Starting Up in an Established Industry

Is the key to starting up in a well established industry, to break the rules? That's what Jones Soda has done.

Entrepreneurs seeking out a product niche are well advised to stay away from the dog-eat-dog world of soft drinks. Dominated by global multibillion-dollar soda giants who have a strong hold on distribution channels and pour hundreds of millions into advertising, the category is a formidable challenge to even the most experienced marketing minds.

All of which provided a wonderful opportunity for a former Canadian ski instructor who never went to college, let alone studied marketing. Peter van Stolk, the 40-year-old founder of Jones Soda, was quick to learn the rules of the industry and then ignore them.

This is where experience becomes a double edged sword. On the one hand, it's nice to have a deep understanding of something, but on the other hand, you sometimes become blinded to new ways of thinking about it.

We allowed the labels to be discovered and that gave consumers a sense of ownership. It makes it more relevant to them and provides an emotional connection," van Stolk explains. "With big soda brands, the 'Britney Spears model' — paying a lot of money to some hot artist to sponsor your beverage — is just so done. The wonderful thing about our competitors is, for all the money they have, they should be thinking more originally but they don't. If they ever do, I'm dead.

And that is why there will always be opportunities for entrepreneurs.

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