How Bai founder Ben Weiss built a $1.7 billion drink empire


  • After founding Bai Brands in his basement in 2009, Ben Weiss grew it into a new-age beverage empire that he bought for $1.7 billion.
  • Weiss does not draw back from mixing enterprise and household — all of Bai’s traders and a few early staff have been his buddies and relations. He says the important thing to working with household is making it clear you are not afraid to fireplace them.
  • In an unique interview with Business Insider, Weiss displays on Bai’s success and the way he plans to duplicate it along with his new alcohol model, Crook & Marker.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for extra tales.

Ben Weiss built a $1.7 billion firm, and he says all of it started within the basement.

Inspired by a a part of the espresso plant that is usually discarded — the fruit — Weiss formulated a sugarfree drink focused at health-conscious millennials that took the soda-dominated drink aisle by storm and attracted the likes of Justin Timberlake. Weiss bought Bai to the corporate’s then-distributor, Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, for $1.7 billion in 2016. He left the corporate below unknown circumstances a few months later, and informed Business Insider that he nonetheless is not at liberty to debate his departure.

In an unique dialog with Business Insider, Weiss explains how Bai Brands went from an concept in his basement to a $1.7 billion firm and the way he plans to do it once more.

This interview has been edited for size and readability.

BI: The meals and beverage house is notoriously aggressive. How did you get Bai off the bottom?

Weiss: What I shortly discovered was though espresso fruit was fascinating to me, it wasn’t actually that fascinating to all people else. I at all times say being an entrepreneur is at all times about invariably three or 4 pivots that you just do in 12 months zero when nobody’s trying since you’re normally simply promoting product out of the trunk of your automotive.

In that point interval, I used to be in a position to make a massive pivot, which actually modified the trajectory of the model. And I created a five-calorie model after which we known as it ‘Bai 5.’ And once I did that, it set the model up for achievement as a result of not solely does the product look good, style good, have a distinctive supply of antioxidants which actually nobody cared about, however the 5 energy actually created a level of distinction that resonated with shoppers as a result of at the moment they have been actually turning the bottles to know what they have been ingesting.

And this explicit millennial shopper, needed zero energy or 5 energy in our case, as a result of they have been extremely skeptical of synthetic sweeteners and so they despised sugar. And that is the place the model began to separate itself from the pack.

bai brands drink booth

The Bai sales space on the New York City Wine & Food Festival in 2018.

Rob Kim/Getty Images for NYCWFF


BI: You labored with a number of members of your loved ones at Bai. How did you make that work?

Weiss: Well (laughing), I might say it’s tough to work with a partner.

I do not look to encompass myself by family and friends, my mom, my sister, my dad, my brother-in-law have been all a a part of Bai, and it is modified all their lives, however I might have fired every of them, had they not been good at their jobs. And I say that as a result of the minute you lose the battle, the enterprise will get away from you. So this wasn’t about loading the bench with a bunch of family and friends. Now, the family and friends that I’ve occurred to even be very hardworking and have the resilience to them that they will grasp on to that dream. So I used to be very lucky in that regard.

BI: After promoting a billion-dollar firm, a lot of individuals would have simply cashed their verify and rode off into the sundown. Why did not you? 

Weiss: As I type of caught my breath, I began to suppose like an entrepreneur, as a result of that is what I do. I create issues. They succeed or they fail, and I simply do one other one. I knew in the end, I might do one other enterprise. And in time, I noticed that I type of knew what that enterprise alternative was going to be, as a result of that very same demographic was fueling Bai, which is the millennial that determined that they not need to drink their sugar.

Well, one thing very cataclysmic occurred in 2017, all of them grew to become of authorized ingesting age and so they took their ingesting habits with them. And I began to see the bellwether, which was seltzer, within the type of laborious seltzer, come to life. And I stated, I do know what is going on to occur subsequent: That shopper’s going to hunt taste that they will belief. And I stated, we are able to try this. And we created a actually distinctive alcohol base manufactured from natural historic grains. We did what we do rather well, which is put 5 energy, or on this case, 80 energy, on prime of it with massive, daring taste. And thus Crook and Marker was born.

Ben Weiss basementality

Weiss along with his new guide, ‘Basementality.’

Courtesy of Ben Weiss.


BI: You credit score all of your successes to what you name your ‘basementality.’ What do you imply by that?

Weiss: I began Bai within the basement of my townhouse. If you’re actually, in my definition, an entrepreneur, you’ve gotten a thought and then you definately obsess your self with that thought for longer than most can be prepared to. And then hope that on the finish of that, you have created a enterprise. And to be able to actually get tethered to the thought, I really feel such as you go to a basement and also you go to a basement as a result of the hire is affordable. There’s no home windows, no distractions. And you are one together with your concept. And it’s important to embody that concept. You must get obsessed over that concept. And then it is a race to get out of the basement.

[Editor’s note: this article has been updated to correctly reflect Bai’s remarks about his interests in coffee fruit and that Crook & Marker has 80 calories, not zero.] 



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