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“5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO of Spindrift Beverage Co.” With Bill Creelman

Simplify to Amplify: As a first time CEO I felt that more meant better — more programs, more product extensions, more activity. I learned in time that a critical part of leading an organization is to purposefully manage fewer things better. This means having the discipline to retire parts of the business that are not […]

Simplify to Amplify: As a first time CEO I felt that more meant better — more programs, more product extensions, more activity. I learned in time that a critical part of leading an organization is to purposefully manage fewer things better. This means having the discipline to retire parts of the business that are not working — or even partially working — in order to clear bandwidth for the big priorities. It can be painful in the short term, in our case we retired a whole product line that contributed valuable revenue, but it made us smarter, faster and ultimately more successful.


I had the pleasure to interview Bill Creelman. Bill is the Founder of Spindrift Beverage Co., Inc. and serves as its Chief Executive Officer. Prior to Spindrift, Bill co-founded Stirrings which sold to Diageo in 2009. Bill grew up on a farm in Western Massachusetts where all the food was unprocessed, seasonal, and fresh. In 2010, he began making his own sparkling beverages to help him kick his fiendish Diet Coke habit. He wanted something refreshing, with real ingredients he could pronounce and enjoy with his young family. After much trial and error, he achieved this by combining 2 simple ingredients: fresh fruit and sparkling water. He named it Spindrift. Today, Spindrift is made up of more than 100 passionate employees dedicated to changing the sparkling beverage industry. Spindrift is leading the beverage industry into a new age of transparency and ingredient simplicity by offering a product with no artificial sweeteners, no natural flavorings, and no essences.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Iwas always a big diet soda drinker, but I had a young family and it was always important to me to teach them the value of real homegrown ingredients. I started to examine if there was an alternative to mainstream sodas that was more in line with my family’s consumption habits and discovered there was nothing in the carbonated beverage market that was made with real ingredients. I wanted to create something I’d be happy and proud to share with my family, so I started making real fruit sodas in my kitchen. After a lot of trial and error, Spindrift was created in 2010.

Can you share one of the major challenges you encountered when first leading the company? What lesson did you learn from that?

A major challenge I’ve noticed is growing a business while still maintaining the original intention, feel and culture of the company. Through this challenge, I’ve discovered that culture is best maintained with great internal communication. At Spindrift, we constantly challenge ourselves to be over-communicators. We have an annual 3-day company summit, clear and open communication, transparency and a true understanding of the status of the entire company. When people feel appreciated and are aware of changes and growth within the company it leads to great results. When the business is moving as quickly as it has, it is these practices that help us manage culture internally and, in turn, reflect that message outwards.

What are some of the factors that you believe led to your eventual success?

A big part of Spindrift’s success is having a very clear and differentiated product. Spindrift is made with sparkling water and real squeezed fruit, that’s it. At times, we were tempted to complicate that message. With small brands there’s always a temptation to add, add, add, but we’ve been really diligent about maintaining that clear message and staying focused on our roots.

Persistence has also played a huge role in our success. Early on, Spindrift was, and still is, incredibly challenging to produce. There were many times we asked ourselves, “is this even possible? Should we go a different direction?”. We had to be innovative and creative, even coming up with our own system to prevent the fruit pulp from clogging pipes during the production process. In the end, this persistence has proven to be a key part of our success.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO”? Please share a story or example for each.

Prior to Spindrift I started a business called Stirrings. There were many lessons I learned and applied to Spindrift. The most impactful were:

Team is everything: As a younger founder/CEO I felt I had to make every decision. This led to the hovering founder syndrome which is impossible for any organization. At Spindrift, I prioritized adding world class talent early whom I deeply respect and empower. That has been a critical part of our success.

Simplify to Amplify: As a first time CEO I felt that more meant better — more programs, more product extensions, more activity. I learned in time that a critical part of leading an organization is to purposefully manage fewer things better. This means having the discipline to retire parts of the business that are not working — or even partially working — in order to clear bandwidth for the big priorities. It can be painful in the short term, in our case we retired a whole product line that contributed valuable revenue, but it made us smarter, faster and ultimately more successful.

What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

One of the things I’ve found to be important is to remain close to the market. It’s crucial to get out from behind your desk, go out into the field, interact with customers and consumers, and to truly see what the product looks like on the front lines. Stepping out into the market keeps you energized and helps you understand the real impact of some of the decisions made. Having this understanding and exposure is an important part of what has helped myself to remain engaged and personally invested in the business.

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?

One of my professors at Georgetown University, Walter Benson, taught entrepreneurship and was a great mentor. I didn’t know how to do business and I didn’t have the experience to do it. I took his class my senior year and he was such a passionate believer in entrepreneurship. Listening to him was infectious and instilled the belief that I could do this. I feel eternally grateful to him for sharing that with me. I’m certain I wouldn’t have gotten here if not for him.

What are some of the goals you still have and are working to accomplish, both personally and professionally?

Personally, I know I can always be a better leader. A goal of mine is to continue to empower younger leaders by sharing my experiences and helping people that are interested in the beverage space or entrepreneurship. I think I’ve gotten a taste of that, but I’d love to continue to help others have some of the experiences I’ve been fortunate enough to have.

Professionally, our belief is that Spindrift represents the next generation of sparkling water. While the first iteration of sparkling water were really fun and exciting brands, the second generation is focused on ingredient differentiation. My goal is that we ultimately come to define the next phase of products in the same way it’s happening across other food and beverage categories.

What do you hope to leave as your lasting legacy?

I hope that Spindrift becomes the leader of ingredient-conscious products within the category — the start of a whole new generation of brands focused on real ingredients.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some way, what would it be? You never know what your idea can trigger!

I’d love to be a part of a movement where business is focused on the idea of not just creating commercial success, but also changing people and the world in other significant ways. For us at Spindrift, this starts with our farm relationships. All of our ingredients are sourced from family farms across the country. Additionally, we give 1% of our sales to environmental organizations as members of 1% for the Planet — a network of businesses committed to supporting a healthy natural environment. We consider it a core tenet of our business. The idea of a business creating additional benefits for the world other than commercial success — that’s a movement I’d be proud to support.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Follow @spindriftfresh on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook!

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