Kevin Duffy, the CEO of beverage company CideRoad, knew the all-natural beverages (known as "switchels") his company produced were something special, but of course that didn't guarantee success. When CideRoad started operations in June 2013, it didn't have a product to bring to market. By September 2014, CideRoad's switchels were hitting the shelves, and today the organic, soft drink is sold in more than 2,000 stores nationwide. Duffy went behind the business plan with Business News Daily to discuss launching a business when there are no assurances of success, and guiding that company to a profitable place.
Business News Daily: In a nutshell, what service does your business provide?
Kevin Duffy: CideRoad is a beverage company. We manufacture, distribute and market a line of organic, nonalcoholic drinks called switchels.
BND: How long have you been in business?
Duffy: We started our business in June 2013 and launched our product into the market in September 2014.
BND: Did you start with a formal business plan? If not, how did you lay the groundwork for your business?
Duffy: Yes, we started with sort of a formal business plan, meaning it was a fluid plan. This is my first consumer packaged goods business and I had a lot to learn. That plan has come a long way and we are now using it to raise our first true round of capital.
BND: How did you finance your endeavors, both initially and as your business grew?
Duffy: Initially, I funded the first steps myself. I wanted to get to a finished product on my own and then bring in funds from close family to help out.
BND: Is your business today what you originally envisioned at the outset or has it changed significantly over time?
Duffy: The CideRoad brand remains what we envisioned, but the growth has been a little faster than I envisioned. We shipped our first significant orders in early 2015 and we are now in about 2,000 stores nationwide. It's a lot to manage and we are now raising money through friends and family to help support that growth.
BND: What are some lessons you've learned? Is there anything you would've done differently?
Duffy: I learned that I should have paid more attention in accounting class back in college! I've learned that surrounding myself with smart, experienced and motivated people means everything to executing an idea. I don't think there is anything I would have done differently. I've made mistakes, but, thankfully, none of those were critical and I view them as part of the learning curve.
BND: What were the most important factors that contributed to your success?
Duffy: I think the uniqueness of the product was a big factor. It's not easy to gain shelf space in stores, especially if you are competing with established brands. In other words, it would have been a lot harder to be successful if CideRoad was making another iced tea. Taste is important and our drinks are really delicious and offer a unique flavor profile. Our packaging is also very unique. We designed our own custom bottle that features tire treads embossed around the top and bottom. It helps the product stand out and ties in the whole cide-roading theme. Last and most importantly, it goes back to the people we've been lucky to work with and their talents they've shared with our brand. Internally, we have a very small team and we all share the same passion for the brand and the company.
BND: What are the next steps you want to take as a business owner? How do you see yourself achieving those goals?
Duffy: As revenues continue to grow, we need to grow as a company and begin to internalize some of the functions that we currently outsource. I will have to move from wearing every hat to wearing the manager/fundraiser hat.
BND: What is your best advice to someone with a great business idea who is ready to give it a shot?
Duffy: Think big! Ask lots of stupid questions. Get your hands dirty! I can’t tell you how many 20-pound cases of CideRoad I've lifted, moved, rearranged, stacked and packed in the last few years, but no job is beneath you when it's your business.
I have a quote taped to the top of my computer that says: "Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled." I'm not sure who said it, but it's perfect. You don't always know where the money is going to come from to get things started, but it won't come unless you get things started.