The goal every day is to get a win, some days it might be landing a national chain like Kroger, and other days it might be getting 6 new SKUs into a single cool store. The way I see it, a win is a win as long as we keep adding. Eventually, really big things start happening and when you look in the rear-view mirror, the history of wins is impressive and inspiring to reflect on and gives your personal proof of success and the confidence to continue to grind.
As part of our interview series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A Founder”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nat Noone.
Nat Noone, Founder and CEO, of Wave Soda, has worked in the CPG industry for over 20 years. From working for big names like Odwalla and Coca Cola to creating his very own soda start-up, Wave Soda, he’s well-versed in what it takes to be successful in the beverage world.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I worked for Coca-Cola for 15 years and in my time there, got addicted to Diet Coke, drinking up to 14 cans a day. This habit lasted well past my time there and I knew it wasn’t good for me. My wife would always beg me to find a healthier solution, but when I tried making the switch, I couldn’t find a product on the market that satisfied all the things that I loved about Diet Coke; caffeine, bubbles, and sweetness. Some solutions would hit on one or two of them, but none that hit all three benefits.
I knew that I couldn’t be the only person out there looking for a comparable solution, so I decided to take matters into my own hands and make a better-for-you alternative. After testing a couple of variations out with my SodaStream, I landed on 85% sparkling water, 15% fruit juice, and some caffeine. Once I figured out this perfect balance, I started building what is now Wave Soda.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
I think the hardest thing for me was learning how to use digital marketing to support the classic methods used in CPG. Coupons and store promotions were the industry standard and what I spent the first 20 years of my career doing to support brand building inside of retail. Now enter Instagram and Facebook ads along with influencer support; it was all foreign to me. I knew there were great opportunities and I dabbled in them trying to learn on an accelerated schedule but realized that it would be smarter to punt to someone who has been doing this their whole career.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
When my tank is low, I think the greatest drive I get is from my team. It is funny how that works because technically, they should look to me for inspiration, but I feel as though energy gets passed back and forth where I will reach out to check-in and get inspired by all of their wins and what they are creating, and then they get inspired by my excitement. We feed each other and keep each other going. It’s definitely a special thing for me and I know that those moments are really important and unique.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
It’s a grind every day and has been since we started 4 years ago. I am all about small wins stacking to become large wins. The goal every day is to get a win, some days it might be landing a national chain like Kroger, and other days it might be getting 6 new SKUs into a single cool store. The way I see it, a win is a win as long as we keep adding. Eventually, really big things start happening and when you look in the rear-view mirror, the history of wins is impressive and inspiring to reflect on and gives your personal proof of success and the confidence to continue to grind.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
We had just finished our first-ever production run and I was eager to open our first account that same day, so I loaded up my van with some sodas and drove to my favorite local store called Seaside Market. I didn’t get there until about 4 PM and it happened to be a Friday, the Friday before Mother’s Day — and they were packed. I went right through the loading door and asked for the manager to pitch Wave and was met with a super puzzled look of “are you really trying to sell me right now???” I was quickly told to come back the following week. I went back that next week as soon as I could, and to this day, it’s one of our best accounts and a beyond supportive group.
What do you think makes your company stand out?
We’re disrupting the better-for-you soda space with the only unsweetened brand on the shelf. We also offer caffeine, whereas most of our competitors are caffeine-free.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
My biggest advice would be totake your mini-vacations. Whether that’s turning off your phone at 5 PM to spend real time with the family or calling it a day early when things aren’t clicking and then attacking the same challenges with a fresh set of energy the following day. That is honestly the key to my sanity.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
This would be an exhaustive list :). I spent the first 15 years of my career with the same company and was promoted/moved around the country 13 times. Along this journey, I had a lot of amazing bosses, but also had my fair share of awful ones. With each transition, I learned new styles and adapted to different personalities and demands. In having to do so, I learned to take the best practices from each situation and then apply my learnings to my new roles. Having an open mind and embracing different styles or ways to look at the business made me who I am today.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I started Wave with the goal of providing a better-for-you solution for soda addicts like myself. I feel that we are doing our part to have an option out there that is low in sugar and not full of a bunch of things that aren’t good for you. Also, as we have been able to give back to our community by partnering with 1% for the Planet and the Surfrider Foundation on a national level. Additionally, every other month, our team nominates a local charity that we feel is important to support and we donate 3% of that month’s DTC sales to our chosen charity. It has been awesome getting to work with great teams like Girls on the Run and Color of Change.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why.
My greatest inspiration is from a book I read to my little one at home. It’s my obsession and I think it would be a help for any entrepreneur. Below are my biggest takeaways from Dr. Seuss’s “Oh, The Places You Will Go.”
- Know the vision but focus on the path
- Avoid the waiting place
- You will succeed
Can you share a few ideas or stories from your experience about how to successfully ride the emotional highs & lows of being a founder”?
Lean on your team, celebrate the wins, and recharge for the next battle.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can find brand updates from me personally on my LinkedIn, or you can follow us at @newwavesoda on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Linkedin. If you’d like to try Wave Soda for yourself, you can find us on our website (wavesoda.com), Amazon, or in select retailers across the country.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!