NC IDEA announced its Fall 2014 grant winners on December 8, 2014. This piece is part of a series of stories on the five winners.
journey into national grocery stores proves a lot can happen in six months.
ExitEvent wrote about the Durham-based energy drink company
in July when founder Tatiana Birgisson
was chosen as one of four Triangle women to join the SOAR
mentoring network, a new organization with a mission to help women raise money to grow their businesses within a year. On Friday, Birgisson told me she's since hired a full-time employee to manage a growing relationship with Whole Foods Markets—her healthy tea-based energy drinks are now on shelves throughout the Southeast.
In 2015, she'll roll out in 230 Kroger stores (about 9 percent of the chain's footprint) and begin a test in six Costco warehouses. Additional research and development, and technology, helped her develop a process for making the drink shelf-stable for the first time.
She's also expanding the product line beyond orange lime. A cherry flavored drink, which she calls "dangerously delicious," will be unveiled in January.
Helping all this expansion is an NC IDEA grant, announced today by the Durham foundation. Says Birgisson, who founded the company as a Duke University entrepreneurship student, "The funds will be used to help us scale from a central NC business to a southeastern business."
And she'll ramp up production to plant the seeds of national expansion.
The help of SOAR's mentors has been key, she says. With the help of a beverage industry veteran—a connection made through SOAR—she's tripled monthly sales and reduced costs by 25 percent. She received help with the NC IDEA application, and is now well positioned to pitch investors.
"The leadership has acted as my sounding board at every decision point for the last six months, and been more valuable than I ever imagined," Birgisson says.
Read about the other NC IDEA winners here.