Breaking into any industry is no easy endeavor, no matter the budget or expertise you have behind you. It still takes an immense amount of work, research, and effort to be able to even break even as a beverage entrepreneur. However, with that in mind, it’s also important to mention that it is possible to break into the beverage industry.
Yes, it is a lot of work, but there are many resources and information to work with. With that wealth of knowledge, any aspiring entrepreneur can find their path to success. With enough determination and a generous helping of blood, sweat, and tears, anything is possible. To help you out, here are eight tips for breaking into the beverage industry:
- Find What Problem You Can Solve
No successful business can begin without extensive market research. The reason for that is simple: the market itself is what you’re aiming to conquer. You might have an eccentric beverage idea that’s cool and appealing to you, but how will consumers react to it? Liking an idea doesn’t mean that enough people will want to buy the product to keep your business afloat.
One of the most effective approaches is to focus your market research on finding a problem that your product might be able to solve. For example, there might be people who need a dose of caffeine in the morning, yet they can’t stand coffee and want something healthier than an energy drink. How would you give them what they need?
Alternatively, you can start with more general ideas, focusing them on specific target audiences. For example, students might need an energy fix to help them study. More often than not, as you identify these problems, you’ll also be identifying potential target audiences where you might be able to market the finished product.
- Transform General Ideas into Product Ideas
The next step after finding your general direction is brainstorming what kind of product may solve the problem at hand. After you think of an idea, evaluate its merit by asking a few critical questions.
How might you produce, pack and distribute this beverage in a way that would best serve your general ideas and the intended target audience? If you can come up with some answers right away, continue the process. If an idea doesn’t yield possible solutions, look for a different one.
- Evaluate Your Potential Expenses
Before you even start, you need to know how much this business undertaking will cost you — at least in estimates. If you’re thinking of taking out a loan or investing the funds you have already saved, it’s best to be sure what you’re getting yourself into.
One way of ensuring that there will be no unpleasant surprises is taking your general estimation of the budget and then doubling it. Sometimes things go wrong, deadlines are broken, or the testing and development process takes longer than expected and ends up costing more than estimated. Always overestimate to keep yourself safe financially.
- Get Funding
It is very little you can do without funding, as breaking into the beverage industry can be an expensive endeavor. Many entrepreneurs today try to do it via crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter and Gofundme, so with luck and some without.
With crowdfunding, their success depends on whether they’ve been able to target their audience well enough to get backers. There are other ways of getting funding, through sponsors, investors or taking out loans. Keep in mind that some paths to funding are riskier than others and that you need to weigh your options well.
- Do a Lot of Testing
Testing is a crucial part of the product development process. Even if your product is in the final stages of development, you’ll still have to do a lot of testing.
First, your ideas need to be put to the test. After you select one or two, you need to come up with beverage recipe drafts. Testing them will give you a few promising candidates to develop further. Once that part of the process is done, you’ll have to go through the final testing stages of different versions of the recipe. You won’t only be testing the contents and taste of the product, but also its appearance – design and packaging. Settling on the final version of the product will take effort going through many different options.
- Make a Business Plan
A business plan is immensely powerful as it gives you a sense of direction and a framework to work in. Take your business goals and break them into bite-sized chunks that you can accomplish within a short time frame. Those tasks will be the bare bones of your business plan.
Use SMART goal setting for every part of your product development, marketing and distributing processes, and figure out what you need to get done by what date. This roadmap will stay with you and ensure you’re on the right track.
If you don’t know how to write a business plan, at least develop a PowerPoint that shows a path you will take. At Cascadia, we see and write many business plans.
- Find the Right Connections
After you’ve determined your business plan, you’ll also know whose assistance you need to make it happen. You may be gifted in multiple areas and think you can avoid hiring professionals to save some money.
However, no solopreneur would be able to create their product from start to finish, unless they’re product development, marketing, design and science professionals. To get your beverage on the shelves for consumers to notice, you’ll need to work with all of these people, so start making those essential connections early.
- Make a Marketing Plan
An in-depth marketing plan is a huge piece of the budget puzzle, although new business owners tend to leave it for last. Instead of planning, they use whatever’s left of their initial budget. However, this approach makes it difficult to succeed. The beverage industry is highly competitive, and you need to be able to break through the noise. Without a huge marketing effort, that is almost impossible to accomplish.
However, your marketing doesn’t have to be expensive to be a success. The first step is to think through the strategy of your marketing plan. Who are you trying to appeal to, and have you chosen the right channels to reach them? How can you reach them more efficiently and for less money? That’s the kind of approach any good marketer will take, as the point of it is to get results while not overspending.
To break into the beverage industry and be well-informed about the current trends of it, you should follow fresh industry insights. Who knows, it might give you a disruptive idea that will change the business.
By William Sipper, Cascadia Managing Brands