In this Salute to American Success, we’re taking a look at ROAR Beverages and Brand Architect and CEO Roly Nesi. The company combines coconut water with B-vitamins and natural flavors to create its product line of “peak-performance” sports drinks. According to Nesi, the company focuses on making ROAR a true all-American company by keeping everything, including production and packing, in the U.S.
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Roly Nesi grew up in the hamlet of Cold Spring Harbor on Long Island, New York. After earning a degree in international relations and affairs in 2007 from Boston University, he went to work at his father’s apparel business.
“I helped broker American products overseas to Asia and put them into the right retail channels,” said Nesi. “It was a great experience in brand building.”
A few years later, Nesi created his own company called Goldrock Beverages. Then, in 2012, Nesi created ROAR Beverages and joined the sports drink industry.
“I always wanted to create my own beverage,” said Nesi. “I wanted to create an adaptation to Gatorade… a type of sports drink that appeals to the younger demographic.”
In trying to differentiate the product from what was on the market, Nesi decided to use coconut water as a base. B-vitamins were added to the mix to create the beverage’s signature formula.
“Coconut was an emerging ingredient that everyone wanted,” said Nesi. “We tweaked the original flavors about 30 times before settling on the final product.”
But ROAR’s launch wasn’t roaring.
“It was tough getting people to try it [the beverage],” said Nesi. “At first, we sold two cases, then four a day. It’s a very competitive business… every brand comes to play in the New York retail industry.”
Despite those issues, and the cost of production for ROAR’s product, Nesi decided to keep ROAR’s production facilities “close to home” in New Jersey, due to the “availability of factories.”
THE BUSINESS TODAY
Today, Nesi said ROAR has grown out of its early struggles. The company has gone from selling just a few cases of the product to about “350-400 cases” a day, on Long Island alone.
“ROAR has grown triple digits year-over-year,” said Nesi. “Our goal is to operate around a 40% profit margin, which we are not too far from. In the next 27 months, we expect to see product sales around $5-7 million.”
By the end of the summer, Nesi said the product will be available in more than 3,500 retail locations across the United States. The company’s focus is in the Northeast, mainly in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Vermont. ROAR has created its own distribution network for Long Island, and works with Anheuser Busch as well.
“Our own distribution was 69% of business in 2014,” said Nesi. “This year will be a lot less as we focus on regional and independent retailers.”
ROAR has also partnered with more than 500 schools in the U.S., including in New York, New Jersey and Maryland.
ADVICE TO OTHER ENTREPRENEURS
“You need to get investors to see exactly what you see,” said Nesi. “It’s a 24 hour-a-day job… everything you planned for is going to go wrong. It’s up to you to keep the ship moving.”
He cautions small business owners to look out for contracts, especially in the beverage business. If an entrepreneur decides to enter a contract, he stressed the importance of having a “great lawyer to help with the process.”
Overall, the 31-year-old Nesi still prides himself and the company on staying all-American, even if it means paying more to produce the beverage.
“The spirit of the company is in making an American product,” said Nesi. “There is a lot more American pride now than in recent years. A lot of products may be made in the U.S.A., but they don’t wear it on their sleeves like we do.”