One of the most interesting parts of what we do here is seeing entrepreneurs try to bring their ideas to life. In many cases, you can tell right from the get-go whether these ideas will sink or at least get the chance to swim. This isn’t because we have some sort of radar for good or bad ideas (although we like to think so in our product reviews, of course), but because the drive and passion of the entrepreneur – or lack thereof – is something that is often times pretty easy to read.
Such is the case with ZUN Energy, whose founder Brian Stearns, regional sales manager Damon Degner, and board member Lance Gentry (of IZZE fame) recently sat down with me in their homebase of Boulder, CO for a video interview. I’ve known Brian and his brand since 2009, when he presented ZUN to the audience at BevNET Live Spring 09. However, in speaking to him you’d think his tenure in the business has been much longer – he looks probably 5 years older than he did last year and refers to the beverage business as his “calling.” He certainly shows the symptoms of that condition – Gone are the “steady job” and easily-made mortgage payments, he told us, and they’ve been replaced by “Meister Brau and ramen” along with long days in one of the ZUN vans, sampling and selling his products.
Passion and drive are definitely something Brian wears on his sleeve; fortunately for him, the hard work has started to pay off in 2010. The brand landed the Kum-and-Go convenience chain, brought in an investment from Whitlock Packaging (a big copacker who brings a lot of industry knowledge to the table), added distribution (including Denver-based DSD New Age), as well as the help and advice of Gentry, who has already been through one successful beverage startup.
At this point, success is far from guaranteed for ZUN, but one thing is for certain: Brian and his team are embracing, not fighting, the realities of launching a beverage business. To that end, they’ve at least increased their chances of succeeding in this business – and I definitely wish them luck.
In our video, you’ll hear Brian and his team speak about life as a beverage entrepreneur, raising money from the right people, and the importance of succeeding in your own backyard. Plus, you’ll hear about some of their plans going forward, including the upcoming launch of their second flavor.