Wake Up Juice was an energy drink brand created by Simon and Me in 2014 during our time at Student Painters. The problem we (and everybody else on the planet let’s be honest) were having was waking up in the morning with abundant energy. Wake Up Juice would be a beverage that you drank first thing in the morning, right when you rolled out of bed to get you up and going before you had the chance to stall out or hit the snooze button. No more waiting for coffee or choking down a sugary energy drink, Wake Up Juice was designed to be a kind of ‘breakfast smoothie’ with tons of caffeine, vitamins, and nutrients to get you UP and moving right away.
Sounds great right?
As often happens with good business ideas, the flaws and failure occur due to a lack of proper preparation and execution, not because you had a bad idea. We quickly developed ideas, tested the product, came up with genius advertising bits and slogans, and went to a drink manufacturing company called Power Brands to get the idea rolling. Unfortunately the bubble of our youthful naivete would have to burst eventually… and it did.
Looking back, Wake Up Juice failed for a couple key reasons. To start off, I think we spent far too much time trying to “test” the idea. Having come off of reading “The 4-Hour Workweek” by Tim Ferris, we were both eager to try some of the techniques and tactics he used in the book to test the viability of an idea, including making a landing page and driving people to it, figuring out who would buy based on where they click and compiling data from there.
The thing is, caffeinated drinks are already HUGE all over the world. I bet you could name 4 energy drink brands off the top of your head, not to mention all the different types of coffee and soda that people use to get their daily energy buzz.
The drink definitely worked. The people we tested it with (mostly sleep deprived college kids) gave us rave reviews about the effects. So why did we continue to insist on testing the viability of the idea?
Instead of driving people to a landing page and spinning our wheels we should have been perfecting the formula to make it taste good. We didn’t have a clearly defined focus and never really nailed down some of the important things that are absolutely critical for a business like this to take off, such as branding and the actual drink formula. We kept pivoting without trying, using our minds to speculate what would work instead of trying something and pivoting later.
The most obvious roadblock to us was simply funding. Trying to start a beverage business as your first business is very difficult. As you could imagine, the regulations and processes surrounding digestibles is rightfully more rigorous and strict than it would be for other products. Did we want cold-press or hot-press? Did we want the drink in powder form? What would go on the nutrition label? Many of these questions we didn’t have answers to, and all of them together bogged us down before we really got started.
Running a successful business start up requires a certain type of appetite for risk, and though we talked a great game I don’t think either of us were confident in our abilities to move an idea of this difficulty and scale from the whiteboard to actual production.
The dynamic between us caused problems as well. Looking back it seems silly now. We sometimes got into heated arguments about percentage stake in a company with no profits that existed purely in our imaginations. We are both Type A personalities and want to have things our way. I wasn’t prepared to take the back seat to him, just as he wasn’t prepared to take the back seat to me. This boiled over on New Year’s Eve – I remember it clearly – where I basically seized control and won the debate, because at the end of the day, it was my idea to begin with. Great, I won. And what did I win? A majority stake in a focusless imaginary company at the cost of my relationship with my brother.
Obviously we have long since mended that wound and have both gone on to grow and learn so much from the experience. At the end of the day, this failure is no different than any other failure. File it away, take stock of what you learned, and move on to bigger and better things. I would still like to produce Wake Up Juice at some point, but when the time is right.
Thanks for reading.