Troy and Drew founded Nexba at uni. Now it’s a super successful company. These are their secrets…
Interview by Edwina Carr.
We’ve got a major career crush on the boys behind ice tea and beverage company, Nexba. In 2010, while studying, Troy Douglas and Drew Bilbe decided that the ice tea market needed a healthy, natural option – so they took on the multi-billion dollar beverage market. The result? A super-successful beverage company, Nexba, which is stocked in over 3000 outlets and counting.
Tempted to start your own business? These lads have all the advice you need…
Why did you decide to create Nexba? “Life is more fun when you challenge yourself! Ice tea was typically a high-sugar drink before Nexba so we wanted to introduce a healthy, low-calorie option that’s completely natural and locally made and owned.”
How has the company grown over the last four years? “We say we were officially born in April 2012 when 7-Eleven signed on to stock Nexba. Now, our products are available in over 3000 outlets and in-flight with Virgin Australia. It’s been an amazing experience to see our brand grow!”
Creating a business is a massive deal, especially seeing as you guys were so young, how did you go about setting it up? “As both of us were new to the beverage and FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) market there was a lot of research involved. I think that worked to our advantage though - we both knew hard work was involved and had the benefit of entering the industry with only consumer knowledge, which is really valuable. It allowed us to create drinks that we knew Aussies would love and that people would support.
“We ended up dividing our roles so that Drew focused on operations, product development and production. I [Troy] studied Law and Communications at uni so manage the relationships and brand identity side of the business. It meant we were able to immerse ourselves in each aspect and learn as much as possible to make Nexba a success.”
What advice would you give to young women who might want to start up their own business? “Surround yourself with mentors from different fields of expertise and don’t be afraid to ask for help. The best thing we ever did was have a two-day off-site session with three successful business mentors from different backgrounds. The purpose was to align ourselves and our expectations by having a reality check and being challenged over the course of a couple of days. It is one of the best things we’ve done for our business.”
What’s the biggest roadblock you’ve come up against? “When people don't know you or of your brand, the hardest thing is securing meetings with decision makers. For Nexba, persistence paid off. In the very beginning it’s about picking the key person in charge and being bold in approaching them directly. At the very least, every meeting and new relationship will lead you to an opportunity or a new idea.”
Do you think a social media presence is now important for start-ups? “Absolutely. Our Facebook community has helped build Nexba! We often ask our followers to help name new products (the name ‘Life’s a Peach’ came from a Facebook fan!) and choose the next flavours in our ice tea range.”
What’s the advice you wish you knew before starting up a business? “Dig deep, not wide. We learnt quickly when we started Nexba that the smartest way to do business is to carefully choose your strongest opportunities, then pursue them with all you’ve got. As a start-up, it’s easy to spread yourself thin and chase every opportunity that comes up, but it’s much smarter to channel your resources strategically by focusing on a handful that matter.”
What’s in store for Nexba? “We’re about to enter a really exciting phase. Nexba Brewnette, our latest innovation, launches in July! It’s Australia’s first natural cola infused with green coffee extract and is only 99 calories per can. It’s a really unique flavour that has our whole office obsessed! Nexba will launch nationwide in a leading Australian supermarket (shh, we can’t say which one just yet), which will make our products available in over 4000 outlets. It’s going to be a big year!”