How a first-time entrepreneur developed the next generation of carbonated water
It’s a good time to be making sparkling beverages, and a Columbus startup may have the next big drink. Spritz Sparkling Tea launched in December as a zero-calorie, zero-sugar, vegan and keto-friendly option produced in central Ohio. And it tastes great! The drink is currently available in hibiscus tea and green tea flavors, with additional flavors planned for release throughout 2020. The idea for Spritz came from first-time entrepreneur Kathryn Dougherty, who says it’s the perfect time to jump on the bubbly beverage bandwagon.
“This is the next generation of sparkling water,” said Dougherty. “As people have moved away from soda toward better-for-you beverages, it’s a great time to go a step further and add the micronutrients, antioxidants and polyphenols that come from tea. People are ready for that, and I think the timing is perfect. There’s a movement away from alcohol consumption, especially among millennials and Gen Z, who are looking for no- or low-alcohol alternatives because they want to be healthy. If you go to a bar with your friends and don’t want to drink, there aren’t great options that still feel special and celebratory. That’s what Spritz can be.”
Spritz began as a drink for Dougherty herself. While training for the 2016 IRONMAN triathlon in Delaware, she grew fed up with the limited non-alcoholic options she had on the night before a big run. She had years of business experience, working in finance, marketing, development and sales, but originally started making Spritz as a solution to her own problem.
“I was getting up really early on Saturday mornings for long runs,” said Dougherty. “I still loved getting together with my girlfriends on Friday nights for dinner and socializing, but without having a wine or champagne glass in my hand, the dinner just felt incomplete. I was training, so alcohol was not a great option for me, so I created Spritz in my kitchen as an alternative for myself and my friends. We could still have the experience of being able to sit around a table with a nice wine glass without having the effects of alcohol.”
It didn’t take long for Dougherty to realize that plenty of people shared her predicament. Since launching in early December, Spritz can now be found in a variety of bars, restaurants, yoga studios and other shops around central Ohio, with distribution in local grocers around the corner. Dougherty also has plans for expansion in Cleveland, Cincinnati and Dayton in the near future. But for her, the most satisfying endorsements have come from customers who are using Spritz for better lifestyle choices just like she did.
“There is no better feeling than having the sampling and having people come and say, ‘Oh my gosh, this is so good. Where can I buy it?’” said Dougherty. “We have had a couple of different experiences like that, and even though we just launched a few weeks ago, we’re already on multiple re-orders with some of our early restaurants and bars. One customer I talked to is early in her pregnancy and bought eight cases to last her as her alternative to her evening glass of wine, so that’s a really great validation.”
To pass along the goodwill Spritz is building, Dougherty wants to use her success to help fellow women working to be entrepreneurs. While developing Spritz, she went through the Women’s Small Business Accelerator and Rev1 Customer Learning Lab and has given talks with Innovate New Albany. She hopes to give others access to that kind of experience and support, and will donate 1 percent of her quarterly revenue to organizations that help women grow businesses.
“I want to see more women building companies, growing companies, raising capital and reaching for all of the potential that they have,” said Dougherty. “I am so thankful that I was able to go through the Women’s Small Business Accelerator, and as I went through this program, I just knew that this is the kind of thing that I want to invest in. I really want to create a for-purpose, for-profit company and put our money where our mouth is. We give to local female nonprofit programs like the WSBA, Dress For Success, Yes! Columbus, and organizations that reinvest in the local community and inspire and celebrate women.”
And for a new entrepreneur, there couldn’t be a better place for her to launch Spritz, especially for an Ohio local. From startup support to drink partners like Watershed Distillery, Simple Times Mixers and North High Brewery, Dougherty said she’s been blown away by the resources available to those starting a business in Columbus.
“There is such a wealth of knowledge in Columbus and such an incredible desire to help each other out,” said Dougherty. “I’ve worked with Innovate New Albany, EDGE Innovation, Rev1, the WSBA and more, and all of these groups are so willing to advise, mentor and assist in growing. I think from a consumer and a retail partnership standpoint, there’s such an incredible pride in being Ohio-born and a Columbus-headquartered company that I think people are willing to choose you over alternatives. It’s really incredible to see that willingness to support local brands.”