Ep. 007: On Disrupting the Bottled Water Industry — The Matthew Swanson Interview

Matthew Swanson Rethink Brands
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Hear the inspiring story of how this young entrepreneur is disrupting the bottled water industry.

Listen as he describes his secret to raising money, of working with distributors and beating the mega-competitors by out-hustling them.

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Podcast Timeline:

0:43 – Introduction to Matthew Swanson, Co-Founder of Rethink Brands, and the producer of Rethink Water

2:41 – “Give Me the Basics” Podcast Segment – 

Matthew describes Rethink Water and what makes it unique.  He explains the company’s mission to “go beyond just water” and describes its culture; “we have the mission of a non-profit, and hustle and drive of a for-profit”

4:13 – Matthew talks about their quick and rapid growth, the number of retailers they currently serve, getting into Target stores, and their total number of employees.

6:00 – Matthew expands on Rethink Water’s main point of difference (paper carton versus its reverse osmosis production technique) and how “plastic never touches” the water, thereby offering health benefits as well as environmental benefits.

6:47 – Matthew talks about how his initial assumptions changed regarding Rethink Water’s brand positioning.

8:02 – Matthew describes the genesis of the idea to launch Rethink Brands and how it evolved over time.  He talks about Chris, his friend and co-founder, and why “it’s extraordinarily important to have a co-founder.”

11:22 – “Tell Me How” Podcast Segment – 

11:38 – Matthew describes his approach to raising capital for this capital-intensive business.  He advises aspiring entrepreneurs to raise three times the amount of money they think they would need for a food and beverage company.  He describes how fortunate he has been to meet people within the industry that have helped him.  He talks about the importance of seeking “value added investors” when starting a new beverage company for the first time.

16:02 – Matthew describes his challenges of raising money – his conversion rate was 15 to 20 percent.

17:00 – Matthew suggests that his career background – working for Procter & Gamble and Google – helped him launch the business.

17:52 – Matthew expands on why it can take three times more money than expected when you launch a company like Rethink Brands.

20:01 – Matthew describes the challenges of finding a contract manufacturer for Rethink Water and how they had to convince the manufacturers to work with them.  He mentions how tough it was to get the level of service they needed and deal with state regulations.

26:13 – Matthew talks about selling Rethink to retailers, including leading retailers like Target.  “A big learning experience.”  “You never really know what those hot buttons are to peak their excitement.”

29:13 – Matthew describes choosing the pricing of Rethink Water and relying on his successful Procter & Gamble method of presenting to retailers.

30:07 – Matthew shares his experience working with distributors and, in particular, one of the biggest distributors on the East Coast.  He describes the best way to work with distributors by offering them lots of people support.

31:44 – Matthew talks more about product pricing.  They did a lot of competitive analysis by distribution channel.

33:08 – Matthew describes the keys to creating consumer demand and awareness on a small budget, and hustling and working hard.  The company influences consumers at the point of purchase with lots of events and free sampling.

35:32 – “Let’s Get Personal” Podcast Segment —

35:58 – Matthew talks about his core motivations to start Rethink Brands.  He talks about “the wantrepreneur versus the entrepreneur” and how he was previously “always the wantrapreneur.”  Hear how he was inspired to become a true entrepreneur.

37:37 – Matthew describes whether or not he’s a true “creator” and if starting Rethink Brands was in his destiny.

38:12 – Matthew expresses his biggest joys as an entrepreneur: hiring people and watching them grow.  And watching customers enjoy his new product.

39:36 – Matthew shares his biggest frustration — and surprise — in launching Rethink: not yet working with Whole Foods.  But, interestingly, he describes it as an opportunity, too, thereby reflecting his positive attitude and mindset.

41:16 – Matthew talks about his self doubt of waking up “at 2 in the morning in a cold sweat” and dealing with rejection.  “You have to get over the ‘no’s’ super, super fast.“

42:47 – Matthew describes how becoming a business owner has changed him as a person  “It changes everything.”  “You need a huge support system around you to do this.”  He’s now a much better businessperson and time manager.

44:14 – Matthew shares what he’s learned most about himself:  “I can do it.”  “I’m doing it.”

45:01 – Matthew talks about his developmentally disabled brother, Ryan, who has been the most influential person to him.  “He’s still living this super-fulfilled life. “ “Why not go and try.”

46:15 – Matthew shares one last piece of advice: “If you’re thinking about doing [becoming an entrepreneur], just go do it.”

About the author, John

John Benzick is an entrepreneurship coach and the founder of Venture Superfly. He is a Tech Partner at the venture-capital fund of Matchstick Ventures, a Mentor with Techstars Retail accelerator, an Entrepreneur-In-Residence and (former CEO-in-Residence) at the University of Minnesota, and founder and owner in two consumer product businesses. Click the button below to learn more.

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