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Drink to start-up success: This 5 month old Aussie beverage disruptor is already on track to sell a million units in its first year

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Steve Chapman

Could this Australian beverage start-up be the next Red Bull-style global innovation? The world’s first focus drink, Shine+, launched in July this year and the company is already on-track to sell one million units in its first year.

With the global functional beverage (energy, sports and health drinks) market worth $65 billion and the company’s plans for expansion in the US, UK and parts of Asia already underway, the sky is certainly the limit.

Shine+ was developed on the insight that mental fatigue is a universal problem and people are constantly under pressure to be at their best. Health-conscious consumers and the general population are now opting for healthier alternatives in the fridge.

Whilst coffee and energy drinks can give you a short term physical boost, they often lead to an ‘energy crash’ associated with too much sugar and caffeine. Nothing currently exists that supports better brain function and a more natural, healthy energy boost.

What is Shine+ looking to achieve?

The company envisions a new class of wellness beverage, called focus drinks, made with natural functional ingredients that are shown to support levels of focus, concentration and mental performance. These include Ginkgo Biloba, Green Tea (L-Theanine), Turmeric (Curcumin), Ginseng and others.

And with over 20% of Ivy League students reported to having taken prescription medication to assist focus and mental performance, expectations for an Australian beverage offering increased focus and mental performance are high.

With over 45,000 units sold in the first 100 days and repeat purchases of 40% (more than double the ecommerce average of 16%), Shine+’s approach seems to be exceeding all expectations.

How has Shine+ grown so fast?

According to Co-Founder and CEO Steve Chapman, the growth of Shine+ comes down to three core essentials: creating opportunity in a slow-moving sector, ‘scientific mentorship’ and considered use of influencers on platforms like Instagram.

Chapman said, “A lack of innovation in the local beverage sector meant the space was ripe for something entirely new like focus drinks. We can’t beat the Cokes and Red Bulls of the world at their own game, so we’ve had to reshape the game entirely.”

The guidance of Chapman’s mentor and Co-Founder of Shine+, Dr Sam Prince, who also founded Mexican food chain Zambrero, was a key factor that steered the company away from the regular start-up pitfalls.

Chapman says he was lucky to have Prince and believes there is a real need in Australia for a scientific and methodical approach to entrepreneurial mentorship that matches young entrepreneurs with the right business leaders. One that creates partnerships based on personality, creative similarities and business approach rather than just circumstance or sector.

Riding the influencer marketing wave

Leveraging the popularity of Australian Instagram stars also gave Shine+ a boost, achieving 2-3 times higher ROI compared with ad words and radio advertising.

Chapman said, “The number one ROI on digital marketing right now is Instagram influencers. Any start-up not working with influencers is missing a huge opportunity. Targeting young people by leveraging their online ideals has given us attention, credibility and social proof we couldn’t get in any other way.”

And Shine+ is using this newfound influence for good. Shine4Water, was built into the company’s heart from conception. For every bottle of Shine+ sold, a day of clean water is donated to someone in need via their partnership with WaterIsLife. Shine+ has already donated the equivalent of 45,000 days of clean water and is on track to make that one million in its first year.

Who are the people behind Shine+?

Steve started his career at PwC but soon realised he was far more entrepreneur than accountant and left PwC to launch his first startup, a social-commerce platform and app. It was featured as one of Apple’s Top Lifestyle Apps and Stephen was featured in The Australian and BRW and recognised as one of Australia’s Top 25 Entrepreneurs Under 25 by StartupSmart in 2013.

He subsequently met and started an entrepreneurial apprenticeship with ACT Young Australian of the Year and serial entrepreneur, Dr Sam Prince in 2013.

Shine+ Co-Founder and CEO Steve Chapman

Sam founded the QSR Mexican restaurant chain Zambrero as a medical student in 2005 which he grew rapidly to over 140 restaurants globally by 2016. Sam has also founded One Disease, a NFP that aims to eliminate diseases from indigenous communities and Life Letters, a health technology company revolutionising healthcare.

He has a long list of awards for his success in business and aid-work including 2012 ACT Young Australian of the Year,  2012 Ernst & Young ACT Entrepreneur of the Year, the Junior Chambers International ‘Outstanding Young Person of the World’ 2008. He was also honoured with the Monash University Distinguished Alumni Award in 2012 and he received the Weary Dunlop Fellowship in 2011.

We caught up with Steve to share more with us about their fast-growing company in the interview below.

What exactly inspired you to start Shine+?

It was a combination of things. As a competitive, active and health-conscious individual always looking to be at my best, I realised there was no ready to drink product that would improve my brain function and focus. This coupled with the knowledge that I was not alone, and there has been a large trend towards healthier and functional alternatives and rising concerns with over-caffeinated and high-in-sugar energy drinks.

Dr Sam Prince also came across scientific literature that concluded that certain ingredients could improve brain function and focus and no-one had commercialised on this research in the beverage industry.

What was your first step to building a business in such an industry?

As my favourite author Ryan Holiday states; “Any idiot can learn from their own experiences, the competitive advantage comes from learning from others experience.” Our first step was reaching out with beverage industry experts, professors in the field and people who have created successful beverage companies before.

What has been your biggest challenge so far in business and how did you overcome it?

The beverage space is already crowded in Australia so the biggest challenge was making our brand stand out without blowing out the budget. Creating a novel product that had never been seen before in Australia was the first step.

The second was using the right channels to connect with everyday Australians. In particular, influencer marketing on social media has given the brand attention, credibility and social proof we couldn’t get in any other way.

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