Go Celsius! From Humble Beginnings….

The line-up.

Wall Street is giddy over a local stock that has been on a tear of late.

Celsius, born in Delray and based in Boca, is a beverage company that is delighting consumers, investors and those of us who love a good story of a small company slaying the giants.

When Celsius (CELH on Nasdaq) released record results last week, the stock soared continuing a run up in price that has caught the attention of CNBC’s Jim Cramer of “Mad Money” fame and lucky investors who remembered a time, not too long ago, when the stock traded under a dollar Over the Counter.

While the results reported were stupendous, nearly $37 million for the quarter an 80 percent increase over last year’s results, Celsius is far from an overnight success story. The team, both past and present, has been hard at work building a brand for more than a decade.

Celsius is a tale of belief, commitment, hard work, love, passion, sweat, a few tears and a whole lot of investment— especially from a local entrepreneurial legend who discovered the drink while dining on Atlantic Avenue.

I would venture to say that if you look closely at most successful brands you will find a familiar tale of perseverance. Each company is unique in their journey but there are commonalities including a bedrock belief that you have something special.

In Celsius’ case, there was a unique selling proposition. The energy drink burned calories—up to 100 per can. The claim was clinically proven by more than a half dozen university studies.

That’s pretty unique.

But the beverage business is brutal and capital intensive. The competition includes huge conglomerates and hundreds if not thousands of upstarts all vying for our taste buds.

But my friend and business partner Carl DeSantis knows a little something about picking winners.

He built Rexall Sundown into the world’s largest vitamin company launching hit product after hit product from its headquarters in Boca.

After selling the company for $1.8 billion in 2000 he went back into business running a vast array of enterprises ranging from hotels and restaurants to clothing companies and an up and coming hot sauce company called Tabanero. Keep your eye on Tabanero; friends it’s the next big hit.

My friend Carl has what you might call an eye for what will work and what won’t. He believed in Celsius and never wavered in his conviction that the  healthy energy drink, with the clean label (no sugar, low sodium, vitamin infused and delicious) would be a winner. It just took a while.

Successful brands are built  brick by brick, sometimes you take two steps forward and three back but you keep going because you believe and failure is not an option.

Carl recruited me to be Celsius’ COO in 2008. I was a year removed from being mayor of Delray and while I knew of Carl, I didn’t know him personally. But he saw something in me and we became friendly.

Carl is kind, generous, gentle and sensitive. There’s also more than a bit of magic in his personality.

He has a sixth sense about products, people and places. His instincts tend to prove true. So all of us who work with Carl listen closely when he has a feeling about something.

I’ve seen him predict hurricanes,  whether businesses will work and he even assured me I would survive COVID.

Over the years, Celsius hit more than its fair share of rough patches. As I’ve noted, the beverage business is brutal. Even Coca Cola failed when it released a calorie burner beverage a few years back.

But when you deploy a great team behind a great product you will break through–eventually.

Celsius has been blessed with a tremendous array of sales, marketing, management and board talent currently led by CEO John Fieldly who is a terrific young leader. He had a terrific predecessor in a gentleman named Gerry David.

Gerry and I sit on the board of Hyperponic, a promising startup which provides technology to the cannabis industry. Keep an eye on that company too. We are doing some groundbreaking work in Michigan and Oklahoma.

Still, the business world is a tough place.

Entrepreneurship can be thrilling and terrifying sometimes all in the same day.

All of us associated with Celsius have enjoyed watching this company grow.

There’s a thrill when you walk into Publix and see an end cap. It’s fun to see someone at the gym drink a Celsius and yes it’s very cool to see a company you care about listed on a major league stock exchange and sold at 74,000 stores domestically and across the world.

Those of us who know the story know that none of this would have been possible without Carl’s foresight and fortitude; without his good natured belief in a little beverage brand that occupied a small warehouse space on Fourth Avenue near the tracks in downtown Delray.

Back then, we were excited to see the cans on the shelf at the local gas station. Today, we have a market value of over $2.3 billion and are loved by thousands of consumers who enjoy a healthy energy drink with no corn syrup, preservatives or aspartame.

The Celsius story story is truly inspiring. It’s about the power of belief, commitment, vision and hard work. That’s what it takes to succeed in any endeavor.

Thanks Carl. Your belief in this amazing company has touched a lot of lives.

We can’t wait to see what’s next.

 

 

 

A Legacy & An Ecosystem

BDB President Kelly Smallridge honors Brendan, Tom and Connor Lynch for their business leadership as Plastridge Insurance celebrates its 100th year.

Eight years ago, while serving on the board of the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County, I had the opportunity to co-chair a brand new task force focused on entrepreneurship in our community.

While the BDB is well-known and highly respected for its economic development efforts and its ability to recruit, retain and help businesses expand we felt there was a gap when it came to helping and celebrating local entrepreneurs. So we created a task force and held a successful event that filled the vast ballroom at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach. We clearly had tapped into something.

The task force continued on and eventually my good friend Connor Lynch, the talented and super smart CEO of Plastridge Insurance became chair. I’m proud to report that Connor, the task force and the BDB have taken the effort to a whole new level.

The recent “Entrepreneurship Luncheon” presented by JP Morgan Chase & Co., attracted a large crowd, included a hallway full of booths featuring new companies and was graphic evidence that something special is happening here. And that’s a good thing.

The entrepreneurs are here. They see Palm Beach County as fertile ground to grow their companies and they are impressed with the talent that is available in the local job market.

For sure, we aren’t Silicon Valley, Boston, New York or Austin. But we don’t have to be. We can grow something special here. Something unique. Something sustainable.

Groups like Palm Beach Tech, 1909 and yes the BDB are playing a critical role as are our universities and the FAU Research Park.

The luncheon’s two keynote speakers were two young entrepreneurs who are proving that companies can start here, grow here and thrive here using local talent and attracting talent from other markets.

Ryan Gay, CEO of Levatas, an AI solutions firm and Shay Berman, founder and president of Digital Resource were beyond impressive to listen to—they were downright inspiring.

Mr. Gay started out in 2006 with a small team: a visionary, an operator (himself) and someone with a big brain. They paid their first employee with Taco Bell meals—he was joking (I think). But from those humble beginnings, Levatas now has 80 employees and does digital work for clients such as IBM, Intel, Dell, Office Depot and Nasdaq.

Mr. Berman came from the cold of Michigan to West Palm Beach and started a company on a couch that has twice made the Inc. 500 list as one of America’s fastest growing companies. He has stayed true to his adopted hometown, growing his company while remaining in downtown West Palm.

He started the company with $5,000 and a dream. Today, at age 27, he is growing by leaps and bounds.

At the luncheon, my friend Connor, his brother Brendan (another super smart businessman) and their dad Tom, a former Delray mayor (among the very best in my opinion) were recognized for Plastridge’s 100th anniversary—an astounding achievement in today’s complex and fast changing world.

All three Lynch’s are devoted to Palm Beach County making significant marks in business, entrepreneurship, government, education, philanthropy and economic development. They are writing an amazing legacy. I’ve been fortunate to watch them and occasionally work alongside them.

Brendan and I serve on the board of a company we’ve both invested in and 30 years since meeting Tom, I still find myself seeking out his advice and counsel. Connor and I have served on several non-profit boards together and he’s always brought good ideas and insight to the table.

Kelly Smallridge, President and CEO of the BDB, noted that she if ever wrote a book about the history of economic development in Palm Beach County Tom Lynch would be at the top of the list of contributors.

It was heartening to me to hear that, because I believe that Kelly is right and that Tom is immensely responsible for so much of the good we see in Delray and also in Boca where he was also very active as a past chamber chair and School Board chair.

To see his sons run with that legacy of civic achievement makes my heart sing with gratitude.

In order to build a better community one that will support entrepreneurs and everyone else frankly—we need civic leaders. We need champions and long term thinkers who focus on the horizon and then do their best to make things happen.

It’s called leaving a legacy.

The job is never done. Success is never final. We will never arrive at the destination but we still need to commit ourselves to the journey.

Check out www.bdb.org and make sure you get tickets to next year’s entrepreneurial event. Better yet, let’s commit to helping grow entrepreneurs—whether it’s trying out a new product, spreading the word, becoming an angel or seed investor, starting your own company or encouraging someone who has done so we all have a meaningful role to play.

 

The Joys & Benefits Of Optimism

We all know the type….the glass is always half empty.

The rain clouds are always coming.

Failure is around every corner.

Pessimism is a trait that is especially acute during stressful times, such when we watched incessant news coverage of Hurricane Dorian as it threated South Florida before turning north.

I know folks who predicted Armageddon and they are not crazy—we dodged a bullet and the footage that we see from The Bahamas could have easily been us. I get it and I’m grateful.

But these folks were sure—rock solid sure—- of the hurricane track even when the experts weren’t and so to my mind they lean toward the pessimistic side. They are lovable. They are well-meaning and they are caring. But if you lived with them you would need intravenous Xanax.

The sky is always falling, your ideas are always full of holes and they are always there to poke a hole in your enthusiasm.

If you are an entrepreneur, these folks—within reason—are needed and necessary. They keep you sharp, they force you to answer questions and think through solutions to the weaknesses in your ideas.

But you can’t be a pessimist and succeed.

There’s no progress without risk.

In fact, I would argue that the key to success can be found in the following sentence: “do what everyone else is not doing and be right.”

If you scratch under the surface of every business you will often stumble across the notion that nobody thinks (fill in the blank) will work.

Do you really think someone is going to rent a room from a stranger? (AIRBNB)

Do you think someone is going to hail a ride from a stranger and abandon taxis? (Lyft, Uber).

Blockbuster will be here forever, every American visits it once a week to rent a video. You think you are going to compete by mailing DVD’s? (Netflix, before streaming).

Delray is Dull Ray. It will never turn around. (Delray Beach)

Boca will never survive IBM leaving, Big Blue built that town. (Boca Raton)

Doing something that nobody thinks is right or possible is the beginning of every success story.

Pessimists make the definitive statements.

Optimists defy the naysayers.

And guess what, there is a reward for optimism and now it’s scientifically proven.

That reward is longevity.

That’s right. Optimists live longer.

But before we delve briefly into the science, what is optimism?

Optimism is a psychological attribute characterized as the general expectation that good things will happen, or the belief that the future will be favorable because one can control important outcomes.

Previous scientific studies reported that more optimistic individuals are less likely to suffer from chronic diseases and die prematurely. But new results further suggest that optimism is specifically related to an 11 percent to 15 percent longer life span, on average, and to greater odds of achieving “exceptional longevity,” that is, living to the age of 85 or beyond. These relations were independent of socioeconomic status, health conditions, depression, social integration, and health behaviors (e.g., smoking, diet, and alcohol use).

Hey, I didn’t make that up. That info comes from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

So bottom line: try to be optimistic. And if you have any trouble deciphering which side of the optimist/pessimist divide you might fall on try answering this simple question.

What’s the difference between a pessimist and an optimist?

A pessimist says “things can’t get any worse”

And optimist says “sure they can!”

We’re kidding with that one of course. A pessimist would say we did that on purpose, an optimist would see the humor in the line and forward this blog to everyone they know.

 

Many Soulful Miles

Yulia at Angel’s Landing, Zion National Park.

“Never underestimate your dreams. If there is a will, there is a way to get anything you want in life.” –Yulia

 

Did you ever want to chuck it all?
Start fresh.

Pick up and go.

Are you intrigued by adventure?

Do you admire the risk takers, the ‘go for it’ segment of our society who just seem to know how to live, really live?

I think it’s a feeling many if not most of us have experienced and while we may fantasize or even dip our toes into something different, the ties that bind tend to keep us in our place.

Not so for my friend Yulia Konovnitsyna.

She’s on a grand adventure as I write this. Or maybe that’s not the right word. Because an adventure implies a beginning, a middle and an end. My friend Yulia has changed her life and has adopted a new way of living.  I’m living vicariously through her travels with her dog Milo across our great country.

I’m having a great time doing so. Even if sometimes her posts stir a longing deep in my soul for change and transformation.

The Grand Tetons, Zion National Park, Antelope Canyon, Arches National Park and many, many stops along the way.

Yulia shares her photos and thoughts on social media—and they are sensational. She is a digital marketing entrepreneur and somehow she is managing to grow her business, serve her clients and live a life of adventure.

She’s sharing under the name “Many Soulful Miles” and I find that moniker fitting. Yulia is a soulful person and very much an old soul.

While she’s young in age, she positively oozes wisdom.

I started to hear about her a few years back through my friend Karen Granger, then the president of the Delray Chamber of Commerce.
“You’ve got to meet Yulia,” Karen would gush. “She’s amazing.”
Knowing Karen’s keen sense of people and her ability to spot talent I was intrigued.

So Yulia and I met at The Coffee District and I was very impressed.

My three passions are community, entrepreneurship and leadership—and Yulia ticked all three boxes. She was building a community through Creative Mornings Palm Beach,  she was clearly a leader of that movement and she was an entrepreneur with an inspiring immigration story.

We became friends. She asked me to speak to Creative Mornings (which was an honor and a thrill) and I was happy when she announced that she was hitting the road with her adorable dog Milo.

I look forward to her posts—the photos and videos are magnificent. But it’s the occasional long form posts that I relish. Her thoughts on travel, on work, solitude, narcissism, friendship, self-reliance and the beauty of the places she visits are just wonderful. Soulful too…and we all need a little more soul these days.

As I stare down my 55th birthday in a few weeks, chances are I will never quite replicate what Yulia is doing but who knows? Maybe, just maybe Diane and I will steal away with our rescue dogs for an adventure. But right now, it’s August and I’m still trying to plan a vacation.

I have a strong hunch that this is more than an adventure for Yulia. She may have found a way to live her best life, yet another reason to admire her.

Who knows where the road will lead? Nobody really does. But if you make them soulful miles, well then maybe, just maybe you’ll discover the answers to a lot of life’s mysteries.

 

 

Finding A Way Forward

Economic gardening is more than just growing your own, it’s seeing that one generation looks out for the next.

There was a fascinating op-ed in the New York Times recently about Silicon Valley’s “old money” and how one generation of tech titans mentored and invested in the next generation.

University of Washington history professor Margaret O’Mara sketched out a family tree of sorts— tracing the influence the founders of Fairchild Semiconductor and Hewlett-Packard had on Apple, PayPal, Netscape and AOL and how those founders and their networks  helped today’s world beaters: Uber, Lyft and AirBnB.

Many early tech founders cashed out and went into venture capital  funding the next generation of entrepreneurs who grew the Silicon Valley ecosystem.
The article ends with a call to action. Tech titans– now facing backlash from consumers and regulators–should change their ways and use their windfalls to do something meaningful for the rest of the world.

It’s hard to disagree with that conclusion. But I came away with another thought.

Silicon Valley, was built on the vision and entrepreneurial energies of talented engineers who took risks, leveraged Stanford University’s amazing resources and built companies that achieved global dominance.

While many cities and regions have tried to replicate that success, none have quite been able to create anything to seriously rival the Valley’s dominance in technology.

But Professor O’Mara, in drawing a family tree of business leaders mentoring the next wave of entrepreneurial talent,  may offer a way forward for other communities.

Perhaps, communities can ask: “Who are today’s local business titans and what are they doing to ensure that the next generation of entrepreneurs will succeed?”

There are many examples of philanthropy, particularly in Boca Raton where the arts, health care and education have received enviable and much needed support.

Some of that philanthropy will have an economic impact—having a great hospital or a world class neuroscience institute is a wonderful calling card for our community. Likewise, building institutions such as FAU and Lynn University will undoubtedly yield a return on investment.

Having robust cultural institutions are also investments in economic development. Talent and forward looking companies seek quality of life and place when deciding where to locate.

But unless I’m missing it  (and please tell me if I am) I’m not seeing as much mentoring and venture investing as can be expected in an area as rich in talent and experience as Boca Raton and Delray Beach.

If it is happening, it needs to be publicized so that other talented and successful business and civic leaders can be encouraged to offer their wisdom and experience to the up and coming stars in our community.

There are notable exceptions. I know some generous angel investors and we have been blessed to see some successful entrepreneurs use their wealth to help others climb the ladder of success.

But I also know a whole lot of successful people who remain insulated in terms of the community.

Their success stories, the lessons they’ve learned and the mistakes they’ve made, would be invaluable to the next wave of people trying to build businesses and careers.

It seems Silicon Valley has figured it out—despite the much needed debate occurring on the harmful affects of some of the technology that has emerged from that hotbed of innovation.

There’s a model there to be looked at. We have an amazing amount of successful leaders in every field imaginable roaming our beaches, golf courses, waterways etc.

Can you imagine what would happen if a few hundred or even a few dozen decided to invest in some of the talent coming out of our high schools and colleges?

Failure Versus Success

“The only ones who fear failure are those who have never tasted it.” – Simon Sinek

Bessemer Ventures is a terrific Venture Capital firm.

They’ve had a lot of hits (Yelp, Pinterest, Linked In) and quite a few misses.

Such as not investing in Facebook.

Here’s how Bessemer explains its failure to see the potential in founders Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin:

“Jeremy Levine (a Bessemer partner) spent a weekend at a corporate retreat in the summer of 2004 dodging persistent Harvard undergrad Eduardo Saverin’s rabid pitch. Finally, cornered in a lunch line, Jeremy delivered some sage advice. ‘Kid, haven’t you heard of Friendster? Move on. It’s over!’”

This week, Facebook’s market cap was approaching $606 billion—that’s billion with a B ($$$$).

I don’t know how many of us are prepared to reckon so openly (and humorously) with mistakes or let alone share them with the world.

But the truth is, if we are honest, we all miss from time to time.

I recently read an article by Bill Taylor, a founder of Fast Company magazine, who suggests that to be a better leader we ought to put together a “failure resume.”

It sounds a little odd, but the point is we often learn more from our failures than our successes.

I think that’s true, but only if we are self-aware and take the time to delve into why something didn’t work. Sometimes it’s hard to examine a failure, because failing can be painful and costly both emotionally and financially.

But if we remember that success is never final and failure is hardly ever fatal, we may be encouraged to take a deeper look at ventures that didn’t quite pan out.

As an entrepreneur, I have had some hits (admittedly minor, but I’m still swinging) and many misses.

As someone who works with a phenomenally successful entrepreneur, we have also had our share of hits (some really good ones) and some misses (it happens).

As a civic entrepreneur (aka a former elected official), there are a few votes I regret but many more (fortunately) that I’m proud of. I say fortunate because unlike business, where you can usually come back to fight another day, in politics once you’ve cast your vote, you can’t get it back.

So anyway, because I like and respect Bill Taylor and have read him for years, I thought I would sit on the couch one night and take his advice. I did my “failure resume” while watching “The Bachelorette”, which some would say should be added to my failure list. So here goes…

We failed to save the old Boca News—(although we did manage keep it alive long enough to sell it).

This was a high degree of difficulty mission since the paper struggled when Knight Ridder owned it and really struggled when they sold it, leaving us without a deep pocketed corporate parent. It was a painful exercise to keep afloat until it sold, because we had to let a lot of really good people go and those faces are forever etched in my mind.

For four years, I had some successes and some misses with a brand consultancy that helped companies bring their product to market.

We got a few clients shelf space nationally, but the amount of work we were doing (relative to the fees we were generating didn’t add up). What I failed to consider was that each start-up considered their product their baby (as they should). As a result, there was never enough attention we could pay to any one client that matched their expectations. We made some money, but we pulled the plug.

My first two entrepreneurial ventures also failed despite enjoying some early success.

As a young journalist, my colleagues and I approached my parent company with an idea—could we start a sports publication that would cover everything from youth sports to adult rec leagues?

Our corporate parent, called us “intrapreneurs” because they partnered with us on our effort, providing sales,  if we produced, designed and distributed the paper which we called “Boca Raton Sportscene.”

I still think it was a good idea and readers loved it but….we were charged expenses (printing $$$) and being less than sophisticated negotiators we got killed. It was only when I eventually left to start my own—successful publishing company (finally! a win)—did I realize that we were being charged how should I say it…aggressively.

But I learned a lesson and I relished the opportunity I was given. It also stoked my desires to give it a go on my own. And so I did. But before I left, I also ghost wrote books for clients, including custom biographies—again we were profitable but if you added the time versus the compensation well let’s just say I’d be better off doing just about anything else.

Since then, there have been real estate deals, hot sauce, beverages, more newspapers, events, consulting gigs, my own book, race horses, investments in other ventures, a magazine etc. etc.

Luckily, a few ideas worked. But they were all really challenging.

That’s why I admire entrepreneurs and creatives—because it’s hard work and it’s always uncertain.

I’ve been under capitalized and well capitalized, I’ve worked with experienced people and some.. ahem… others. I’ve seen great ideas crash and burn and some ideas I thought were questionable break through. In my mind, that’s the fun of it all.

So consider a failure resume, because once you lay it out there you might realize that those failures actually led to your successes.

 

Growing Our Own

No bigger game than Amazon.

November is National Entrepreneurship Month.

I didn’t know that, but as far as I’m concerned we ought to be spotlighting and helping entrepreneurs 12 months a year.

Since 2008, there has been a net decline in new business creation in the U.S. One of the contributing factors appears to be a growing aversion to risk for young adults who grew up during the Great Recession.

 

A new survey by Junior Achievement shows that 9-out-of-10 parents would support their kids starting a business as adults, but only 1-in-3 teens say they would consider becoming an entrepreneur, identifying “risk” as one of the top reasons for not striking out on their own.

We need to reverse that trend—it’s not an overstatement to say that if we don’t we will lose our edge as a nation.

America was built by entrepreneurs: people in business, government, science, education and the non-profit world who took risks because they saw opportunity.

Entrepreneurs are the people who solve problems, build, create, sustain and design successful societies.

We’ve all been reading lately about the efforts of close to 250 cities and regions to lure a second Amazon headquarters and its promise of 50,000 jobs. It’s a big opportunity—no doubt a game changer for the lucky winner who will have to put up billions in incentives to make it happen. South Florida, including our own Business Development Board, is playing the game and to some extent I guess you have too.

But personally, I would rather make an investment in seeding a new generation of entrepreneurs than throwing money at an already wealthy company like Amazon. I prefer what they call “economic gardening” (growing your own) to chasing smoke stacks or the modern digital version.

Fortunately, there is a lot beginning to happen on the gardening front: FAU and Lynn University have good business schools, Tech Runway at FAU has potential and the business community in Palm Beach County is relatively strong. Boca Raton’s economic development efforts are impressive, West Palm Beach is coming of age and Boynton Beach has some very exciting projects under consideration. Northern Palm Beach County has a very strong business community anchored by a progressive Chamber of Commerce (shout out to our friend Chamber president Beth Kigel) and Lake Worth has tremendous potential especially in the energy sector.

As a two time board member of our BDB, I can attest that we have a solid economic development organization that in my opinion has been a little starved of resources by the county over the years (relative to budgets in Broward, Miami-Dade and Hillsborough counties).

I’m especially intrigued and excited by some of the emerging groups of young creative entrepreneurs that we are seeing pop up: Creative Mornings Palm Beach, Palm Beach Tech and One Million Cups are just a few of the groups emerging filled with energy, ambition and community building potential.

There are also some real interesting co-working spaces popping up.

I’m especially happy to see the growth and excitement behind Palm Beach Entrepreneur Week Nov. 10-18. (Like The Beatles song, that’s actually an 8 day week).

Highlights include a meetup at the Social House in Lake Worth, a Creative Morning at Saltwater Brewery in Delray Beach, a pitch competition in West Palm Beach, a Florida Venture Forum showcase at FAU’s Tech Runway and more… Check out the website for a full schedule: https://eweekpb.com/#landing-events

All this is really cool to see. But we need more.

More angel investors, more mentors, more venture capital, more news about entrepreneurs and more outreach into schools. The Boca Chamber’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy is a great start. We also need more affordable space in key downtowns like Delray—not easy to do based on market forces and high prices.

We sit in a great location—close enough to Miami (an international city and a gateway to the Americas), close to an emerging Fort Lauderdale and within a county that offers a great quality of life.

If we reach our potential—the Amazon’s of the world will be asking to move here and ideally the next Amazon will be born here.

In Pursuit of the Breakthrough Brand

Sound advice...from a wise post it note.

Sound advice…from a wise post it note.

I haven’t had a soda for over 300 days.
Prior to my streak I would drink 2-3 Diet Cokes a day. I did this for at least 25 years and prior to that it was Diet Pepsi during my newsroom days.
No more.
No more aspartame. No more high fructose corn syrup. No more sugary soft drinks.
For me, it’s Celsius, Diet Snapple, Bai and water.  (And the occasional happy hour indulgence).
Celsius is a Delray born and now Boca based beverage that I have been involved with for several years. I’m a proud shareholder and work for a firm that has a major stake and emotional investment in the brand.
We believe in Celsius and have for years.
Why?
Because the brand is right on trend: a healthy fitness drink that has no sugar, aspartame or corn syrup.
It’s also clinically proven to burn calories and fat and provides a nice burst of energy without a crash or jitters.
I’m proud of the company and the progress the team have made over the years.
It’s hard to build a brand. Very hard. But that’s where the value is…you want to be a brand not a low cost commodity. (Same for cities). Breaking through in a noisy world is a colossal challenge.

And the beverage business is ultra competitive, capital intensive and complex.
But then you see the headline…and you remember just how cool the business can be.
Bai–one of my favorite brands–was  snapped up by Doctor Pepper Snapple Group (DPSG) for $1.7 billion last week. Breathtaking..
DPSG– along with Coke and Pepsi –are on the hunt for companies offering healthy options. Sales for their legacy brands are flat (pun intended) and while volumes are huge, there is little to no growth and consumers are moving away dramatically from calorie laden and sugary beverages.
This shift is not a fad, but a trend. I don’t think it will go back.
And so our bet on this local company may prove prescient after all.
We have always believed. And that’s important in the world of entrepreneurship because there will be ups and there will be downs.
The Bai deals gives you hope. But…while the money is nice and how you keep score in business, for those who are entrepreneurs there’s always more. In our case, it’s a belief in the brand and what it does for people. It helps them “live fit” as we say.
Over the years, I’ve heard from many people who have made Celsius a part of their lives. They enjoy it and it’s helped them achieve health and fitness goals–which is the point of a “functional” beverage.
We often read about “disruption” in the world of technology. But it’s happening in food and beverages too.
Healthy products— clinically proven– is a great place to be these days.

And there are several other local brands that are making it happen too. I met with a great one last week–Fro Pro, a delicious and healthy bar/meal replacement run by two very cool and very passionate people. I’ll share their story in a future post.
We have high hopes that our pioneering brand will be the next breakthrough. (And we have a few more in the pipeline too).
Until then, it’s back to the daily grind/joy of building something you believe in.

 

In Praise of the Delray Chamber

Delray Chamber CEO Karen Granger

Delray Chamber CEO Karen Granger

Editor’s note: We are off to Las Vegas on business (really) and we’ll be back next week with some new posts. But if we don’t return, it’s because we won big at the tables (boardroom tables) and we have bought an island. Have a great week.

You could feel the enthusiasm as soon as you walked into the room.
These are good times for many local businesses and the Delray Chamber is once again at the forefront of commerce in this city.

A large crowd gathered Friday night at the Delray Marriott to honor its best and there was genuine happiness and appreciation for the talented business people in the room.
Under the leadership of President Karen Granger and the hard work of a happy staff, the Delray Chamber is back to doing what it does best: creating a sense of community among local businesses through networking, advocacy, programs and events.
Chambers of commerce can seem old fashioned in today’s high tech environment. But there is still a need for local businesses to know one another and to support each other. As a result, chambers still have an important role to play in communities.
Boca’s chamber has long been the gold standard of local chambers– flush with members and resources.
In Delray, the chamber has always been a little less corporate and more small town in its style and approach. But it seems today that the Delray chamber is both honoring the warmth of its past (the organization is marking 90 years) and moving boldly into the future with outreach to younger professionals and tech companies.
The Chamber is also recognizing and working closely with local non profits, has always sought a close relationship with the city,  and is championing collaboration, smart growth, intelligent debate and strong schools.
It’s a compelling mission.
And an important one too.
As Delray changes, there is a desire to honor and preserve its rich history which is critically important. But there is also a desire to “round out” Delray’s compelling list of attributes in order to make its success sustainable.
The chamber– which has always supported arts and culture and food and beverage– wants to grow and diversify the economy by nurturing entrepreneurship, encouraging a nascent fashion cluster, strengthening retail and promoting office development.

There is also a strong desire to look beyond the downtown to places like Congress Avenue, the Linton corridor and areas west of the city limits. There is also a push to work with neighbors and be a larger player in Palm Beach County and South Florida.
It’s going to happen. Why? Because there is passion and talent and when an organization aspires great things happen.
Great cities need strong schools, safe neighborhoods, quality housing, good government, involved citizens and a thriving business community.
Business is not a special interest. It’s a stakeholder; an essential piece.
As I saw the best and brightest win awards last week while mixing and mingling with each other I couldn’t help but get swept up in the moment. When business is strong, so is the community.
Our chamber deserves a round of applause for its role as a resource, convener, advocate and friend to all of Delray. We are a greater Delray Beach as a result.