team,” he added.
Mixed in equal parts, these four elements helped build KonaRed’s success. And from the looks of it, there are more batches in the oven.