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Crafting new drinks for a new generation

The co-founders of American craft drinks brand Future/Proof, maker of Beatbox Beverages, share their journey to entrepreneurial success

Aimy Steadman and Brad Schultz and Justin Fenchel Beatbox Beverages

How did you wind up in the drinks industry?

Aimy Steadman: I met Justin in entrepreneur club during the first semester at McCombs Business School while we were pursuing our MBAs. I was a young entrepreneur trying to run an online marketing agency and was trying to grow my skills as an entrepreneur.

I was also a DJ on the student radio station KVRX 91.7 FM. Justin, Jason, Dan and myself were the MBAs who always wanted to go to concerts together. Music was at the centre of our social lives and so we wanted to create a brand that was all about bringing people together with music.

We had seen boxed wine at every party, tailgate, and river float trip, but no one loved the wine they were drinking and the brands did not appeal to our generation. My business partners Justin, Brad, Jason, and Dan came up with the idea to make boxed wine less boring.

We created many prototypes, tested out different radio-type packaging with different designers printing stickers we put on boxes, we emptied out wine bags and filled them with our own concoctions of alcohol, lemonade, and other mixers, and tested the product out a ton! We went to parties, large apartment complex pools, tailgates, and got more than 1,000 points of feedback. We launched the product in stores in March 2013, right before we graduated with our degrees. BeatBox was the world’s first ready-to-drink party punch in a “boxed wine” format.

Brad Schultz: Growing up, my father worked in the entertainment industry, so at a very early age I was exposed to seeing ideas and conversations turn into iconic cultural staples. I was fortunate to have a passion for technology at an early age, assembling my first computer at 12, and my first website at 14. After countless start-up ventures from clothing brands, to iPhone apps, I finally honed in on a brand, BeatBox Beverages, that fit my lifestyle as a passionate music-loving, party-hosting millennial. In my role here I am able to combine all my experience and interests.

Where did the idea for Future/Proof and Beatbox come from? Is there a brand ‘ethos’ that drives your operations?

Drawn together by our love for music and the entrepreneurial spirit of Austin, Texas, we as founders always believe experiences are more fun when shared with friends. We began a journey to mix friends, fun, and flavour to create something that could help everyone party better. The result was BeatBox, a tasty, portable party punch. It’s for those folks who are always determined to beat boring, regardless of whether the world is shut down or not!

Our original idea was to innovate on boxed wine so we started there from a format perspective. In our opinion it was a sleepy category that was not inspiring millennials. We created something that really focused on meeting and delighting millennial and Generation Z’s needs in a product - from calories and alcohol content to flavour to brand experience. But we do use a wine base for some of our products.

What is your current product range, and is there anything new in the pipeline?

With the Beatbox brand, we currently have six delicious classic flavours with a kick: Blue Razzberry, Fruit Punch, Pink Lemonade, Fresh Watermelon, Tropical Punch, and Peach Punch. In 2021 we are innovating again with new flavours and formats. Stay tuned! Though the main focus here is Beatbox, We have recently piloted a canned wine line called Corkless, and a craft seltzer brand called Brizzy.

It seems like you’ve got a lot of celebs behind the brand – was there an active decision to get ‘big names’ on board, or did it happen organically? How does it benefit the brand?

We’ve been very fortunate to have notable people join us in our mission.  The first celebrity we brought on board was Mark Cuban through Shark Tank. While we certainly wanted Mark Cuban on the team, there is no way we could have outlined that in the business plan! From there we sought to bring in people who were authentic to the feeling we are trying to create with the brand.

We have never paid for a celebrity endorsement, rather these celebrities have invested their own money into the company. From awesome DJs like Party Favor and GTA to Kevin Lyman, the creator of Warped Tour - all the celebrities involved in the brand are titans in the industry of fun. They help us elevate what we are doing as advisors and create an awesome experience for our customers through the events and other activities we do together.

Your brand seems really active on social media - what’s your marketing strategy and what results does it produce?

From the beginning of the company we have focused on authentically being where our core customers were. Physically the meant parties, tailgates, festivals, etc. Digitally that meant on emerging (at the time) platforms like Snapchat and Instagram. In fact, we were the first alcohol company to place a QR code on the packaging allowing party goers to quickly add us on socials.

Our marketing strategy is centred around building and engaging with a community of hyper-engaged fans across all types of demographics.

11 February 2021