4 Tips From the Founder of a Beyoncé-Backed Startup
Jody Levy doesn’t believe in luck. Instead, she believes that something bigger brought together her product, WTRMLN WTR and mega-star Beyoncé Knowles.
After talking with Levy, cofounder and creative director of WTRMLN WTR, I started to think that maybe it is possible for someone to change the world, one cold-pressed melon at a time.
Three years ago, the New York–based company was burning through cash as it delayed its product launch to correspond with Whole Foods’ grand opening of its first Brooklyn store.
However, the delay ended up creating perfect timing. WTRMLN WTR hit shelves for the first time on Dec. 13, 2013, which also happened to be the day Beyoncé released “Drunk in Love.” The song ends with the lyrics “I’ve been drinking watermelon.”
“It was a match made in universe synchronicity,” Levy said. Levy reached out to Beyoncé’s manager shortly after the launch and sent them samples of the product.
“A year later we were sitting down in Beyoncé’s office and talking about how we can collaborate with one another,” she explained.
In May, Beyoncé announced she had become an investor in the company, which specializes in a juiced drink that uses only watermelons and a little bit of lemon.
“I invested in WTRMLN WTR because it’s the future of clean, natural hydration; as partners, we share a simple mission to deliver accessible wellness to the world,” Beyoncé said in her statement.
“It’s more than an investment in a brand, it’s an investment in female leaders, fitness, American farmers and the health of people and our planet.”
Serendipity aside, how can other companies create the same synergy and success as WTRMLN WTR?
Here are some of Levy’s tips for creating your own startup:
1. Find the bigger message within your product.
“If there is a single lesson to be learned from all of this, it’s to create a meaningful product and to consider the message behind it and what you hope it will accomplish in the world,” Levy said. “People are attracted to something that is meaningful. WTRMLN WTR was able to attract investors like Beyoncé by standing for something that is bigger than itself.”
The star’s involvement has certainly elevated the company. Her name has brought additional awareness to their collaborative mission, which focuses on increasing nutrition through sustainability.
“Beyoncé is one part of the whole,” Levy said. “She has a very powerful voice. But the single most important thing that we can do with this brand is to help people understand what watermelon water is and how it helps them; how it makes them healthy. And how it makes the world healthier.”
2. Don’t let intimidation keep you from success.
Levy believes that, with the right preparation, anybody can achieve success and attract big-name investors.
“It’s a matter of focusing your identity as a company, honing in on what your mission is and then looking for like-minded investors. You have to define the core story of your brand, your product and the company at large,” Levy explained.
“People are connected to things that have meaning,” she continued. “When you do all these things, everything that is meant to fall into alignment truly will, whether that takes the form of a right investor or partner or a celebrity influencer.”
According to Levy: “If you have the ambition to go after a big-name investor, then don’t let self-doubt or apprehension stop you. But you may have to tap into your own ‘superpowers’ and find a way to relate to would-be investors on a human level. Do that, and you may gain a foothold.”
Never be intimidated or believe that something isn’t possible, because everything is within reach. As Levy explained: “It’s just a matter of appropriate timing and finding a way of being aligned and connected together.”
3. Create new synergies.
Levy says that, in addition to believing in yourself and finding that bigger message, it’s important to spend some time focused on your community and give back.
“WTRMLN WTR takes part in many events and speaking engagements that focus on helping people understand effects of what they put into their bodies, and how that impacts long-term wellness,” Levy said.
“Our communication is targeted toward health and wellness, fitness as a whole. How the functional benefits of watermelon water help enhance hydration and rehydration. How it truly augments performance and prevents muscle fatigue and helps with muscle recovery.”
As the company moved toward more mainstream channels and a broader market, it sought to create synergies with other like-minded companies. “We also work with other companies that are connected to ours. To help them do the same things, so we can all benefit,” she explained.
4. Next steps after initial success.
So you’ve found some success. What’s next? “Once you reach initial success, it’s time to start looking at how to refine yourself,” Levy said.
WTRMLN WTR has been on a fast-track trajectory for the last three years, and is now stocked in over 7,500 retail locations, including Whole Foods, Kroger and Costco. Now the company is working on refining its supply chain to make the product more affordable. It’s also scaling for growth by reaching out to more retail outlets.
Levy said, “Being able to reach a broader market is core to its mission of increasing access to healthy alternatives.”
The other goal behind the drink is to create sustainability where there was once unnecessary waste. WTRMLN WTR is made almost entirely from fruit with minor flaws that would normally be discarded.
“We want to help people make the switch and to be more aware of what they put into their bodies,” Levy explained. “And to understand the effects that sugar has and how toxic it can be and what corn syrup does. But most of all to spread the liquid love.”