The Co-Founder of OLIPOP Dropped Out of College and Built a $200 Million Business. Here's His Smartest Advice for Entrepreneurs. Ben Goodwin, CEO, co-founder and formulator of OLIPOP, shares his business tips and advice for those brave enough to chase their dreams.
- After a childhood marked by unhealthy eating, Olipop co-founder Ben Goodwin helped create OLIPOP, a beverage that offers consumers all the comfort and nostalgia of classic soda taste without the detrimental health effects.
- Ben believes that entrepreneurs don't necessarily need to have the full vision of their end game when they start. The market will give you feedback to determine which direction you should be going.
- In the early stages of fundraising, he advises avoiding investors who treat you with disrespectfully or try to make you feel like they are your savior.
Ben Goodwin is the co-founder of OLIPOP, the wildly popular soda brand that is redefining an industry. In advance of an exclusive interview for Entrepreneur+ members, we spoke with Ben to learn how he and his co-founder David Lester found their formula for success. See his answers below and click here to watch the full video.
Who are you and what's your business?
I'm the CEO, co-founder and formulator of OLIPOP, a new kind of soda with low sugar and prebiotic fibers that support the gut microbiome. I created OLIPOP with a mission to revolutionize the traditional soda landscape and offer consumers all the comfort and nostalgia of classic soda taste without the detrimental health effects. With 2-5 grams of sugar and 9 grams of fiber, OLIPOP has dramatically changed the beverage landscape. We are the fastest-growing refrigerated functional beverage brand in the U.S. in over 25,000 stores nationwide. In the last year alone, our sales have grown an unprecedented 223% and revenue is set to surpass $200 million this year.
What inspired you to create OLIPOP?
I spent my childhood on the standard American diet, and at age 14, I lost 50 pounds through exercise and nutritious eating habits. This sparked my curiosity about the causality of diet on health outcomes and self-actualization. After dropping out of college, I became a relentless researcher on the microbiome and product formulation and eventually went on to develop the formula for OLIPOP.
What has been your biggest challenge and how did you pivot to overcome it?
Our largest challenge has definitely been our speed of growth. When you are one of the fastest-growing companies in US history, it's easy for processes and staffing to not evolve seamlessly with the needs of the business. Our solution involved having a great executive coach and mentors who called out potential pitfalls in advance. Additionally, building a strong high-trust culture allows you to make critical pivots in time and have enough grace at the team level to operate efficiently despite not having a perfect alignment of your internal structures and processes.
What advice would you give entrepreneurs looking for funding?
I think there are essentially two primary dynamics for raising funding. First, when you are not desirable yet as an investment and then, when you are.
When you are unproven and less desirable, look for investors who treat you with respect, take the time to listen to your vision and are interested in your business. Build a strong business case and show humility but conviction. Many investors will treat you with contempt or try to make you feel like they are your savior — avoid them.
When you are a more desirable business the field gets a little more tricky to evaluate because, generally speaking, people will be a lot more friendly. You are looking for folks who are very focused on the business and not the hype. They don't try to inflate your ego (they will try to break you down later if things hit a speedbump) and they potentially have strategic value to provide — but they respect your ability and right to operate your business and won't try to constantly insert themselves.
What does the word "entrepreneur" mean to you?
I think good entrepreneurs seek to solve human problems and contribute value to the world and society. They are, generally speaking, people who look at established structures and options and believe that they need to be improved.
What is something many aspiring business owners think they need that they really don't?
This is tough because often people need more than they think before they start a business. But to try to answer the question, I think people don't necessarily need to have the full vision of the end game when they begin. The market will give you feedback on the quality of your product, how needed it is, and how it can be improved. Macro conditions will also shift over time and the vast majority of the time, adaptation is superior to rigidity.
What is a book you always recommend?
Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst by Robert Sapolsky, Metabolical: The Lure and the Lies of Processed Food, Nutrition, and Modern Medicine by Robert Lustig and The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel Van Der Kolk. And I'm consistently fascinated by the Harvard Business Review essays.
Is there a particular quote or saying that you use as personal motivation?
"Most of the things that are truly worth doing seem impossible at the beginning." — Edward Lawson
This was communicated to me by my mentor during a conversation we had before they passed away. It has a lot of layers for me, but I think it primarily speaks to the idea that there are things that can happen or that we can accomplish that exist outside of our current ability to imagine. It speaks to our capability to grow through great vision and effort. The future is not fixed, nor is our ability to facilitate that change.
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