How This Buzzy Beverage Company Snagged Beyoncé As An Investor
Making a thoughtful and sincere connection helped WTRMLN WTR land an iconic investment deal.
There was a time in the not-too-distant past when hundreds of millions of pounds of “ugly watermelons” had a pretty bleak future. Deemed too misshapen or scarred, these otherwise perfectly delicious melons would get tossed out, their summer-in-a-mouthful insides never seeing the light of day.
But in 2013, that all changed. Jody Levy, a designer and branding expert, joined forces with real-estate entrepreneur Harlan Berger to launch WTRMLN WTR, a beverage company based on two ideas near and dear to them: sustainability (hence the discarded-melon rescue mission) and preaching the gospel of the watermelon’s nutrition benefits. The fruit, of course, has enjoyed a longstanding reputation of being delicious, but the fact that it’s loaded with potassium, vitamin C, lycopene and L-citrulline isn’t something your casual melon-eater might know.
One of Levy’s first big moves was to connect with Whole Foods, who suggested they wait to launch the product until the Gowanus store opened up in Brooklyn. Even though they were ready to launch in June, they agreed to hold off until the store opened in September in order to let the product make a concentrated splash. But of course, as these things tend to go, the store didn’t open in September. It didn’t open in October. And it didn’t open in November, either.
Levy started to get nervous: “I thought we’d made a fatal mistake by not launching in the summer. Obviously, everyone associates it with summer months, and we’d been ready to go.” But finally, in December, the Whole Foods in Gowanus opened its doors with two rows full of WTRMLN WTR.
And something else dropped that day, too: Beyoncé’s “Drunk in Love,” off of her eponymous surprise album. There’s a line in the song—“I’ve been drinking watermelon”—and Levy could hardly believe it. “It was maybe an hour or two hours after the ribbon-cutting. Like, the concept of drinking watermelon didn’t even exist [up to that point], but there we were on the shelves that same day.”
Levy wasn’t about to let that bit of cosmic intervention pass her by. She called a friend who worked as a stylist in the entertainment industry, who put in in touch with Beyoncé’s manager. And from that point they just kept sending product—on Mother’s Day, on Valentine’s Day, on any other day it made sense to celebrate with some WTRMLN WTR. “We call it ‘liquid love,’” Levy explains. And sure enough, all that love eventually paid off. “About a year and a half later, her team connected with us and expressed interest in investing in the company. They pointed out the alignment in the type of businesses that she's in—being mission-driven relative to health and wellness, and helping empower people to be the best versions of themselves.”
For WTRMLN WTR, Levy's approach of finding other like-minded partners who bring passion and consensus to the table have proven a far more successful method than simply finding VCs who’ll hand you a buck. “I think we're in a new paradigm of business,” she says, “and when you look at any of the businesses that are growing and thriving, they all kind of connect to this new paradigm. It’s more feminine paradigm, but it's not about women—it’s the fact that men and women are connecting to this new way of being, of bringing love and collaboration and cooperation into business. The old guard way of doing things is not thriving these days. And that's exciting.”
Words: Deena Drewis
Photos: Courtesy of WTRMLN WTR