While vacationing in Punta Cana in the Dominic Republic, Perry Owens tried a popular hard seltzer.
“I liked the concept, but felt like I was drinking carbonated pool water,” he said.
After doing some research, he discovered that most hard seltzers on the market today are made from malt liquor.
“I had the idea to make a vodka-based hard seltzer using natural fruit flavors like pineapple and mango,” he said.
He founded Vacay Hard Seltzers in 2021 and by early 2023, had the first samples of his product. He credits this quick timeline to the support he received through Bounce Innovation Hub’s GROW program.
“I’m an educator and don’t have a background in business, so I knew that I needed product validation and support to grow Vacay Hard Seltzers. In June of 2023, I enrolled in Bounce’s Aspiring Entrepreneur Program,” he said.
This 10-week program, which helped Owens fine-tune and validate his idea, is often a first step for first-time entrepreneurs. From there, he enrolled in the MORTAR at Bounce program, which helped him take a deeper dive into business ownership. He also competed in and won the Life’s a Pitch competition that’s held at the end of each MORTAR cohort. Here members of the latest cohort pitch their business to local business leaders for a chance at a $3,000 grand prize.
Owens appreciated the resources at Bounce that allowed him to collaborate with other entrepreneurs and grow his business.
“I’m currently a one-man band and am looking at how to grow my team, so I can multiply myself,” he said. “If you want to go fast, you go alone, but if you want to go far, you go together.”
He now has a commercialized formula and is working with a beverage co-packer in Wisconsin to produce and can his line of hard seltzers. As he prepares for a product launch in April, Owens is looking to establish a niche in travel and hospitality, rather than sell Vacay Hard Seltzers through grocery and liquor stores for off-premise consumption.
“It’s very difficult and costly for a small startup to get into major grocery retailers, so my plan is to gain credibility by being in hotels, bars and restaurants for on-premise consumption where the margins are higher,” he said.
Before the launch party in April, he’s planning a sample tasting in February, which will be held at Bounce. You can also find the company on Instagram at vacayhardseltzers.
He advises other entrepreneurs “to not let analysis become paralysis. If you’re not doing, you can’t evolve, learn or grow.”
To learn more about our GROW Program, MORTAR, please visit: https://bouncehub.org/mortar/.
About the author:
Jill Wodtley, APR, is a freelance writer and owner of Fine Point Public Relations and Advertising. An accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America, she develops and implements marketing communications, public relations and advertising initiatives for a variety of clients, ranging from health care and social service agencies to industrial/manufacturing firms.