On the show today, we’ve got Kate Weiler, co-founder of DrinkMaple, and we’re talking about being the champion of your own new category.  Kate’s maple water is now sold in over 12,000 stores, which has taken years of grit, passion, and in her words “blissful ignorance” to make happen.CPG Startup

As you’ll hear, there are pros and cons to creating a product that’s the first of it’s kind, especially as a start-up bootstrapping it to the top.

Kate’s got hustle, and is a wealth of information about entrepreneurship and marketing.

In the episode, you’ll learn:

  • Why grit outweighs experience as a CPG startup founder
  • What it takes to go from 1 store to over 12000
  • How to use a small budget when educating consumers is your biggest hurdle

And plenty more…

Listen to the interview on iTunes >>>

Kate has some hilarious stories of the early days and lessons learned which I think you’ll really enjoy, so let’s go on and get after it.

Recommended Reads:

David and Goliath – Malcolm Gladwell

Crush It! – Gary Vaynerchuk

Show Notes:

Kate first tried maple water during an Iron Man race in Canada.  She was successfully working in sales for a tech company at the time.  But, after completing her race, she realized tech wasn’t her passion, and she didn’t want to do something just because it was “comfortable.”

And so, she quit her day job, and followed that passion to the Food and Nutrition industry.

Kate went back to school and began building her Sports Nutrition practice.  She published a book, Real Fit Kitchen, and was looking to primarily expand on both her book and practice.

But, the maple water idea kept tugging at her.  Unable to ignore it anymore, she tried her hand at CPG and started DrinkMaple.

Kate wasn’t necessarily looking to start her own business, however her entrepreneurial spirit was key in the success of her CPG startup.  She explains that, had her and her business partner known everything that needed to be done upon starting, they might not have taken it on.

Kate says that business experience isn’t as important as the hard work it takes to get a CPG startup off the ground.  There’s a difference between a business background and a business sense.  Kate remained aware of what her goals were for the company, where it was going, and what exactly she wanted to accomplish.

If anything, she thinks her entrepreneurial mentality mixed with her lack of CPG business experience helped her start DrinkMaple.  She didn’t have any structure or cynicism going into it, so if something didn’t work she simply took a different approach.

Maple water has the same infrastructure as maple syrup.  But DrinkMaple itself didn’t necessarily have infrastructure starting out, specifically when it came to distribution.

Kate says that her and her business partner used to just walk into stores like Whole Foods, asking to speak with the grocery buyer…and it worked.

CPG Startup

How do you get a new product into so many stores, while also educating people about it, and on a startup budget?  Kate’s recommendation: lots of scrappy, grassroots tactics.

She made sure DrinkMaple was at a ton of events, and in front of the right consumers.  She was sure that people would love it, just as much as she did.  So, if she could just get people to try it, they too would be hooked, and want to share it with their friends.

We admitted, that we weren’t sure what to expect before trying it.  The biggest challenge is getting people to realize that you’re not just drinking straight maple syrup.  But, it’s actually a water consistency, it’s incredibly nourishing, and bonus, it’s sustainable for trees because it actually utilizes them, rather than just cutting them down.

And by making sure brand ambassadors were educated on the product and able to answer these consumer questions, Kate was able to spread the word and gain a following for DrinkMaple.

Kate also touched on the importance of a brand’s social media strategy when marketing on a smaller budget.  Social engagement is so important, and the goal is to have consumers’ equally as passionate about the product as you are.

Kate’s advice on starting a new business: it’s a marathon, not a sprint.  There are always going to be ups and downs, but just keep going because it’ll be worth it when you make it out on the other side.

For more on DrinkMaple, check out www.drinkmaple.com.

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