650
8 min 2 sec

Soda-licious! Nike Manager Creates Fruit-Infused Balsamic Beverages

When he can’t find a non-alcoholic beverage worthy of greatness, this Nike manager learns to create, package, and sell his own line of fruit-infused balsamic sodas.
Co-Packing Food Manufacturing Product

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What It's About

A side hustle that's soda-lightful that we simply had to share it!

Business Model
Product
Skills Required
Experimentation & Product Development
Complexity
Medium
Profit Potential
Medium

Words of Wisdom

So, what kind of advice did Aaron have to offer? He said that leveraging Farmer’s Markets have been an amazing and inexpensive way to get in front of his customers. The feedback provided by the local community who attend these have helped him tremendously, and he also met lots of people who were rooting for him (local businesses, bootstrapped operations, family-owned). Aaron says these are the folk who kept him motivated when he was beginning to doubt himself.

Fun Fact

Shrubs originated many hundreds of years ago, before refrigeration. Fruit used to be stored in vinegar to preserve during the off-season. At the end of the off-season, all the fruit was removed leaving a fruit flavored vinegar. These drinks, also called shrubs or drinking vinegars, gained in popularity. When refrigeration showed up, folks stopped preserving fruit in vinegar and it killed the drink. That's why we're resurrecting the drink refrigeration killed!

Notes from Chris

Episode 650
Aaron Weast is the Director of Innovation Engineering at Nike. He leads a team of makers, designers, and electro-mechanical engineers in their Footwear Innovation Department. He’s worked in consumer product development for 17 years and loves it.

On a personal note—one that relates to our story—for a number of years, Aaron struggled with alcohol addiction. In 2015, he went into a treatment facility to attack the problem head-on. When he came out clean and sober, Aaron was hit with the perfect storm: high energy levels, an entrepreneurial itch and an insatiable appetite to be a better person and give back. This left him with the question of "How?"

When Aaron attended events featuring plush cocktail selections, craft beers and fine wines, he felt left out. He didn’t care for sugary, caffeinated sodas, especially late at night. He was missing a beverage with bold flavor. And so far, the non-alcoholic drinks available to him weren’t cutting it.

The lack of something interesting to drink at these festivities sparked an idea. If he was having this problem, he probably wasn’t alone. He was looking for something that complemented his new, healthier lifestyle. Aaron combined his desire to do something with his thirst with his goal of binge a better person. He quickly began applying his skills to something that could benefit others. So, he began experimenting with flavored vinegars he used around the house for cooking.

After some tinkering, he found the perfect combination of fruit flavored white balsamic vinegar, coconut water, and carbonated water.

And voilà! He had the first flavor of what he called Shrub Natural Balsamic Soda was born! Orange and vanilla, lemongrass and mint, and coconut flavors quickly followed. This thirst pioneer and purveyor of bucolic bygones was definitely onto something soda-lightful!

Sales began as a trickle in the hundreds of dollars and increased slowly over time. These were primarily from farmer’s markets earning between $250 to $500 a week during the season.

In the past seven months, revenue has greatly increased. Since March 2018, his sales totaled $25,000. All told, in one year’s time Aaron has gone through 15,000 bottles of soda since his initial product launch. If all goes as planned, he’ll have doubled that number by the end of the year.

Did you hear the one about the guy who got hit with a can of balsamic soda? Lucky for him it was a soft drink!

 
  MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:

  • Shrub Natural Balsamic Soda: Drink up more about this tasty side hustle over on Aaron's website!
  • PieShell: The food and beverage specific crowdfunding platform that Aaron used

SEE ALSO:

Inspiration is good; inspiration combined with action is better. Now get back to work!

Yours in the revolution,

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Quote of the Day
"So much of helping out is by sharing a personal story without shame. Shrub, and its purpose, allows me to talk about channeling my story of addiction and my ability to recover into something tangible and inspiring… I wasn’t the kind of person who could yell to the world, ‘I’m an alcoholic!’ But, yelling to the world, ‘I’m doing this big thing as inspired by my recovery!’ was somehow easier."
—Aaron Weast #SideHustleSchool

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To infinity and beyond,

Chris Guillebeau