Looking for a change from your usual water? Hoping for something with more flavor than seltzer but without that artificial taste and mouth feel of typical sodas? DRY soda is where it’s at, and we can’t wait for you to try it tomorrow at Connect To Confidence. We sat down with the very inspirational Sharelle Klaus to find out more about how she is taking on the big brands with her delicious and healthy flavor profiles.
1. What inspired you to found DRY? What were you doing before starting DRY? I have been entrepreneurial since I was a kid. I always wanted to be a CEO. Before founding DRY, I had launched a secure internet portal for 10-13 year olds. I love representing a brand, raising money and doing something that I am truly passionate about. I’m a foodie. I always read the New York Times dining section. I love to cook. I love to dine out, and I love the experience of pairing wine with your meal. I think that pairing is at least 1/2 of the dining experience. But what if you want a pairing beverage that is non-alcoholic? This is something that I thought a lot about while pregnant, and I couldn’t find anything. The beverage industry while huge has very little innovation. Not much has changed in terms of beverage flavors. So, I started thinking about creating an entirely new category of beverage with a totally different taste profile. I looked to come up with really good flavors that could pair with food, without being too heavy or sugary. Our sodas have 45-70 calories for 12 ounces, and you can really taste the flavors. I literally looked around my garden for inspiration, and that’s where I found the juniper berries, basil, lavender, kumquat, rhubarb and lemongrass that we have incorporated into DRY. 7 months later I had a product! When I go, I like to go hard until I get to the goal!
2. What is the biggest difference about being an entrepreneur from what you did previously? Previously (before the internet portal), I worked for Price Waterhouse. It was a big company with big clients, and to get anything done required going to countless committees for approval. I was floored by the process. It blew my mind. The company I worked at prior to PW was a start up, so I couldn’t get my head around the concept that if you had a great idea, you couldn’t simply go implement it. That’s what I love about entrepreneurship. If you have a really great idea, you can just run with it, and empower those in your company to do the same. I want my team to really feel like they are making an impact.
3. Did you have any expectations about what being a founder would be like? Were you right? What has surprised you? Being a founder was way harder than I expected. For one thing, I tend to move really quickly, and I expect everyone else to do the same, and I end up being surprised by things that take longer than I expect they will. However, there are also things that are so much easier than I imagined they would be. Entrepreneurship is way more fun than I imagined. I work with really brilliant people who are just as passionate about DRY as I am. It’s hard to have a bad day with people working so hard toward the same goal. My team has taught me so much, and to me it feels so good how far we’ve all come, and what an honor it is to lead a team where I can really leave the day to day to them and look to the future. We are by the way the fastest growing soft drink in the US. We just launched our Fuji Apple flavor just for Target, and we will be going into 1700 Targets.
4. You knew you had a great idea. How did you inspire others to believe? I was able to get investors very quickly once I was ready to seek funding. I got $1.5 million in three weeks. My passion sealed the deal. I had been a CEO before but not on this scale. DRY truly is my passion. I think I was compelling because I created the drink for a real reason, and I could sell that vision – to my design firm, to my PR firm, to everyone I talked to. The people you talk to get inspired because they are able to see you are really in love with your company.
5. What’s it like to be a player in an industry dominated by giant companies? What do you do to get DRY noticed? For me, it’s exciting, because I am competitive. I love competition. I love being the underdog. When I started, people told me I couldn’t go up against Coke and Pepsi, but I knew that they haven’t made anything like DRY, and I also knew that retailers were looking for a different type of soft drink and would respond.
6. Do you ever doubt yourself? What do you do to regain your confidence? In the last few years, I’ve learned not to doubt myself so much. I’ve learned that whenever I go against my own instincts, I’ve failed. Once I recognized that my gut was going to be right, I got more confidence, raised more money, and even improved my team. Once you fail a few times because of self doubt, you stop doubting yourself. If you have doubts, ask yourself what those doubts are about. You are probably a lot smarter than you think you are. And if you fail, ask yourself what went wrong, and gain confidence by knowing you won’t make that mistake again.
7. How do you come up with your flavor pairings? Which one is your favorite? Which is the most popular? A lot of our flavor pairings are inspired through our consumers. They give us ideas. We go with things we love in the office. We get inspired by seasonal flavors. We work with chefs, and we really focus on what tastes good. I had my kids as taste testers. When I started the company, I was homeschooling my daughters, and they got quite an education in how to start a company! I personally love Vanilla Bean and Lavender. Lavender was our first flavor. It’s really soothing, and what’s more, I literally made it in my kitchen.
8. What is your advice to our aspiring entrepreneurs? Are there must take classes in college or must have experiences? I think every woman should try to start a company. Don’t be afraid of failure. Listen to your gut. Take a job in sales – any sales. You will learn so much about negotiation, and you need that to sell your vision and your company.
9. Do you think it’s harder to be a woman entrepreneur? If so, why? Hell no! I think women were made for entrepreneurship. We multitask better, and that is a key core competency of the successful entrepreneur.
10. Favorite inspirational quote or saying? Have Fun!
11. What does “She’s Fit To Lead” mean to you? How does someone show they are “Fit To Lead”? We are all fit to lead. Women are collaborative. The best way to compete is to have a good team and that comes from collaboration. So to be fit to lead, be generous, be collaborative, and be ready to compete!
We cannot wait to taste our DRY sodas tomorrow at Connect to Confidence. Sharelle, thank you for sharing your great inspiration and your amazing soda!