Jody Levy started with a vision to make use of some of the 800 million lbs. (360 million kilograms) of watermelon that are wasted each year for no reason other than their appearance. By seizing on that opportunity and using the fruit to create a nutritious beverage infused with lemon, Levy helped create WTRMLN WTR. Now, nearly three years into the company's journey, Levy said she can hardly believe what the business has grown into. She shared her story and her hopes for the future in a Behind the Business Plan Q&A with Business News Daily.
Business News Daily: In a nutshell, what service does your business provide?
Jody Levy: We manufacture an all-natural, functional, deliciously hydrating beverage that is raw, cold-pressed WTRMLN WTR (watermelon water). It's made with two simple ingredients — watermelon and organic lemon — and it's sold at 7,000-plus retail locations across the United States.
BND: How long have you been in business?
Levy: We founded WTRMLN WTR in March 2013. We have been in business for almost three years.
BND: Did you start with a formal business plan? If not, how did you lay the groundwork for your business?
Levy: Yes, we started with a formal business plan that outlined a powerful, mission-driven vision to use the approximately 800 million lbs. of visually imperfect watermelons that go to waste each year in America, pressing them into a functional hydration beverage with no additives, sweeteners or water added. We named it WTRMLN WTR, because our plan was literally to grow water.
BND: How did you finance your endeavors, both initially and as your business grew?
Levy: My co-founder and I financed the initial business, and we then raised a seed round on a convertible note (a loan in which the return is based not on interest payments, but in equity in the company) from a group that included sophisticated beverage investors, nutrition experts, friends and family.
BND: Is your business today what you originally envisioned at the outset, or has it changed significantly over time?
Levy: Our business today exceeds our initial expectations. We have effectively created an entirely new category in the beverage industry, and we've carefully crafted the stickiest brand with the highest awareness in the space. We are setting the paradigm for clean, healthy, fresh beverages that are unpasteurized, free from toxic sugar and any harmful chemicals, and widely available at retail for under $4 a bottle.
BND: What are some lessons you've learned? Is there anything you would've done differently?
Levy: The lessons come each and every day. Of course, there are things in hindsight that could have been different, but we don't look at it that way. We see the choices we have made as the process of our journey, and we ebb and flow to follow the opportunities that always lead to the next. So the most important learning is to trust the process, the people that come along our path, and be confident and comfortable in the decisions we make, which we are very proud of.
BND: What were the most important factors that contributed to your success?
Levy: Aside from the fact that WTRMLN WTR is delicious, good for you, packed with nutrients, has more electrolytes than almost anything on the market, [and] is loaded naturally with vitamins, minerals and amino acids that have been known to enhance performance and help recovery and give your body sustained energy — besides all that … I believe in the magic and culture of our growing community, which trickles into our brand and product. We have curated a unique group of people that includes the best of the beverage industry (who help me run the company), a powerful and passionate group of investors, strong relationships with our sales forces, distributors, retailers and all the influencers and pro athletes who have made our liquid love part of their workout routine. I believe that this strength of product, people and passion is one of the most important contributing factors to our success.
BND: What are the next steps you want to take as a business owner? How do you see yourself achieving those goals?
Levy: Next steps are to continue to get the price of our product lower and lower so that we can align with our mission to democratize the clean, healthy food and beverage space. By making WTRMLN WTR more and more affordable to a growing number of consumers, and by expanding distribution to new channels beyond the current natural-industry core, we can help people gain access to a clean, nutrient-dense beverage that can help them feel their best. We are already starting to achieve these goals, and our team is committed to this mission. It's all about an aligned team [of people] who share a passion and love for doing good, working hard, having as much fun as possible and spreading our "Liquid Love," aka WTRMLN WTR.
BND: What is your best advice to someone with a great business idea who is ready to give it a shot?
Levy: If you rise in the morning with ideas and concepts and a puzzle of details coursing through your brain and body and pouring out of your fingertips; if you have an idea that will change the course of time, make better someone's life, or spread happiness and joy; and if you have the fire inside to go after what you love and empower those around you and lead and learn and love every bit of it, then go after it with all you've got! Know that everyone has things that they are not experts in and that is OK. Own your weaknesses and bring in people to be those experts. Know that by building a company, you are creating a foundation for others to thrive. Take good care of you first and foremost, so that you can take good care of those around you. And set yourself up for success, with the ability to take on anything that comes at you by being really well-funded!