Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneurs have made it their goal to change the ready-to-drink cocktail market for good – mission accomplished so far. We caught up with SoCIAL LITE Vodka co-founders Dan Beach, Kevin Folk and Neetu Godara to hear about their inspiration and find out what advice they would share with other young professionals…
Describe what you do in less than 140 characters. Go.
We make 80-calorie craft cocktails without sugar or artificial ingredients so you can socialize and have a few drinks without feeling guilty.
What was the inspiration for your career route?
We were all young professionals and enjoying a busy career and social life. We found that with such a busy schedule it was easy to make poor dietary decisions, especially when we were out for a few drinks. We came up with SoCIAL LITE Vodka for ourselves, a drink we could enjoy with friends at night and still wake up the next morning and go for a run.
What is the most memorable milestone in your career so far?
As a team, the most memorable moments always involve when we are standing in front of someone who tries our drink for the first time. 90% of the time the first word we hear is “refreshing,” and it’s usually followed by a “finally!”
When people tell us that they have been waiting for a drink like ours, when they tell us it’s their new favourite drink, it validates everything we have been working towards.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years?
We have shaken up the ready to drink cooler market that is full of bright coloured, high sugar products. By introducing the first ever unsweetened, all natural, 80-calorie ready to drink cocktail we are allowing health conscious, sophisticated drinkers a new option. We see us continuing to grow our portfolio with new varieties of better-for-you drinks.
We see ourselves becoming a global brand and are already looking into expansion into the US and Asia.
Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Say ‘yes’. Say yes to coffee. Say yes to a networking event. So many of the doors that have opened for us have been from us simply putting ourselves out there, dreaming big, and saying yes. You just never know how you can collaborate with someone until you say yes.
Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is it (or they) important to you?
A big part of our strategy is to support the local communities where we operate, and we select a lot of our grassroots events based on there being a charitable or not-for-profit component. This year we have already been in events that have supported the National Wildlife Rehabilitation Foundation, Rotary Club, and National Ballet of Canada.
We also think it’s important to encourage responsible drinking, which we do through our social media platforms, and we also donate to MADD.
What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
We all had long corporate careers before we started SoCIAL LITE Vodka. Everyone said entrepreneurship required a giant leap of faith. It was nerve-racking leaving our careers behind.
We believed in our product, and we just continued to take steps towards our goal. Over the course of two years, we made our product, launched in Alberta, and then B.C. Eventually we got investment from Arlene Dickinson, and a confirmation that we got into the LCBO. By the time it was time to quit, it felt like just another step in the right direction versus a giant leap of faith.
Where is your favourite place to wine/ dine in your city and why?
Wild Burger! Wild Burger was the first restaurant in Ontario to carry SoCIAL LITE, they believed in us early on, and their burgers are outrageously delicious, so that’s our go-to!
What’s the most visited website on your Internet browser? The most played song on your phone?
Dan: IRunFar.com to get motivated for my next run. And Renegades X Ambassadors to get motivated for my next meeting.
Kevin: Weathernetwork.com. I’m always tracking the weather to be prepared for the outdoors, where I spend most of my free time. For songs, anything that’s got a groove!
Neetu: Facebook (that’s what happens when you manage your brand’s page. Currently, Drake’s One Dance.
Who’s one person you think everyone should be following on social media?
If you want to follow an authentic Canadian personality, follow Arlene Dickinson. She’s a partner in our business, and everything she posts is real and from the heart. She loves supporting Canadian entrepreneurs, so you will often see cool new start-ups pop up in her newsfeed.
What’s your favourite country to visit and why? And what’s the next one you plan on travelling to?
Canada! Dan and Kevin just took a trip to Lake Louise; there is so much beauty right here at home.
We also love to travel globally. Maybe we’ll be heading over to Japan if that’s our next launch country.
What gives you the greatest FOMO?
We’re all working night and day this summer. We love getting the word out and seeing SoCIAL LITE grow everyday, but sometimes the sacrifices you make missing those weekend BBQs or cottage weekends with friends and family give you a bit of FOMO.
What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
Sometimes we have team meetings with an extra-large pizza. But luckily we balance it out with a round of SoCIAL LITE. Everything in life in moderation!
What’s something you wish you didn’t spend so much money on? What’s something you wish you spent more on?
Less money: Gas! We have been driving all over Ontario this summer.
More money: Travel. Once we have more time, that’s the plan.
And finally, what does success look like to you? Work, play, or otherwise…
We want to be a brand that Canadians around the world are proud to tell people is homegrown. We want to be the brand that changed the ready-to-drink category for good.