Nawgan Founder Paul: With $3 Million, Brand Must Be Surgical

A few days after announcing an investment by Japanese conglomerate Kirin Holdings in his brain health brand Nawgan, founder Rob Paul discussed the deal with BevNET.

The deal was for $3 million, Paul said, and it gives Kirin, which owns both the beer brand of the same name as well as Kyowa Hakka, the maker of Cognizin, the key functional ingredient in Nawgan.

That money, Paul said, is nowhere near the amount needed to establish a full national presence for the brand, which is still only sold in and around St. Louis. But it is enough to for the brand to bring on the staff to start an expansion plan.

“We’re excited,” Paul said. “All the hard work begins now but at least we have a runway. This is a good partnership for us because Kirin has both the tech background of developing products in-house, and, of course, they’re a beverage company, so we’ll be able to use their expertise in the long term.”

Some of that expertise might be more immediately directed toward helping change the product to prepare it for a more mainstream release.

“We are beginning to work with them to go back through the product research data,” Paul said. “Evolution of the product and SKUs is a definite.”

Immediately on the horizon is a move into a 12 oz. sleek can, although the brand’s flavors will remain the same for the time being.

As for geographic strategy, Paul said that will wait until he brings on key sales and marketing hires. The hiring process will be surgical, he added, saying that one key hire can be as effective as several not-quite-perfect fits.

“This is where the hard work is going to get going as we start to scale,” Paul said. “But it’s a great pleasure to be working on building and perfecting the business as opposed to raising money.  By October we will have a really well defined plan for how we’re going to spend that money – but we have no attention for trying to spend it all over the place because we won’t get traction.”