Here’s to the Entrepreneurs

A friend of mine launched an energy drink last week.

His goal: nothing short of building the biggest beverage company on the planet.

Of course, the odds of that happening are long. Probably better than winning the recent Powerball (you have a 1 in 292.2 million chance of landing the massive prize) but long,nonetheless.

But daunting odds don’t dissuade entrepreneurs. In fact, the more people scoff at their dreams the more motivated they become to prove everyone wrong.

I respect  that mindset, it’s that kind of thinking that changes the world.

And that’s why I love entrepreneurs. I admire them too.

I appreciate the energy, grit, belief, and passion they bring to their endeavors.

My friend is confident in his vision. Some might say he’s cocky,but I know better.

It’s not ego or overconfidence that drives people like my friend. It’s not even the outsize rewards that come if you succeed.

Sure, the money has meaning. I suppose it’s a way of keeping score, but riches are not the only motivation.

Nope, the entrepreneurs I’ve seen up close are after something more. Something deeper and more meaningful.

They want to prove something.

They look at the world differently; they are opportunity scouts seeking to solve problems or fill a void.

Entrepreneurs want to create something special: a hit product, a resonant brand, a movement.

It’s not easy to do any of those things. The world is a crowded place, it’s hard to get noticed over the din, and it’s darn near impossible to break through and make a dent in the marketplace.

Building a successful company is a complicated endeavor with hundreds of tasks and moving parts to navigate. There are potholes galore, lots of hard work and sleepless nights worrying about all sorts of things.

But people like my friend do it anyway.

They have no choice. It’s who they are. They are driven to act. Driven to try.

I’ve been involved in the energy drink business for 15 years—years spent on the inside and now years on the periphery.

The name of the company I know a little about is Celsius.

Celsius started in a small office/warehouse on 4th Avenue in Delray Beach and has grown from the humblest beginnings to a publicly traded international company with a market cap of over $11 billion.

Pepsi took a stake in the company recently and the stock has become a Wall Street darling. Here’s some stats: year to date the stock has a return of about 44 percent, far outpacing the S & P 500. The one-year return is about 91 percent, the three-year return has been 1,059 percent (not a typo) and the five-year return has been 3,215 percent (also not a typo).

Yes, the past few years have been amazing to witness. The team at Celsius has done extraordinary things; sometimes life exceeds your wildest dreams. And this has happened—somewhat quietly—right here in Delray Beach and now in bigger digs in Boca.

But the road to success was years and years long and full of land mines.

The company went from the pink sheets to Nasdaq only to get delisted before getting back on the exchange.

The little company that dreamed big got on the shelves of the nation’s top retailers only to lose distribution when the product didn’t move. Then the team of believers got those shelves back and now the product is flying—likely to $1 billion in annual sales.

It’s been a remarkable story. Ups and downs, amazing characters who came and went and wildly talented people who ultimately made it stick.

I think it would make a great Netflix series.

The story of the little company that kept chipping away until something magical happened. It’s a uniquely American  saga.

Through it all, there was an entrepreneur who believed.

His name is Carl DeSantis and he never stopped believing even when conventional wisdom would have said: “hey, enough is enough. You gave it a go.”

But my friend Carl never stopped believing. Every setback meant he was one step closer to success.

Entrepreneurs fail forward.

It’s something to behold. Truly something to behold.

My friend—with the new company— knows all this.

He’s built a company before, from scratch. That experience will help.

He understands resilience. He’s still hungry.

In that way, he reminds me of Carl who also built a business before Celsius. The success of Rexall Sundown would have enabled Carl to sail off into the sunset. But entrepreneurs can’t turn it off. They are what they are. They want to solve problems, they want to create, they want to disrupt. They want to win.

As Steve Jobs said: ““Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”


  1. Great column, Jeff, from one of the “crazy ones”.

    • Jeff Perlman says

      Thanks Dave. You made it happen!

      • I was an Entrepreneur @ the age of 8. Started a playgroup in our backyard with neighborhood children. Charged 10 cets a week. Continued most Summers through College. Was always selling items to our neigbors as a young one. I guess that gave me the know how to become the # 1 Realtor in Syracuse for 23 consecutive years with the # 1 Real Estate company..

  2. Diane Franco says

    I can attest that what you describe is a phenomenon that happens within a person that’s more than a mere idea…. It’s a clutching of the mind that is obsessive, can’t and won’t take no for an answer.. As a banker once told me while I was begging for a construction loan….”At this point we consider you a risk…..if we lend you the money and you are successful….we then consider you an entrepreneur!!!!” As it turned out, for me the rest is history!!

  3. Andrea Knibbs says

    Great column, Jeff. Kudos to Carl and all the home-grown entrepreneurs who stay the course. The first new business advice I got proved the most valuable – when you go out on your own, the highs are higher and the lows are lower but the real secret is in between, to just keep plugging away.

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