Beverly Hills Weekly
Issue 835 – October 1-7, 2015
People & Profiles
Co-Founder & President of Beverly Hills Drink Company, home of 9OH2O
Tell us about your pathway to entrepreneurship.
I started my first business when I was 14. I started very young. I have an incredible Dad who exposed me to business from a very young age. He was the kind of Dad who was bringing me to board meetings when I was five and ten and exposing me to the world of business. Something sunk in, and when I was 14, I had the itch to dive into business for myself. That was the first time and I haven’t stopped since. Ever since 14, I’ve been building companies and I’ve been building brands. I really enjoy creating something that people can fall in love with and find value in and that can bring something special into their life. Over that journey, I’ve been in a number of different industries. I’ve been in everything from sports to technology to events to marketing and now, beverage. One of the keys to entrepreneurship is that you have to be comfortable with change and chaos – it’s just the way it is, there is no way around it, there is no shortcut.
Give us one of the most challenging aspects of being an entrepreneur.
I smile because there is so much that’s challenging about entrepreneurship. There’s a saying I really believe in that is, “Entrepreneurship is a nightmare disguised as a dream” – until you make it, until it becomes the actual dream. But that journey is an absolute nightmare. And that’s not unique to me and that’s not unique to first-time entrepreneurs. I’ve been fortunate enough to sit down with Fortune 500 executives and I make sure to actually carve out time out of every week where I’m either having calls or meetings or coffees with both novice entrepreneurs and very successful people. One of the things that’s consistent is that this entrepreneurial journey is just very challenging. [For instance,] balancing all of the different areas it takes to build a company – in one day, having to pay attention to sales, marketing, operations, employees, regulation, taxes, distribution, manufacturing. I don’t get to spend my entire day on marketing or my entire day on going out there and selling. When you’re in that start-up, chaotic phase, you’re literally balancing hundreds of things. So that is an incredibly challenging thing to do.
What’s one thing that went differently in your business plan than you expected?
Manufacturing has turned out to be a much greater challenge than I would have ever anticipated. Here is what I’ve figured out to be the challenge with manufacturing: the nature of manufacturing is volume. Bottling facilities and material suppliers are all about pumping as much volume, as quickly as possible, as many as possible. That comes in conflict when you’re trying to build a top-quality product. The reason that premium products and luxury products charge more is not just about a brand or an experience, it’s because the quality of the product is actually better. And that quality comes from the manufacturing of that product. We had such a clear vision of out-of-this-world quality we wanted from day one. What ended up happening is we ran up against every possible challenge you can think of in getting the manufacturing world to respond to our vision of a new level of quality. Fortunately, we’ve overcome that, but I can say there was a solid two years – prior to launch and just after launch – where manufacturing was a major challenge. Now we’re in an amazing place where we have the right manufacturing partners, we have the right systems, we have the right materials, and we’ve been able to maintain the quality that we set out to achieve.
What’s your response to people who say that water bottles are an unnecessary luxury?
People have to remember that bottled water started as a convenience factor. People wanted to stay hydrated and have access to water when they were on the go and there simply wasn’t convenient enough access. Once you leave your house, you no longer have access to the tap [water] at home. Municipalities and cities have never done a good enough job giving access to water. What ended up happening was that a bunch of entrepreneurs saw a problem and they came together and said, “Let’s provide a solution.” Even though bottled water has evolved – in some segments – to become a lifestyle product, an accessory and even a luxury, at its base, it has a very important convenience factor. In addition, here we are, decades after Evian and Fiji and Voss, and the consumer has had the opportunity to reject the concept of premium water and they haven’t. In fact, they’ve embraced the concept.
How did you get involved in local politics?
My roots are here in Beverly Hills and I’ve really enjoyed this City for many years. In 2011, I came across the City’s Team Beverly Hills program and I jumped on the opportunity, applied and was selected. That single experience sparked something within me, helping me fall even deeper in love with Beverly Hills and giving me a deeper appreciation for what it takes to run this incredible City. After that experience, I took a step back and thought ‘let’s get more involved, let’s see where I can help.’ I don’t want to be someone who’s constantly taking, I don’t want to be someone that is just cruising along in life. I want to be the guy that’s going above and beyond to deliver value every minute of every day. With those things in mind, I thought, ‘where can I contribute more?’ One of the things that came organically was getting involved in local campaigns and the first campaign that I worked on was [Board of Education member] Noah Margo’s 2011 campaign. My sister [Leslie] introduced me to Noah and mentioned that Noah doesn’t have a background in politics – this was in 2011 – and he’s just really passionate about getting involved and helping the City and the schools and he needs someone to help guide him on messaging and marketing and strategy. That was my first experience in campaigns and I’ve stayed involved ever since.
What advice do you give to other entrepreneurs?
Number one is following your passion. There are so many entrepreneurs that are chasing money and they’re chasing what they think is opportunity: money, fame, notoriety. All the wrong things. You can’t be driven by those things. You have to be driven by your passion. Business is simply too difficult to “make it” if you’re not obsessed with what you’re doing. If you’re not in love with what you’re doing, you simply will not be able to overcome the challenges and the barriers in your way. When you’re actually truly in love with something, you propel through those walls. If you’re not in love with something, those walls will really seem insurmountable.