When New England native Kate Weiler was competing in an Ironman in Canada, she was introduced to maple water for the first time and her mind was blown. Not only did she love the simplicity of the beverage, but it also provided natural hydration for her race. When she returned home and couldn’t find it, Kate knew she wanted to create her own company.
Soon after, DRINKmaple was born, providing pure, refreshing water collected straight from Vermont maple trees. They’ve since expanded to offer different flavors as well as DRINKmelon, a new line of organic watermelon water. We got to chat with co-founder Kate to discuss ingredient sourcing, her love for the New York and L.A. dining scene, and their vision to transition into a heath and wellness lifestyle brand.
R.K.: What made you start your brand? How did you first get the idea?
K.W.: I was doing an Ironman with my now business partner in Mont Tremblant Canada and stumbled on a small brand making maple water. My mind was blown that nutritious and delicious water came out of trees. I was a sports nutritionist and passionate about health and wellness and loved the idea of a single-ingredient, natural hydration like coconut water. But I was dumbfounded why we were shipping coconuts from across the world for this natural hydration, but also not utilizing the natural resource that was in our backyards.
We hydrated with it for the race and couldn’t get enough. After, we did some research and found that University of Rhode Island had already done a research study on the nutritional properties of maple water finding that it contained 46 nutritional compounds of polyphenols, electrolytes, antioxidants, minerals, organic acids and prebiotics. There were other studies showing that it helps metabolize alcohol faster and could also mitigate hangovers. When we came back to the states, we couldn’t get it and decided that others would like maple water as much as we did, so we decided to start our own company.
R.K.: How did it all begin? What was the first thing you did when starting off?
K.W.: When we decided to go for it, we threw ourselves into it. We were cold calling maple farmers and bottlers, and starting watching BevNET, which is a resource for all things in the beverage industry. We had no idea what we were doing, but tried to read, ask and learn as much as possible.
R.K.? How do you source your ingredients?
K.W.: We have a direct and very close relationship with our maple water suppliers and work with them to ensure that we have the highest quality maple water. For our watermelon water, we directly work with watermelon growers. Due to the seasonality and difficulty to get organic watermelons year round, we now have our own organic watermelon farm to ensure we can source high quality organic watermelons.
R.K.: What did you have to learn the hard way? Any particular challenges along the way?
K.W.: Oh, we have learned so much and there have been many challenges. Being passionate about bringing healthful products to market to improve people’s lives is one thing, but being able to make it in a cut-throat beverage industry dictated by the beverage industry giants is another. Learning how to build a culture and lead a team who is aligned in the overall mission and goals is one of my biggest lessons. It may sound cliche, but trusting my gut is something I need to get better at. I learn a lot of lessons when I don’t trust my gut.
R.K.: Has there been a benefit to starting your business in the New England area that you don’t think you’d get elsewhere?
K.W.: Of course I am biased because I am a proud, native New Englander, but there is a big sense of camaraderie and desire to support and help one another in this community. The food and beverage community in New England is small and people are very open to being supportive and going out of their way to help you in anyway they can.
R.K.: What would you love to see in the New England food and wellness scene that you don’t now?
K.W.: We are always a bit behind with food and wellness compared to L.A. or NYC. Though I would choose to live in New England all day every day, I am always lusting over some of the restaurants, cafes and coffee shops that are in those cities as compared to New England. We definitely have some amazing places, but more of those places would be wonderful.
R.K.: What other local food and wellness brands are you a fan of?
K.W.: I am a huge fan of what Tara Foley has done with Follain. The store has a wonderful selection of clean beauty products to complement a healthy holistic lifestyle.
R.K.: Who has been the greatest influence or role model in starting your business?
K.W.: There are a lot of food and beverage entrepreneurs I look up to along with several advisors and mentors who have gone above and beyond. But when I get overwhelmed or stressed, the person who has inspired me the most is my dad. His leadership in business is bar none. His work travel and work stress is intense, yet you never would know it. He never complained and never shows or brings home his stress. I truly don’t know how he has done it for so many years. When things get tough, my mother always is there to remind me how fortunate I am to have this exciting opportunity to live out my dream.
R.K.: What’s your favorite quotes or business mantra?
K.W.: These are the two quotes I have on the lock screen and background of my phone:
“The dream is free, the hustle sold separately.”
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” —Teddy Roosevelt
R.K.: Where do you hope to see your brand in the next two years?
K.W.: I see our brand as delivering on our mission to make deliciously simple, healthful beverages accessible. I have a vision to build our brand to be a health and wellness lifestyle brand that stands for quality and helps people to conquer their goals and live life to its fullest.
R.K: What advice would you give someone looking to start their own wellness or food business?
K.W.: Don’t wait until everything is perfect or the time is right because the timing will never be perfect. Just jump in and do it. However, understand how difficult the entrepreneur journey is and the sacrifices you are willing to make and make sure your reason for starting the business is strong and meaningful to you.
R.K: Here at The W.E.L.L. Summit we like to say “Your vibe attracts your tribe.” How would you describe your vibe?
K.W.: I am a passionate and ambitious person. I am inspired by and like to surround myself with people who have big goals and don’t settle for mediocrity. I have to remind myself to enjoy the journey as it is easy for me to lose sight of that.
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